New England Style Stuffing for Thanksgiving Turkey

Two of my children were born in Boston where we lived for 14 formative years and one by-product of that time is that our Thanksgiving menu is very New Englandy. We always stuff our roast turkey, and the stuffing often becomes the favorite side dish of the entire Thanksgiving. Everything is homemade, including the bread, but in this recipe you can buy the bread. Remember that this recipe must be started 3 to 4 days before Thanksgiving because the bread must dry.  Never use store-bought bread croûtons for this preparation.  It will be easiest to finish this the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving and keep it refrigerated until needed to stuff the turkey.   The stuffing should look pretty-well coated with herbs, chestnuts, and sausage and be ever so slightly moist.  The best way to keep the bread somewhat moist is by reserving some turkey stock to pour on it.  The non-stuffed stuffing can be cooked the previous evening or Thanksgiving morning if you don’t have two ovens then reheated at 475 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes while the turkey is resting and being carved.  The stuffing in a 16-pound plus turkey should be enough for eight to ten diners and the non-stuffed stuffing is extra that you probably will not need.  Two cups of shucked oysters can be added to the stuffing if desired, although I’ve only made it that way once as it is labor intensive.  The recipe can be halved easily, which I almost always do, and still feed 10 people with a little bit of leftover. Note: To roast chestnuts, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Cut a not-too-deep “X” in the convex side of the chestnut with a paring knife and lay them in a baking pan, “X” side up.  Roast for 35 to 40 minutes.  Let cool then remove the shell.

Bread Stuffing for Turkey
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Filling
Cuisine: American
Serves: 8 cups
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups chopped shallots
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 pounds mild Italian sausage, casing removed, meat crumbled
  • 6 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 tablespoon ground dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried summer savory
  • 1½ tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped fresh roasted and shelled chestnuts (see Note)
  • 4 loaves French baguette bread, cut in ½-inch cubes and left to dry for 3 days
  • ¾ cup Jack Daniels or Jim Beam bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or turkey, goose, or duck fat
  • Turkey stock as needed
  1. In a large stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat, then cook, stirring, the shallots and celery until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the sausage and cook until it has turned color, breaking up the larger bits with a wooden spoon, about 12 minutes. Add the tarragon, sage, thyme, and savory and cook until the fresh herbs wilt, about 1 minute, then season with salt and pepper, stir, and add the chestnuts. Mix in the breadcrumbs. Toss and stir so that the bread is well coated.
  2. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a large mixing bowl and set aside. Correct the seasoning and toss. Sprinkle the bourbon all over and toss again. The stuffing can be made up to this point and refrigerated overnight. The stuffing should be very moist but not wet or soaking. If it is not, pour in some turkey stock, maybe a cup or 2, and toss again.
  3. Stuff the turkey with this stuffing. Place the remaining stuffing in a large casserole greased with the butter or turkey, goose, or duck fat. Press down and sprinkle the top with some turkey stock. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees F until crispy brown on top, about 1½ hours, moistening every 15 minutes with turkey drippings once the turkey is roasting.



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