What is the Best Thanksgiving Side Dish, and Why Is it Stuffing?
In the battle of Thanksgiving sides, there can only be one winner. Sweet potatoes can go toe-to-toe with mashed potatoes. Green bean casserole can square off against cranberry sauce (no canned stuff allowed). But only one dish reigns supreme. All hail the almighty stuffing.
Something magical happens when stale bread meets butter, celery and tons of sage. Flavors meld and the bread turns soft and gooey and outshines everything else on the Thanksgiving plate. If it were up to me, I would only eat stuffing and stone crabs the whole day.
Alas, other people do contribute to the meal, so I make space for other side dishes in the name of civility. But I always make a double-sized batch of stuffing so I can munch on the leftovers for days. By the end of the pan, you would think I'd be sick of the stuff, but come Christmas, I'm ready for round two. My only gripe is that we don't eat stuffing for every celebration—birthdays, Arbor Day, Fourth of July, you name it, I want stuffing.
But what's the best stuffing recipe?
I've tried them all. Recipes that use artisanal bread, chorizo sausage, garden-grown sage. I've Martha Stewart-ed the side dish to the point where I've decided to return to simplicity. That's where my mother-in-law's easy, down-home recipe comes in. She uses Campbell's cream of chicken soup to achieve maximum flavor with minimum output, and I am here for it.
You may be surprised to find out that I'm a fan of cream of chicken soup as a base, but nothing achieves the salty, savory, umami, stuffing-y goodness like a can of this pantry staple. I add in some browned sausage for my own Southern twist, and voilà—the best stuffing out there.
Here's the recipe.
Kathy's Thanksgiving Stuffing
Yield: 6-8 (double for ample leftovers)
Time: 45 minutes preparation 1 hour cooking
1/2 lb. breakfast sausage
1/2 stick butter
1/2 large onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
8 cups dried bread cubes (I use white bread torn into bite-sized chunks and let them sit uncovered overnight)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 eggs, beaten
1-2 cups water, as needed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove sausage once browned but leave the rendered fat in the pan.
Add the butter, onion and celery to the skillet and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent.
Add sage, poultry seasoning, cream of chicken soup and 1 cup of water to the skillet and stir to combine. Heat to a simmer.
Allow the cream of chicken soup mixture to cool to room temperature.
Combine cream of chicken soup mixture, bread, browned sausage and eggs in the largest bowl you can find. You may have to work in two batches. The bread should soak up the soup mixture. If your mixture is looking dry add an additional half cup of water.
Place mixture in a large greased rectangular casserole dish. Cook in the oven for one hour or until the top is golden brown and slightly firm to the touch.