If you’re like me and go after the best part of Thanksgiving stuffing every year -- I’m talking about the crunchy bits on top of course -- then this will rock your world: Stuffing Balls. This ingenious formation of Thanksgiving stuffing ensures optimal crunchy to moist stuffing ratio. Could it get any better? Well, since you asked. Yes.
Not only is this stuffing brilliantly shaped, it is full of sausage, sage, pecans, and cornbread. It is also, conveniently, a great make-ahead dish. Make the stuffing at your leisure, freeze it, then thaw it the day before Turkey Day and bake as normal.
Major thanks to the lovely BraveTart and her dad for sharing this family recipe. It’s no wonder they’ve been making this year after year...heck, I’m pretty sure this has just become my family’s new annual tradition. This Thanksgiving stuffing has everything I want in a stuffing. It’s savory, but slightly sweet from the cornbread. It’s got power fall flavors of toasty pecans and fragrant sage. The tasty bits of sausage scattered throughout are delightful. And all that liquid (and butter) ensure that the stuffing doesn’t dry out in the oven.
If you go the Stuffing Balls route -- and I highly suggest you do -- let me leave you with one last tip. My secret for making quick and uniform balls (whether they are balls of stuffing or cookie dough for that matter) is my trusty trigger scoop. There, you now know all my secrets. Use them for good.
Thanksgiving Stuffing Balls
This family recipe for Sausage, Sage, and Pecan Stuffing from BraveTart is spot on. I only made minor adaptations, using a loaf of whole wheat bread instead of white bread, and forming stuffing balls instead of baking them in a skillet or baking dish.
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Yield: a plentiful batch; or approximately 54 stuffing balls
20 slices of stale white (or whole wheat) bread cubed
1 batch sage cornbread, staled overnight and crumbled
3 cups (a 12-ounce bag) pecans, lightly toasted
1 pound ground sausage
4 small onions, diced roughly
6 stalks of celery, sliced into bite-sized chunks
3 sticks of unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped sage (about two large handfuls)
12 ounces evaporated milk
1 cup chicken or turkey stock
6 eggs, whisked
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon salt, or more to taste
- This makes a ton of stuffing, so have a super huge bowl on hand to mix everything. Whatever bowl you just picked? Not big enough. Go another size up. Now, place the bread, cornbread pieces and pecans into the bowl and set aside.
- Break up the sausage into a skillet and cook until it’s browned and cooked through. Use a wooden spoon along the way to break up the sausage into whatever sized pieces you like. Transfer the cooked sausage with a slotted spoon to the bowl of bread, leaving the drippings in the skillet.
- Saute the onions and celery in the sausage drippings (yeah, I know. Look, it’s Thanksgiving, okay?) on medium-low heat until translucent, but not browned. About 8-10 minutes. Add the mixture, drippings and all, into the bread bowl.
- Put the butter into your hot skillet, and melt on low heat. Add in the chopped sage and cook until the butter melts and just starts to bubble and foam. Pour it all over the bread, and don’t think about your arteries absorbing the fat like the bread does. Shhh...It’s so good.
- Now add in the evaporated milk, stock, and whisked eggs. Season with salt and pepper. You may think the mixture too wet, but you’re wrong. Just wait and see.
You can freeze or refrigerate this wet mixture ahead of time!!! Really! So either right away, or after you’ve thawed the frozen stuffing, fill up a cast iron skillet (or form your stuffing balls -- I like using a trigger scoop which ensures me quick and uniform balls). However you do it, bake 30 minutes (closer to 20-25 minutes if you are doing stuffing balls) in a 375° oven. Enjoy.