Stuffed: The Benefits of Stale Bread

Michael Mordecai

Michael Mordecai is baker behind The Fairfield Bread Company and the wonderful "Flaxette."

In giving thanks, respect is inherent. Our earth provides for us. We accept these provisions not with greed, but with appreciation. In celebrating food and the bounty of the earth, it is only right to respect the food by utilizing it to the fullest. Using leftovers to create new dishes minimizes waste of food and preparation time.

Leftover stale bread has infinite uses. Hardened crusts and heels are transformed into delicious sweet or savory dishes. But now is the time to make stuffing. Use day-old (or 2 or 3 day-old) bread. Use what you have, crusts and all. If you must buy bread to make stuffing, buy a variety of day-old bread (or rolls) from a trusted bakery. The more varied the types of bread, the better the flavor, although one type will work: white, whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel, or sourdough.

Allow the bread to stale naturally; keep it out of the fridge and out of a bag (bagged bread will retain moisture and will mold). Keep the bread (loaf or slices) on a baking rack in a single layer on top of the fridge and allow to dry-cure 1-3 days.

On the day you’re going to cook the turkey, make a stock from the neck, giblets, heart, all the stuff except for the slimiest item; the liver. (Ask your spouse to make a pate of the liver.) Toss the innards into a stock pot with a chopped onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns, bay leaves, a bunch of parsley stems, 7 sprigs of thyme, and cover with 6 to 8 cups of cool water. Barely simmer for three hours adding water as necessary to result in 6 to 8 cups. Strain. Use the remaining stock for the gravy.

Over medium heat in a large casserole pan, sauté in olive oil and butter 1 large chopped onion, carrot, celery stalk with leaves for about 5 min. Add 6 – 8 cups of cured cubed bread and a bunch of chopped parsley leaves. Sauté the mixture for another 5 minutes, allow the bread to toast slightly. Add dried sage and thyme, salt and pepper, and 3-5 cups of the strained stock to moisten. Be careful not to over-mix and turn your cured bread cubes to mush. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Transfer to a well-buttered casserole dish and press down lightly. Dot the top with 2 tablespoons of butter and bake, along with other side-dishes, for 30 – 40 minutes until lightly crunchy on top. Spoon and serve. For additional decadence, the next day, slice the cooled stuffing 1 inch thick and fry in butter and olive oil in a cast-iron skillet to form a light crust.