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Surprising Stuffing: Switching up a traditional favorite for the holidays

Stuffing

With Thanksgiving coming later than usual this year, you will still be digesting the Turkey Day stuffing when it is time to make it again for the winter holidays. So, instead of making the classic bread cube stuffing, why not switch it up a bit? You can change which stuffing you serve up while “chestnuts are roasting on an open fire” and everyone is “rocking around the Christmas tree” after too much of your special spiked egg nog.

First up: Mofongo stuffing. Who needs cubes of day old white bread when you can cook up a delicious blend of plantains and bacon?

Mofongo Stuffing (Fried Green Plantain Stuffing)

Stuffing

Ingredients

  • 6 Green Plantains (you want really green ones with almost no sign of black)
  • Coconut or vegetable oil for frying
  • 6 strips, thick-sliced slab bacon
  • 3/4 cup sofrito (recipe follows)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken broth, as needed
  • Kosher salt
  • Black Pepper

For the sofrito:

  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup crushed or pureed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro with stems
  • 1 cup roughly chopped parsley with stems

Directions

  1. Fill a 5 quart pot with 4 inches of oil. Heat oil to 375 degrees for frying (use a deep fat thermometer)
  2. Peel the plantains and slice into rounds on the diagonal so that the slices come out somewhat oval shaped (much the same way you would slice a baguette).
  3. When the oil hits the right temperature, fry the plantain slices in batches for 3 minutes each. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain for 2 minutes (don’t turn off the heat). Use the bottom of a glass or the side of a rolling pin to smash each fried plantain down. The plantain should squash into a flattened patty.
  4. Fry the flattened plantains again for 2 additional minutes until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain.
  5. Dice the slab bacon and sauté in a hot skillet until crisp. Remove the crisp bacon and reserve.
  6. Prepare the sofrito: in a food processor, combine all the ingredients and process until smooth. (Note: The leftover condiment can be used as a base for stews, to marinate meat, for Spanish rice, or to sauté with egg scrambles.)
  7. In a large bowl, use your hands to knead and break up the plantains. Add the 3/4 cup sofrito, the fried and crisped bacon, 1/3 cup of olive oil and stir. Add the chicken broth in slowly, 1/4 cup at a time as you combine everything. The stuffing should be moist but not mushy. Add salt and black pepper and test for seasoning. This can be served immediately, stuffed inside a turkey or chicken, or it can be refrigerated overnight and then reheated for 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven (add a little more chicken broth if you choose to reheat in the oven).

(Recipe from Always Order Dessert)

Whether you live in a hot or cold climate, this Puerto Rican inspired stuffing will transport you directly to the white-sand beaches.

Second: Thanksgiving Stuffing Croquettes. Who says the turkey is the only thing that can be fried? While the deep fryer or large pot is coming to temperature, you can be making the finishing touches on the traditional cooking method of the stuffing.

Tasty Tufts Tip: You can use any classic (or not-so-classic) stuffing recipe you would like for these fried goodies, but here is one from the Home and Kitchen Queen, Martha Stewart:

Martha Stewart’s Classic Stuffing

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 onions, (2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 16 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 10 large fresh sage leaves, chopped, or 2 teaspoons crushed dried sage
  • 6 cups Homemade Chicken Stock, or canned low sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
  • 2 stale loaves white bread, (about 36 slices), crust on, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups (about 2 bunches) fresh coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley, leaves
  • 2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)
  • 2 cups dried cherries, (optional)

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onions and celery, and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add sage, stir to combine, and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup stock, and stir well. Cook for about 5 minutes, until liquid has reduced by half.
  2. Transfer onion mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add all remaining ingredients, including the remaining stock; mix to combine. Now that you have a stunning (yet ordinary) stuffing made up, you are reading to begin the frying process.
  3. Bring the oil to 350 ̊ (This is just the right temperature to get a crispy outer layer and a soft and savory filling)
  4. After the stuffing has cooled, begin scooping out equal-sized amounts to form into balls. (To ensure uniformity, you can use an ice cream scoop or even just the palm of your hand).
  5. Once the balls are formed, roll them around on a plate of panko bread crumbs. (These bread crumbs will ensure a crispy exterior and a smooth interior).
  6. Then, begin dropping the little balls into the oil. (Only do a few at a time because you do not want to overcrowd and end up with some burned and some gooey).
  7. Continue turning them in the oil with a spider, spatula or spoon until there is a delectable gold brown crunch on the outside of these holiday side-dish bites.

If you have some stuffing left over from Thanksgiving, you can always freeze the leftovers and wait until Christmas Eve to thaw it out and fry it up! Here’s a Tasty Tufts Tip: Place a gravy cube in the center of the stuffing balls for a delicious burst of holiday spirit. What a perfect way to transform a traditional stuffing into a delicious bite-sized treat!

Third: Surprise (Tortilla Chip) stuffing. This a delicious Mexican-inspired way to get the holiday parties started without bringing out piñatas and bats.

Ingredients

  • One large bag of tortilla chips (about 13 ounces)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • ¾ – 1 cup finely chopped celery (depending upon how much you like celery)
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) chicken broth or vegetable
  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning (may include thyme, sage, salt, oregano, mustard powder, red pepper, black pepper, or other seasoning or combination of choice)

Additional ingredients if desired (e.g. sausage, mushrooms, chestnuts, etc.)

Directions

  1. Pour tortilla chips into a large bowl. (Do not break tortilla chips into smaller pieces. Once softened, the tortilla chips will naturally break into smaller pieces.)
  2. Pour broth over tortilla chips. Stir so that all tortilla chips are covered or moistened by broth. Let “soak” for 30 minutes.
  3. Stir in onion, celery, seasonings, and any optional ingredients.
  4. Pour into lightly greased casserole dish. A 9 x 13 glass dish would be ideal.
  5. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (If you like a drier stuffing, a slightly higher temperature might be a better choice.) If necessary, you can turn the broiler on for the last few minutes to brown the top, but please be cautious. (Dish should be far from broiler itself and only cooked at this temperature for a short time.)

(Recipe from Gluten Free Easily)

As you can see, a bag of Tostitos may be used for more than just dipping! With this delightful side dish and holiday music blaring in the background, you will be sure to get the fiesta started!

Fourth: Ritz Cracker Stuffing. This recipe hits close to home, since that is where I eat it on Thanksgiving every year.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. box of Ritz crackers
  • 4-5 celery stalks
  • 2 onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 8 oz. freshly sliced mushrooms
  • 1 small can thinly sliced water chestnuts (drained)
  • Hot water

Directions

  1. Blanch and sauté onions, celery and mushrooms.
  2. Grind up the crackers. (This can be done by pouring them in a bag and pounding on the bag to break them up slightly, or by using a food processor and press pulse until just barely broken up—you do not want a crumb-y consistency).
  3. Grate the carrots.
  4. Place all the ingredients (except for the hot water) in a large bowl. Mix them together and then add hot water as needed for desired consistency.
  5. Bake at 325 ̊ in a 2 quart Pyrex baking dish until browned (about 40 minutes).

My mother has been making this flawless dish ever since I can remember. The Ritz crackers are a perfect substitute for the crusty old bread. Not only do these crackers add a buttery burst of flavor to the stuffing, but also crisp up just right, giving the perfect texture. Take it from me, I would have taken a picture of the finished product for you all to see, but my relatives got to it faster than my flash could go off.

Here are some more unusual takes on stuffing:

These unorthodox stuffing recipes will be sure to change the way you think about stuffing. Step aside turkey or ham: Stuffing is no longer just a side dish!

-Jay Sheintop

Cover photo source.

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