This is my method for putting together dressing. I never do it exactly the same way twice, but it's always pretty good. Use the ingredients that you like.
McKNOTES HOLIDAY KITCHEN TIPS PART THREE
I’ve enjoyed a wide variety of dressings. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a recipe for dressing, but mine always turns out well. The ingredients make all the difference. I start by finely dicing onion and celery. I sauté these veggies in olive oil and season them with salt, pepper, garlic and sage.
I like to use whole wheat bread crumbs. Since I use only whole wheat bread in my kitchen, I can put aside the heels of bread that many people don’t enjoy. If you let them air dry and then freeze them, they will be ready to use in your dressing. Any time I get a loaf of artisan bread, I will try to save a bit of that dry it and freeze it with the rest of my bread crumbs. The bread will dry out faster if you break it up into small cubes first. They don’t need to be finely crumbled since you will eventually add moisture to them and mix them with the other ingredients.
To the bread crumbs, I add the sautéed celery and onions, more sage, chicken, turkey or vegetable broth, water chestnuts, and eggs. The number of eggs you need will depend upon how much dressing you’re making. It is the eggs that bind together the mixture.
I like to use sausage in my dressing. This can be browned with the onion and celery, but don’t overcook it. It will be completed in the oven when you bake your dressing. If you can get hot Italian sausage, it will yield an even nicer flavor to your dressing, but a mild Italian sausage is good as well. Again, you will need more sage. Sage is the predominant flavor in dressing.
My father used to love oyster dressing. That doesn’t appeal to me, but I suspect that you could simply replace the sausage with oysters, or even add the oysters with the sausage. Bacon is a good substitute to accompany the oysters if you don’t want that much meat in your dressing. Many people use no meat at all.
From here, you’re really on your own. You can add cranberries to your dressing, or apples. Raisins, nuts, grapes, dates or any other fruit you like can be added to give your dressing another dimension. Be sure that you use seedless grapes. Chopped dates are best as well. I think that water chestnuts are not very often found in dressings, but the crunch of them really improves the texture of the dressing. Choose your apples well. You want apples that bake well. Red Delicious apples are not a great choice. Granny Smith, Gala, or Honey Crisp will do nicely. I like a bit of sweetness in my apples, but this depends on what other fruits you add to your dressing.
Some people don’t tolerate walnuts as well as they do pecans, but if the walnuts are roasted, that should neutralize them a bit and make them easier to eat for most people.
You can have a pretty wet dressing, but make sure to bake it uncovered so that you’ll get some crispness and caramelized flavors.
Remember to season your dressing. Even though you have salted and peppered the celery and onions, you still need to continuously sample your mixture to make sure that it is properly seasoned. Additional herbs and spices can be added as well, such as oregano, parsley, basil and so on.
Your dressing should really be the hallmark of your feast. It should have its own taste, in my opinion. It should be memorable, and that’s easy to do if you carefully choose what ingredients you combine. Never make it the same way twice.