Nov 1, 2014

Cracker Dressing with Cranberries and Pecan

In 19th century America, crackers were used instead of bread for stuffing and dressing traditional holiday feasts. The cracker was a common staple in the cupboard in the 1800s, the pilot or common cracker being used.
Today's version of the cracker is either saltines or the buttery Ritz crackers. Toasting the crackers before crushing them kept them from being soggy when adding celery, onions, and sausage. The following recipe is a good side dish for the Turkey-in-a-Pot holiday feast. It serves 8 to 10.
Easiest way to crush saltines (or Ritz crackers) is to place them in a 1-gallon zipper bag and roll over them with a rolling pin. Do this in two batches. I recommend using Swanson Chicken Stock for the broth, low sodium.
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound saltines, coarsely crushed
1 pound bulk breakfast sausage
2 pounds onions, chopped fine
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup minced sage
2 tablespoons minced Thyme
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
4-1/2 cups chicken broth
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350-degrees. Grease 13 by 9-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread crushed crackers in even layer on prepared sheet. Bake until very lightly golden, 10 to 20 minutes; set aside. Increase oven temperature to 425-degrees.
  2. Cook sausage in 12-inch skillet over medium heat, breaking up pieces with spoon, until no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened and lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Add wine and cook until nearly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl with sausage. Stir in cranberries, pecans, celery, eggs, sage, thyme, pepper, salt, and crushed crackers until combined. Stir in broth until mixed.
  3. Transfer stuffing to prepared dish and lightly press into even layer, leaving top a little craggy. Melt remaining butter (2 tablespoons) in microwave and brush over top of dressing. Bake until golden brown and crisp on top, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Serve.
I find it hard to decide which is better – traditional cracker dressing or the more modern bread dressing. Of course, that is to your preference, but this dressing does not require to be cooked in the turkey and better when using the Turkey-in-a-Pot recipe. Of course, this dressing can be served with any poultry dinner.

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