Hands down, my favourite part of any Christmas or Thanksgiving meal is the stuffing. It’s a dish that evokes so many thoughts, so many feelings: it’s easy, it’s incredibly versatile, it’s delicious, and it’s a holiday favourite. For me, it’s the kind of food that brings back memories of past Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners, where it seemed my Dad and I were more interested in the presentation of the stuffing than the turkey itself (not one of my top meats). My Grandma Sasaki made the most amazing and delicious stuffing; the kind that made you sigh in relief and comfort upon the first mouthful. And when I moved to Scotland, away from Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners with my family, I still wanted tastes of home. It was with my first Thanksgiving dinner in Scotland that I learned to make my Grandma’s stuffing, and in the process, seemed to have converted my Scottish husband’s family from their traditional skirlie stuffing (made of oats and juices from the bird), to my Canada family’s stuffing, made with pork sausage meat and breadcrumbs.
The first time I made my Grandma Sasaki’s stuffing was Thanksgiving of 2009; I couldn’t get over how simple it really was because I had assumed that something so incredible in taste had to be complicated.
Then, in October 2010, my Mom visited and of course, we had a Thanksgiving meal. My Mom has always made different variations of stuffing, but always seemed to include nuts, wild rice and dried fruit from what I can remember. When she was here, she fused the two stuffing ideologies together to form the recipe below: a blend of both families, delicious ingredients and a touch of home.
While I realise that wild rice isn’t the easiest thing to obtain here in Scotland, I’ve been able to access it from a health food store in Aberdeen, and a quick scan of Amazon shows that it can be purchased there. I think the name I’ve given this dish is only fitting:
Feels like Home Stuffing
1 kg pork sausage meat (this can be straight from the butcher or the grocery store, and not in sausage casing. This exists, I was dubious too. You can buy ‘chubs’ of sausage meat at the grocery store too).
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup wild rice
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 slices of day old bread, minced in the food processor OR 1 cup dried breadcrumbs
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup whole roasted almonds, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1. Prepare your wild rice : place it in a sieve and rinse it under cold water, drain well. Place in saucepan and pour boiling water over top. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for gently for 45 minutes, or until the grains are chewy, but not mushy. Drain well and set aside.
2. In a large pot, brown the sausage meat. Add the onions and celery to this once the meat is browned. It should be fairly moist at this point.
3. Gradually add your breadcrumbs. How much you add is up to you: for a drier, more crumbly stuffing, add all of them. For a stuffing that sticks together in big chunks, add less breadcrumbs.
4. Remove from heat and add the cranberries, wild rice and almonds. Stir and let chill. Stuff your bird and roast as usual, or put the stuffing in an oven-proof dish and bake with a foil lid for the last 15 minutes with your turkey. For a bit of a crispy top, remove the foil.
If you want to omit the wild rice, skip step 1 and proceed as normal. There isn’t much for seasoning because it’s all in the sausage meat! Enjoy!
What’s your favourite Christmas food?
What food reminds you of your childhood?