My favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal has been and probably always will be the starches. Mashed potatoes. Buttermilk rolls. And stuffing. Forget that turkey stuff; give me carbs. My ideal leftover sandwich is starch heaven - mashed potatoes and stuffing crammed between two slices of sourdough, with maybe just a little cranberry sauce for tang.
I’ll admit, when it comes to stuffing, I am pretty loyal to the store-bought stuff, the kind that comes in a box and calls for a full stick of butter. This may be the least “foodie” admission I’ve ever made in public, but I still insist that my mom make it every year, even though she also lovingly prepares a spicy chorizo, poblano, and cornbread stuffing that is much more gourmet.
Despite my love for the store-bought variety, I also see the appeal of a good homemade stuffing, so this year, I’m going to experiment a little bit. The first version I came up with stars rich, savory duck confit and sweet apples. Duck confit sounds fancy but is relatively simple to make - all it takes is seasoning a few duck legs, then roasting them at low heat in a generous amount of duck fat. The result is an incredibly flavorful and tender piece of meat that makes any meal feel like an indulgence. Preparing it at home does take a little bit of planning ahead, so if you don’t have time to make it, you can also find it already prepared at most butchers and high-end charcuterie stores. It can be pricey, but remember that a little goes a long way!
Since duck is a gamey meat, this stuffing pairs equally well with Cambria Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, which is perfect if you’re planning on giving your guests multiple wine options on Thanksgiving. For the test run, I went with Pinot Noir, since it was a cold and rainy night and I was craving a juicy glass of red.
Duck Confit and Apple Stuffing
- 1 lb. sourdough bread, cut into ½ inch cubes
- 6 TBS butter
- 1 large onion, peeled and diced
- 3 stalks celery, cut into ¼ inch pieces
- ¼ cups minced fresh sage leaves
- 1 TBS fresh thyme leaves
- 3 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼ inch cubes
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cups apple cider
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 lb. duck confit (2-3 confited duck legs)
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread the bread cubes out on 1 or 2 baking sheets (bread should be in a single layer) and toast in the oven until dried out, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the bread cubes to a large bowl.
- Melt half of the butter in a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the diced onion and celery and saute, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the minced sage, thyme, apples, and remaining half of the butter to the pan. Season generously with salt and pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes, until herbs are fragrant, then add the apple cider to the pan. Bring the cider to a slow simmer, then simmer the mixture until apples are tender and cider is mostly evaporated, about 10 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until slightly frothy. Add the chicken stock to the eggs and whisk to combine. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes and toss to thoroughly coat the bread. Pour the apples over the soaked bread cubes and stir gently to incorporate the apples. Set aside.
- Cut the meat from the duck legs and cut or tear into bite-sized pieces. Wipe out the frying pan and return to the stove over medium-low heat. Add the duck confit to the pan and cook gently for 5-7 minutes to crisp the skin and heat the meat all the way through. Stir the duck frequently to prevent burning. Add the crisped duck to the stuffing mixture and stir to mix.
- Generously butter a large casserole dish and transfer the stuffing to the dish. Bake until bread is golden brown on top, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then serve hot.
By Katie Morris of Katie at the Kitchen Door