With Thanksgiving almost here, you might still be deciding what "go-to" dish to serve. Or, you might be deciding that it’s the perfect year to try something new. What’s a chef like you to do? And, do you know the difference between stuffing and dressing?
We thought about that, too. So we asked some of Tucson’s top chefs for advice to help make your meal a true delight.
Each of our chefs highlighted the importance of cooking your bird to 165 degrees, but that’s where the similarities ended.
Stuff it or dress it? You decide….
Chef Clark never roasts whole turkeys. He believes the taste is optimized and enhanced by cooking each section of the bird individually to cure, flavor and cook each piece – whether breast, thigh, leg or wing – according to its own unique temperature and time. He recommends separating the bird into pieces, curing each section, and then cooking each part to perfection.
Obviously, you can't stuff a separated bird.
Chef Clark says a great, elegant meal can be quite simple. Here's how:
Chef Clark's Dressing: "Start with organic bread, found at your local bakery. Choose a bread with nuts or dried fruit, like an organic sourdough pecan, and whatever you do, stay away from white bread. Chef Clark recommends using yams, Brussels Sprouts, other seasonal autumn vegetables on the day’s menu, and dried fruit like figs to build your Dressing. If you follow his advice and break the turkey into pieces, use the bones and gizzards to cook your homemade stock in advance, then add your stock before baking it. Don’t over saturate the mix; keep it fluffy, adding just enough stock for taste and cohesion. Bake it at 350 in your favorite casserole dish and serve."
Agustín Kitchen was recently honored as one of the Top 7 Cocktail Bars in Arizona by Where Traveler and is open for Thanksgiving from 11am to 5pm. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (520) 398-5382. More information at agustinkitchen.com.
Chef Jared Scott describes himself as a traditionalist when preparing Thanksgiving Dinner and finds nothing wrong with stuffing the bird. In fact, he views stuffing as a vessel to infuse flavors into the turkey in addition to accompanying it.
He recommends utilizing all of the gizzards, organs, and liver not only to prepare your rue and gravy, but to use as ingredients in your stuffing. Start with your bread of choice. Add onions, celery, garlic and other vegetables, dried fruits like cranberries, and nuts such as pecans, pistachios, or walnuts. Chef Jared insists on high herb content, placing lots of herbs like sage, rosemary and thyme in the stuffing mix and under the skin of the bird. As soon as your turkey reaches 165º, remove it from the oven and let it rest. He recommends baking the remainder of your mixture as Dressing in a separate pan to ensure that you have enough to serve all your guests.
But Chef Jared didn’t stop there. He prepared a number of accompaniments for us, which we've included in recipe form below. Whether you’re a vegetarian, or a meat lover, these dishes are scrumptious, and sure to add zest to your holiday meal.
*I like to serve my haricot vert with a little extra blue cheese crumbled over top.
*I enjoy this take on cranberry sauce because the brown butter adds a lovely nuttiness to the dish.
Maynards Market & Kitchen is serving dinner family style on Thanksgiving from 11a - 7p. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made by calling (520) 545-0577. For more information visit maynardstucson.com.
Chef Eldredge firmly believes that, “you should never ever stuff a turkey, for two very important reasons..."
First, bread crumbs are natural sponges so when you fill the cavity of the bird you’re essentially stuffing it with hundreds of tiny little sponges that will soak up all of the delicious turkey juices and render your bird dry and flavorless.
Second, and possibly more important, stuffing your turkey significantly increases your chances of catching a food borne illness,” especially if it isn’t cooked to 165 degrees. He always advises people to brine their turkey, and to bake Dressing as a side dish.
A native New Englander, Chef Eldredge makes a northeastern style stuffing with chopped steamed lobster, fried oyster croutons, and an array of roasted nuts such as pistachios and chestnuts. He chooses corn bread, instead of a wheat-based bread, as the main component, and uses fresh homemade shell fish stock to moisten the entire dish. Shellfish was abundant in the Northeast, where the nation’s first Thanksgiving feasts were celebrated. He believes seafood is more closely associated with the type of food that would have been served at the first Thanksgiving.
Noble Hops is located in Oro Valley. For more information, visit noblehopspub.com.
Chef Malarchik says, “When it comes to deciding to serve a Thanksgiving turkey, the decision between stuffing and dressing is always a difficult one. I grew up on stuffing and having all the juices from a brined turkey roasted into the stuffing while it cooks is a flavor that cannot be beat. As I made may way into the restaurant business, I learned that many chefs prefer dressing to keep from overcooking the bird while waiting for the stuffing to reach a safe 165 degrees.”
To obtain the best of both worlds – a perfectly cooked turkey and a delicious, turkey juice infused stuffing – Chef Malarchik uses a combination method. He starts by mixing bread, vegetables, herbs, rendered bacon and apples, and stuffs the bird with this mixture. He roasts the bird to the safe 165 degrees and then takes it out of the oven to rest while he removes the stuffing and transfers it to a ceramic dish. Then he places the stuffing in a baking dish, brushes it with melted butter, and returns it to the oven at 350 degrees. After twenty minutes, the stuffing will obtain a temperature of 165 degrees (helping to ensure its safety) and develop a golden brown crust. Remove the stuffing from the oven, and carve the fully rested turkey.
But don’t forget the gravy! To Chef Malarchik, Thanksgiving dinner is only as good as the gravy that ties all the components together. He always tries to find the perfect bite of dark meat, mashed potatoes, stuffing, a dollop of cranberry sauce – all covered in gravy.
Union Public House is located in St. Phillips Plaza. For more information, visit uniontucson.com.
Chef Verrier prefers to fry his turkey – and if you do, then Dressing is the only way to go. He encourages you to brine your turkey a few days in advance for the best tasting bird possible. He encourages you to source your meal with fresh ingredients – nothing from a box or a can.
To prepare his dressing, Chef Verrier likes to use day-old bread, roasted chestnuts, lots of herbs, mushrooms, celery, onions, cranberries – and, of course, chicken or turkey stock. In addition to dressing, he likes to serve Sweet Potato Casserole and Homemade Cranberry Sauce.
One special dish Chef Verrier makes is a healthy Chopped Vegetable Salad. To prepare it for your family, find the best seasonal vegetables (squash, beets, greens, Brussels Sprouts and peppers, for example), and skip the lettuce altogether. Become your very own culinary artist – roast some, grill others, blanch a few and leave some raw. Toss them together with vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper and serve. It’s a special delight.
Wildflower is Fox Restaurant's flagship store. Visit them online at foxrc.com.