This moist and tender Pork Sausage Dressing is a stand-out dish on any Thanksgiving table!
No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without the dressing. Though, before we jump in, let’s clarify the terms ‘stuffing’ and ‘dressing’. Growing up we always called it stuffing, no matter how it was prepared. But apparently there is a difference. They’re both constructed the same way; the difference lies in the method of cooking. Stuffing is cooked inside of the bird, whereas dressing is cooked separately, usually in a baking dish. The problem with cooking stuffing in the bird, is the increased risk of salmonella bacteria seeping into the porous bread and not cooking through. Growing up, you probably had stuffing cooked in the turkey every Thanksgiving and it never made anyone sick – I know that was the case with our family. However, it only takes one time… and no one wants the distinctive title of ‘the person that sent everyone to the hospital on Thanksgiving’. So these days, I make dressing.
Ok back to the dressing. Like a savory bread pudding, the bread soaks up all of the wonderful flavors you add. Dressing comes in numerous varieties – some are made with dried fruit, vegetables, or even oysters. My personal favorite is Pork Sausage Dressing. Whatever your fancy, the star is always the bread. However, it’s not the bread on it’s own that’s so delicious (although I have never met a bread I didn’t like) it’s all of the wonderful flavors in this recipe like pork, apple, sage, and thyme that infiltrate every little pore in the bread that make it so moist, tender, and resulting in such incredible flavor!
When selecting a bread, you may assume that you want a fancy artisanal variety. However, think of the bread as being a vehicle for flavor, rather than adding flavor. Artisanal breads are generally chewy and have larger holes – not ideal for soaking up the surrounding flavors and adding a custard-like consistency. Likewise, whole-grain bread is too rough in texture. Believe it or not, the secret to amazing dressing is a simple good-quality white sandwich bread! It’s soft, pillowy, and has a fine hole structure, which makes for better flavor absorption and retention. Use a thick slice, if you can find it.
- ¾ pound pork sausage, casings removed
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion, ¼-inch dice
- 1 large celery stalk, ¼-inch slice
- 1 granny smith apple, cored, ¼-inch dice
- ⅓ cup pecans, roughly chopped
- 1 loaf (about 1¼ lbs, 567 grams) white bread*, cut into 1-inch cubes
- ¾ cup chicken or turkey stock
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Spread the cubed bread out on a baking sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes, or until bread is lightly toasted.
- In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add the pork sausage. Stirring frequently, breaking the pork up into small pieces. Cook for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Scoop into a bowl and set aside.
- Reheat the sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the butter. Once melted, add the onion and celery - scraping up all the brown bits from the sausage. Stir occasionally until the onion is fragrant and translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Add the apple and pecans, and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Add the bread and pork, carefully toss to combine. Add the chicken stock, heavy cream, sage, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer the dressing to a large baking dish and cover with foil. Bake on the center rack for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and keeping the rack in the center, set the broiler to high. Cook under the broiler for 2-4 minutes, just long enough to brown and slightly crisp the top of the dressing (keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn the top). Remove from oven, serve, and enjoy!
* The bread should be dried out before using. This allows for better absorption while retaining the breads structure - the perfect dressing will allow for maximum retention of liquids without becoming a big pile of mush. You'll want to cube and toast the bread in a 350 degree F oven for 7 - 8 minutes.
**If you are making this dressing for the Roasted Turkey Roulade, do not bake the dressing (omit step 6).