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).
Would you recommend doubling this receive to serve more people. Also how far do you take the Receips if making day ahead?. If don’t add cream or stock?
Hi Eileen! I have made this dressing the day before – assembling it all the way through (stock and cream included) and stopping just before baking. In fact, I think letting all of the ingredients meld overnight makes it even better! The next day, before baking, just take a look at the dressing – if the bread has soaked up all of the liquid and looks a little dry, just add a bit more chicken stock (not too much, just enough to moisten). And yes, you can double the ingredients in this recipe. However, I would divide the dressing equally among two baking dishes/baking tins. Trying to jam all of that dressing into one baking dish may not only alter the baking time too much, but then dry out the top of the dressing, while leaving the center undercooked. So use two baking dishes and alternate and turn the dishes halfway through to ensure even cooking. Cook for the stated time in the recipe, making sure it’s golden-brown.
Great dressing recipe! I think I should start making stuffing/dressing even if Thanksgiving’s over.
Hi Kathleen! I’m making Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow 🙂 Can I make this today up to the point before baking it? I feel like it will be ok but just wanted to double check! 🙂
Oh that’s fantastic, Nagi! It’s custardy-like dressing so yes, I think preparing the night before and baking the day of will be just fine 🙂
Meggan | Culinary Hill says
White bread… sausage…. yum. I love the addition of an apple for extra crunchy and a touch of tangy sweetness! We are pretty strict about the type of stuffing served at Thanksgiving (no deviations) but I like to make it year-round and I can’t wait to try your version! I repeat: White bread and sausage. Yum.
Ooo, you make stuffing year-round!? Can I come to your house!? 😉
Thanksgiving is great for traditions! I hope you enjoy this version off-season 🙂
This dressing sounds great! I like pork sausage and the addition of apples is a great idea. Never thought of the risk of salmonella, but I never cook whole turkey, that’s probably why! Pinned 🙂
Thanks – I love the combination of pork and apples! I grew up with stuffing cooked in the bird, and never got sick. But better be safe than sorry – especially if you have a boat load of people you’re serving!
The Beer and Food Project says
This looks delicious! A German style Bock such as Anchor Bock or Hinterland Maple Bock would pair nicely with this. Your recipe will likely find it’s way onto TBAFP’s Holiday table! Thanks!
Thanks! My husband grew up in Germany, so I’m sure he’d love that!
Helen @ Scrummy Lane says
You know, I’ve never tried making my own stuffing/dressing, but this post has really made me want to give it a go! I just love all the ingredients you’ve put in there (so tasty!) and reckon I could eat it alone for dinner!
P.S. I once went to a wedding where most of the guests got food poisoning from re-heated rice. The groom’s brother will forever be remembered (by me at least) as the person who did that to everyone. Poor guy!
Oh please do, it’s so easy! And no worries if you eat it alone for dinner – I’ve been guilty of sneaking bites early in the morning, right out of the fridge!
Ugh… I feel so badly for the groom’s brother and everyone else in the party! How terrible! I’ve had found poisoning before (a bad oyster) and I’ll NEVER forget it!
I think my kids would disown me if pork sausage dressing were not on the Thanksgiving table! I love this recipe and the addition of the pecans…I need to try that!
Thanks, Annie! The pecans add a really nice texture to the dressing 🙂
Culinary Ginger says
What a delicious dressing this looks and sounds. My neighbor just asked if I had a recipe for a pork dressing so I’ll be passing this along.