Last year, I scientifically calculated (with a very real formula) that stuffing is the best part of the standard Thanksgiving spread. Now, most foodie publications would put all their effort into telling you the best way to make the best stuffing, but Food Bytes Back isn’t most foodie publications.
I’m here to tell you the best way to make the worst stuffing. Or, perhaps, the worst way to make the best stuffing.
For too long, white bread and cornbread have hogged the spotlight and/or the insides of the turkey cavity. There’s such a wide, wonderful world of bread out there, why not have a little fun with it? And as I said last week, this is the year to really fuck around and find out since your family has probably (hopefully) cancelled their plans for a big dinner. Or, if you’re someone who wouldn’t normally be doing the cooking but now finds themselves throwing together a Thanksgiving dinner for one, it’s not like you really need to follow any rules anyways.
Most of these breads (with one pretty glaring exception) are things that pretty much any household is bound to have at least one of at any given time. And we all saw how the stores were selling out of things left and right at the start of the pandemic, who’s to say that the Stovetop will be there for you when you need it?
So whether you don’t have time to make another trip to the store, the store is all sold out of the usual stuffing bases, or you’re an unhinged food writer who’s all out of topical, holiday-themed ideas, these are the stuffings that will have people saying “oh… that’s… creative?”
[For context- while I’m not making a control group, the following stuffings will all be made the same way: dicing the bread and letting it get stale overnight, sauteing onions and celery in butter, adding sage, thyme, pepper, and chicken stock, mixing that mixture with the breads, and baking in their own individual ramekins. I’m not doing a control of, say, Stovetop, because the point here isn’t to make a stuffing that’s the most like a traditional stuffing, but just to make the best tasting thing within these parameters. Also, I didn’t add any salt to these, since these kinds of processed breads probably already have plenty of salt in them already.]
Since this seemed like the one most likely to make a fairly normal stuffing, I decided to get the “Zesty Italian” croutons for the sake of making it bad on purpose.
The croutons did a little too good of a job soaking up the stock mixture. While the top did get crispy, what lurked beneath the surface was absolute mush (ya know, more than stuffing usually is). Also, the “Zesty Italian” flavoring luckily ended up getting lost under all the other seasonings I added.
Acceptable as a last resort. 2/5
A truly iconic staple carb for millennials who are still excited about being able to buy whatever they want, whenever they want it.
It tastes… like garlic bread! It really didn’t absorb any of the flavors I added, so a little disappointing in that regard. The top didn’t get as crispy as the croutons did, but the cubes of bread, while still obviously soggy, did manage to continue to hold their shape. It also didn’t really hold together as much as a typical stuffing, but that would only be a problem if you were trying to stuff it into a turkey. But, it also wasn’t as greasy as I expected it to be.
Perfect for a Friendsgiving (if all your friends love garlic bread) 4/5
I chose to go with pretzel bites here, because I assumed that they would be easier to cut than your traditional pretzel-shaped pretzel (they weren’t), and also to maximize that outer crust.
Of all of them, this one seems to hold its initial integrity the best, for better or worse. The pretzels definitely soaked up a bit of the liquid, but at most just got a little slimy on the exposed inside parts, while still crunchy on the crusts. This also means that this one also doesn’t really hold a shape, and would probably just fall out of the turkey. Also, I had put those big salt crystals on the pretzels when I initially made them, but I think adding the liquid might have dissolved them. Maybe put them on the top of the stuffing instead.
It’s fine, especially if you have a relative that never got over the “pretzel bun” craze. 3/5
Japanese-style Sausage Bun
Yeah, this is the one exception to the “things people could feasibly have on hand” rule. Much like the pretzels, I ended up going with a bite-sized version (basically just pigs-in-a-blanket, which kinda takes away the cursed element). However, unlike the pretzels, this was because my local Asian bakery only had the bites that day, and I feel like this was less than ideal since it greatly increased the meat-to-bread ratio.
OH MY GOD IT’S SO MEATY. THE BITES WERE A MISTAKE.
The pastry did a good job of soaking up the liquid, and even acted fairly well as a binder for the whole thing. But the sausage completely overpowers everything else. I’ve made stuffing with sausage in it before, but still was, ya know, stuffing with sausage in it, not sausage with stuffing in it.
Also the smell of stuffing in the house has been replaced with the smell of hot dogs. Hot dog/5
I said pound cake stuffing was gonna be the ideal accoutrement to a desserkey, so here it is. Also, I decided to use a lemon pound cake, since a.) I felt the lemon-y ness would add a nice citrusy brightness, b.) I feel like it’s slightly more likely to have that (or literally any flavor of pound cake) on hand than boring, plain pound cake, and c.) my dad mentioned wanting lemon pound cake the other day, and I was like “yeah that sounds kinda good” so I went and bought some.
No matter how long I baked it, this one would not get a crust on the top. But, it also bound together the best of the five. The pound cake cubes ended up having a crumbly texture, similar to a cornbread stuffing. It also probably had the best balance between the flavor of the initial bread and the seasoned liquid, ultimately tasting a lot like a lemon pepper chicken concoction. It was still fairly sweet though, so I don’t think you won’t fool anyone into thinking this was a normal stuffing, even if you used plain pound cake.
Functionally? The best stuffing. But emotionally? Actually still a pretty good stuffing. 4/5
An honorable mention goes to the random ziplock bag of week-old Popeye’s biscuits that was sitting on the kitchen counter the whole time while I was doing this that I almost did just for the hell of it, but figured that would be too normal and also I think I only have 5 ramekins.
I was joking when I said you needed to have pound cake stuffing to go with your desserkey, but you know what? Fuck it, nothing matters anymore.