Of all the dishes that make an annual appearance on our Thanksgiving table, this is the hands down favorite. Everyone clamors for this dressing as soon as it exits the oven. As it bakes, the farmhouse is infused with the intoxicating aroma of toasting bread, celery, and savory spices. It’s no wonder we all love this comforting, hearty side dish so much.
I like to prepare our dressing in an oversized, deep-dish cast iron skillet or Dutch Oven. It allows me to prepare the entire dish in a single pan, saving me the trouble of washing extra dishes on a day when dirty dishes seem to multiply at an alarming rate. The cast iron also creates the most delicious and beautiful caramelized layer on the bread cubes that are on the bottom and sides of the pan.
If you don’t have a cast iron skillet large enough to hold the dressing, you can use an oven ready skillet or casserole dish brushed with a bit of butter to prevent sticking. You can also cut this recipe in half in order to fit it comfortably in a standard 10 inch cast iron skillet.
I love to use a few loaves of our favorite 1840 Farmhouse Brioche bread for this stuffing, but two standard sized loaves of any type of bread can be substituted. I have tested the recipe using loaves of stuffing bread from our local grocery store with very good results. While the homemade bread was a bit more flavorful and rustic, both versions were delicious and beautiful.
No matter the loaf of bread you use or type of vessel you choose to bake the dressing in, the end result will be comforting and delicious. Our family’s favorite dressing is sure to please the diners gathered around your Thanksgiving table.
1840 Farm Cast Iron Skillet Thanksgiving Dressing
This recipe was adapted from Artichoke, Sausage, and Parmesan Stuffing which appeared in the November 2002 issue of Bon Appétit Magazine. As soon as I read the ingredients, I knew that I had to try it!
makes 8 side dish servings
2 pounds bread (1840 Farmhouse Brioche)
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
2 large onions, chopped
1 leek (white and light green parts only), sliced and washed to remove grit
1 cup chopped celery stalks and leaves
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
1 Tablespoon fresh sage
1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
2 cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained
¾ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup chicken broth (more as needed)
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the bread by slicing the loaves into 1 inch thick slices before dividing each slice into 1 inch cubes. Place the cubes in a single layer on two large baking sheets. Transfer the bread cubes to the warm oven and toast for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The goal is to dry and toast the cubes without drying them to the point that they resemble croutons. Remove the toasted cubes from the oven and allow them to cool. If desired, the bread cubes can be toasted the day before and kept at room temperature until needed.
Heat your large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage to the pan and cook, using a large spoon or fork to break the sausage into bite-sized pieces. This will allow the sausage to be evenly distributed in the finished dish.
When the sausage is no longer pink, add the onions, washed leeks, and celery to the pan. Incorporating the celery leaves will add a boost of celery flavor to the dish as the leaves have a more concentrated flavor than the stalks. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the celery begins to soften and the onions become translucent.
Prepare the aromatics as the sausage and onion mixture sautés. Mince the garlic with the rosemary and sage before adding them to the pan along with the fennel seeds and drained artichoke hearts. Cook until warmed through, stirring to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat.
Place the bread cubes in a large bowl. Add the sausage mixture, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, and broth, stirring to combine. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and add more broth to moisten if necessary. Transfer the entire mixture to the cast iron pan or your chosen baking dish. Top with remaining ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese. Cover the pan with a piece of buttered aluminum foil, placing the buttered side down on the surface of the dressing.
Place the pan in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15 to 20 minutes or until the top is golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and serve hot.