My edible heritage

Posted by Anita on 11.24.09 9:22 AM

(c)2009 AEC **All Rights Reserved**We’ve always called it “Grandma Anne’s stuffing”, but one year I discovered the recipe for our favorite Thanksgiving side-dish is much older than we knew.

When my grandfather passed away, I inherited his mammoth recipe box. Buried amid a slew of tortured 1970s-era gourmet recipes were a small, weathered stack of old recipe cards, written in a puzzling mixture of English and Italian (sometimes combined in one dazzling portmanteau, like  “saurcraoti”). Most of the recipes were neatly lettered in a spidery convent hand on old ledger cards, but a few were obviously cut from the bottom of longer letters from my great-grandmother, Annunciata, to my grandmother, Anne; the back sides of the recipes offer snippets of a longer, advice-laden conversations at the very beginning of her marriage to my grandfather.

One such card, titled Impieno per Gallina (hen stuffing) is dated “1939 NY”, and bears an incredibly strong resemblance to our family’s traditional Thanksgiving stuffing. The quantities are smaller — even a big chicken wouldn’t need the giant bowl of filling that a turkey requires — but the ingredients are unmistakable: onion, celery, Parmesan, sage, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Now, I realize that it’s impossibly foolish to offer you my family’s stuffing recipe, heirloom or not, because everyone I’ve ever met is fiercely loyal to their own traditional ideas of Thanksgiving fare. And while you may be able to get away with adjustments to the turkey, or to any number of other side dishes, most people would rather fight than switch when it comes to the dressing. But just in case you’re game for starting a new tradition, feel free to borrow ours.

(c)2009 AEC **All Rights Reserved**(c)2009 AEC **All Rights Reserved**(c)2009 AEC **All Rights Reserved**(c)2009 AEC **All Rights Reserved**(c)2009 AEC **All Rights Reserved**

Great-Grandma Ciata’s Turkey Stuffing
1/4 to 1/2 pound bacon, diced fine
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups finely chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped parsley
bread from 1-1/2 loaves, cubed and dried (4 to 5 quarts)
2 cups chicken stock or turkey broth
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan or other dry cheese
2T fresh sage, minced
dash of nutmeg

In a cold frying pan, place the bacon, onion, garlic, celery, and parsley. Saute over low heat, being careful not to brown. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile in a large bowl, moisten the bread cubes with the stock/broth. Add the cheese, sage, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Combine with the bacon mixture, then bake in the bird, in a foil-covered casserole, or in a slow cooker.

family, holidays & occasions, recipes



Comment by Tea

Fiercely loyal, indeed. Though yours sounds lovely as well. What great history! I love those old recipe cards.

Posted on 11.24.09 at 9:52AM

Comment by Chiot's Run

I love that it uses “bread crumbs” and not stuffing mix from the store. I bake bread just to dry and use for stuffing (speaking of which), it needs to go out on the counter to dry.

Posted on 11.24.09 at 4:01PM

Comment by Anita

Tea: Thanks! I feel the same way about Thanksgiving as you do — I want the same meal every year. Luckily, so do all the people I’m spending it with.

Chiot’s Run: We do the same thing. Cameron baked four loaves of white sandwich bread last weekend, and it’s now cubed and sitting in various containers around the kitchen.

Posted on 11.24.09 at 4:52PM

Comment by Cooking with Michele

I was always the stuffing maker and turkey stuffer as a child – and was taught to make my mom’s stuffing with the bagged bread cubes following the recipe on the back. In the past few years I’ve finally broken from the past, creating my own dressing recipe (I no longer cook it in the bird) featuring Italian bread, fresh herbs and veggies, and lots of butter. To give it that “baked in the bird” taste I drizzle it with turkey drippings before serving. Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted on 11.25.09 at 8:12AM

Comment by cookiecrumb

So you’re Eye-talian! That food sounds crazy good; cheese? Ee.
And look. You got your husband to fall for it.
As long as there’s sage in it, I’m happy.

Posted on 11.25.09 at 3:25PM

Comment by sippitysup

This is a cute and sentimental story that is perfect this time of year! GREG

Posted on 11.25.09 at 4:14PM

Comment by Kate

Much to my husband’s chagrin I have been playing around with the stuffing recipe…I love the one I grew up eating but I had to see if I could make it better! I am still working on it! This sounds wonderful..who doesn’t like bacon?

Posted on 11.25.09 at 7:37PM

Comment by Coconut

What a wonderful tradition! Love the photo of the old recipes.

Posted on 11.26.09 at 7:45AM

Comment by Wizzythestick

Wow! Isn’t that something to be thankful for – a great treasure of recipes and a connection to your past. Love;y.

Posted on 11.26.09 at 1:47PM

Comment by Sean

Loyalty be damned. I’ve bookmarked this for future stuffings.

Posted on 11.28.09 at 1:58PM

Comment by Sean

PS I just saw your footer for the first time. Am cracking up.

Posted on 11.28.09 at 1:59PM

Comment by Phoo-D

What a marvelous story and recipe! I think it is so very cool to have a family recipe that has been around that long.

Posted on 11.30.09 at 1:22PM

Comment by Lori

I made this when we had a friend over for supper…and now I’m making it again for Xmas dinner tomorrow! I think your family tradition will soon be ours too! Delicious! Thanks for the recipe.

Posted on 12.24.10 at 3:35PM

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