This recipe is buried deep within my husband’s Acadian roots. The star of this recipe is the lessor known (at least present day, here in North America) herb, savory. I suspect the use of savory comes via the European ancestry of the Acadian people. Historically, savory is one of the most important herbs in European cuisine and perhaps the first herb to make its way to the New World from Europe.
Along with the turkey and stuffing, the family recipe also includes cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, steamed peas and carrots and gravy made with the turkey drippings.
I don’t know the exact origin of this Christmas/Thanksgiving dinner recipe, but surely it reflects a time when people consumed less meat day to day than the average person does today. For Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts, the meat portion took center stage. Hence, in this meal, the stress is all on the turkey, the vegetables playing a less significant role. Also, the original recipe asks for bread crumbs made with white bread, reflecting an era when white bread was seen as nutritious. We have switched to using whole wheat bread but my husband still believes using white bread gave a better texture. The original recipe also calls for canned cranberry sauce perhaps because cranberries were not readily available at this time or simply because canned foods were all the rage. We have replaced the canned cranberry sauce with a homemade version you can find here.
Acadian Potato and Bread Turkey Stuffing with Savory
(yields enough for a 6 kg or 13.2 lbs turkey and can be made a day ahead)
- 9 slices of whole wheat bread
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3 medium onions, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup dried winter savory
- 8 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 3 tsp salt, divided
- 3/4 tsp pepper
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Lay slices of bread on a cookie sheet (or as many sheets as required) in a single layer.
- Bake bread for 10 minutes. Flip the slices and bake for another 7 minutes. Continue baking until they are browned and dry but check often to ensure that they do not burn. This could take up to about 30 minutes total.
- Allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
- When completely cooled, process in a food processor to obtain fine bread crumbs.
For the stuffing:
- Place potatoes in a large saucepan and fill with enough water to completely submerge the potatoes.
- Add 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil and continue cooking until potatoes are just soft enough to mash with the back of a fork.
- Drain, discarding the cooking liquid. Place potatoes back in the saucepan that was used to cook them and place saucepan back on the stove (stove is turned off) and just allow the heat to burn off any trace of excess water that may remain, about 5 minutes.
- Mash the potatoes well using a masher.
- Melt butter in a large saucepan at medium heat.
- Add onions and cook until softened.
- Mix in savory.
- Transfer onion-savory mixture to a large bowl.
- Mix in 1/2 of the mashed potatoes as well as 1/2 of the bread crumbs.
- Add remaining potatoes and bread crumbs and mix well.
- Mix in 2 tsp salt and pepper. Taste and adjust if required. Note if you are brining the turkey (brining highly recommended) you may want to keep the stuffing on the not-so-salty side.
- Cover with a large plate (no need to use plastic wrap!) and refrigerate until you are ready to stuff the turkey.
Note: We only fill the large cavity of the turkey and we only loosely fill it. The stuffing that remains is cooked separately in an oven-proof dish during the last hour that the turkey is in the oven…. this allows the vegetarians at the table to have stuffing without the turkey!