Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! Growing up, my dad and I always woke up early to make the dressing together. This recipe includes 20 years of early morning bickering between my dad and I. We each had our own idea of how to make the perfect dressing…but somehow we brought both of our ideas together, and came up with ‘the best of the best.’
My family calls this recipe ‘Stuffing Muffins,’ but just in case Martha Stewart is reading this, I titled the recipe ‘Thanksgiving Dressing Muffins’ since they are cooked outside the turkey (just want to be politically correct). The beauty of cooking the dressing in muffin tins is that all of the outsides are nice and crispy, while the insides remain moist and chewy. They are also the perfect size to munch on while driving to work!
These muffins can be made the day before Thanksgiving and reheated while the turkey is resting. I generally start this recipe the Sunday before Thanksgiving, but you can follow the note* below to start the night before instead.
Thanksgiving Dressing Muffins
1 large loaf white bread
2 batches homemade corn bread (2 – 8 inch rounds)
3 sticks butter, plus 1/4 cup softened butter to grease muffin tins
2 heads celery, cleaned, chopped into 1/4″ pieces
2 large yellow onions, roughly chopped
3 cups chopped pecans
0.32 oz poultry seasoning (half of a small jar)
1/4 cup fresh sage, stems removed, finely chopped
4 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
32 oz chicken broth (1 box)
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
– About 3 days before you plan to serve the muffins, make 2 batches of corn bread and allow to fully cool. Cut the corn bread into 1″ cubes and place in a disposable, aluminum pan made for roasting turkeys. Cut the white bread into 1″ squares with a serrated knife and add to the aluminum roasting pan. Cover with a cloth dish towel and leave on kitchen counter. Turn with a spoon twice daily to allow breads to dry out. *See note below for quick method.
– The day before Thanksgiving: Melt 3 sticks butter in a large saute pan (mine is 7 quarts). Add the chopped celery and onions; saute over medium heat until the onions are translucent and celery is cooked through (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to cool.
– Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease standard muffin tins with softened butter or non-stick spray.
– Add the chopped pecans, poultry seasoning, chopped sage, 2 Tablespoons kosher salt, and 1 Tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper to the bread mixture. Mix well.
– Add the cooled onion/celery to the bread mixture and thoroughly combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
– In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Fully incorporate the beaten eggs into the bread mixture. Little by little, add the chicken broth until the mixture begins to hold together. (I generally use 2/3 to 4/5 of the box of chicken broth…too much will yield soupy dressing.)
– Using clean hands, scoop up a baseball-sized portion of the mixture and (very) lightly incorporate into a ball. Place the ball into the muffin tin and gently press down. You will want heaping muffins, so do not press muffins too tightly. Imagine making loose, dry snow balls. Continue to make muffin balls until mixture is gone.
– Bake in 375 degree oven for 25 minutes, until Thanksgiving Dressing Muffins are golden brown. Eat immediately or reheat and eat.
Yields 36 muffins.
* In case you did not get your act together early: You can quickly dry the corn and white bread by spreading on 3 baking sheets and placing in a 275 degree oven for about 30 minutes.