~ I Just Love My Mom's Cracker Stuffing Casserole ~
I just love my mother's "stuffing". When I was growing up, I could not wait for her to make it for Thanksgiving. Truthfully, I always wished she would have made it more than once a year, but, alas, that was not the case. It's a simple mixture of saltine crackers soaked in milk and eggs with sauteed celery, onions and ground beef added to it. Yes, I said ground beef. My mom disliked turkey giblets (thankfully I did not inherit that gene), so, she substituted the ground meat to mimic the look and mouth feel of them. That substitution makes this stuffing versatile enough to serve with a prime rib roast for the Christmas or New Years holidays too (which I love to do)!
I refer to this as a "casserole" because I have no recollection of my mother ever stuffing her turkey (thankfully I did inherit that gene and do it the same way). It was always baked separately in a big, white, 4-quart Corningware casserole dish. When mom said, "get the casserole dish out of the cabinet underneath the oven", I knew exactly which one she wanted. The leftovers, served hot or cold (yes, this stuff is great cold) are even better. Sometimes I slice it cold, like a piece of meatloaf, to top a cold turkey sandwich along with a dollop of cranberry sauce, and, sometimes I scoop it hot onto an open-faced turkey sandwich topped with a ladleful of gravy!
6 cups whole milk, plus 1/2 cup additional milk, more or less, if necessary
4 ounces salted butter (1 stick)
8-10 counces diced celery
8-10 ounces diced yellow or sweet onion
3 .13-ounce packets G. Washington's Golden Seasoning and Broth Mix, total throughout recipe, two for seasoning the vegetables, one for seasoning the meat
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 1/2 pounds lean or extra-lean ground beef (85/15 or 90/10)
6 jumbo eggs
no-stick cooking spray, for preparing casserole dish
Add the 6 cups of milk to the bowl. Using a large rubber spatula, fold and stir until the crackers are softened and very, very moist, but not mushy. Take your time doing this, giving the mixture a moment to two to rest each time you stir, to give the crackers time to absorb all of the milk and soften, about 5-10 minutes.
Note: You want to maintain a "very soft, lumpy texture throughout this recipe. Add some additional milk, only if necessary, slowly and a little at a time, until desired consistency is reached without any liquid puddling in the the bottom of the bowl. I added no extra milk today.
~ Step 4. Add the ground beef to the skillet. Add 1 packet G. Washington's seasoning and lightly season it with salt and pepper. Adjust heat to medium-high and saute until meat has lost its red color and is steamed through, about 6-8 minutes. During the cooking process, use a spatula to break it up into small bits and pieces.
~ Step 6. Whisk, add and fold in the eggs. Take a moment or two to do this, making sure the mixture is thoroughly combined.
Cover with aluminum foil. Bake on center rack of preheated 325 degree oven 45-60 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, or until puffy through to the center and lightly browned. Rest 15 minutes prior to serving:
Special Equipment List: large rubber spatula; cutting board; chef's knife; 12" skillet; large slotted spoon; whisk; 4-quart casserole; aluminum foil
Cook's Note: Once the stuffing is mixed and in the casserole, it can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight (prior to baking the next day). Remove from refrigerator and return to room temperature, 2-3 hours. Remove plastic wrap, cover with foil and bake as directed. Gobble, gobble!!!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)