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~ I Just Love My Mom's Cracker Stuffing Casserole ~

6a0120a8551282970b019b02042df5970bI 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). 

IMG_7487I 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.

IMG_73611 3/4  pounds saltine crackers, crumbled, not crushed

6 1/2  cups whole milk, plus 1/2 cup additional milk, more or less, if necessary

4  ounces salted butter (1 stick)

8-10  ounces diced celery (1 1/2-2 cups)

8-10 ounces diced yellow or sweet onion (1 1/2-2 cups)

4  .13-ounce packets G. Washington's Golden Seasoning and Broth Mix, total throughout recipe, threee for seasoning the vegetables, one for seasoning the meat

1 generous teaspoon sea salt

1  generous teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1 1/2-2  pounds lean or extra-lean ground beef (85/15 or 90/10)

6  jumbo eggs

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing casserole dish

IMG_7382 IMG_7374~ Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, using your hands, crumble the crackers into small chunks and pieces.  

Add the 6 1/2 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 IMG_7390two 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.

IMG_7399~ Step 2.  Prep the onion and celery as directed.  In a 12" skillet, melt the butter over low heat.  Stir in 3 seasoning packets, salt and white pepper into the melted butter.  

IMG_7371Add the vegetables. Increase heat to saute, until the onion softens, about 4-6 minutes.  Do not allow to brown.

IMG_7401~ Step 3.  Fold the hot vegetable mixture, including any melted butter puddling in the pan, into the cracker mixture.  Now the stuffing will be extremely moist.

IMG_7411Wipe or rinse out the skillet and return it to the still warm stovetop.

IMG_7425 IMG_7416~ Step 4. Add the ground beef to the skillet. Add 1 packet G. Washington's seasoning and lightly season it with salt and pepper too.  Adjust heat to medium-high and sauté until meat has lost its red color and almost no liquid remains in pan, 15-18 minutes. While it's cooking, use a spatula to break it into small bits and pieces.  

6a0120a8551282970b019b01d8b3d1970d 6a0120a8551282970b019b01d8b6ba970d~ Step 5. Using a large slotted spoon, add and fold the ground meat into the stuffing.  Do no add any of the small amount of liquid in skillet (discard it).

~ Step 6.  Whisk, add and fold in the eggs.  Take a moment or two to do this, making sure the mixture is thoroughly combined.

IMG_7461~ Step 7.  Spray a 4-quart casserole with cooking spray.  Tranfer all of the stuffing to the dish, spreading and distributing it evenly.

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 15-30 minutes prior to serving.

Rest stuffing 15-30 minutes prior to serving:

IMG_7476I Just Love My Mom's Cracker Stuffing Casserole:  Recipe yields 16 cups.

Special Equipment List:  large rubber spatula; cutting board; chef's knife; 12" skillet; large slotted spoon; whisk; 4-quart casserole; aluminum foil

IMG_7460Cook'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)


Juli -- I am so pleased you found a recipe similar to your grandmother's enough to recreate it in your own kitchen! ~ Melanie

I grew up eating this. My grandmother made it at every holiday meal. I do recall her sautéing the turkey giblets into the butter and vegetables before assembling the bird. There was always extra for a side dish too. Everyone loved it. I am so glad I found this recipe and look forward to making it this holiday season. My grandmother was from the Chicago area and was of polish/bohemian decent.

This is very similar to the stuffing recipe I grew up with, except that we have always used "Ritz" or other brand butter crackers instead of saltines.

Donna! Your comment brought a huge smile to my face. Of all of the stuffing casseroles in this food world, this one remains my favorite. So glad you found the recipe! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I was very pleased and surprised to see your ground beef and cracker stuffing. That is how my mother and grandmother made it. We are of Polish/Lithuanian Heritage from the Chicago area.
Thank you for sharing.

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