Bread Stuffing with Figs and Hazelnuts

Is it “stuffing,” “dressing” or “filling”?

Some people say it’s stuffing if it’s inside the bird, filling if it isn’t. But others say it’s a regional thing: “dressing” more of a Southern term, filling in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Or that “dressing” is British while “stuffing” is American.

My mother called it “filling” not stuffing. I always thought it was because her version was made with pasta, not the more traditional bread. It was filling, for sure (though no more than stuffing). And delicious too, made with egg-barley shaped noodles mixed with sauteed onions, mushrooms, celery and eggs.

I used to make “Nana’s Filling” every year until my kids told me they wanted something new.

I’ve been experimenting with recipes ever since and make new ones all the time (sometimes in addition to “Nana’s” or another old favorite). Sometimes I use bread, sometimes rice or whole grains like kasha or bulgur wheat. Maybe I’ll add fruit and nuts or a variety of mushrooms. Stuffing-dressing-filling is one of those versatile and forgiving recipes. You can more or less mix up a starchy ingredient, some texture foods (such as mushrooms, dried apricots, cashews, and so on), seasonings (chopped herbs and the like) and a binder of some sort (eggs, stock, cream, soy milk etc.), mix it all together and there you have it. Whatever you call it.

Here’s a recipe for a bread-based stuffing-dressing-filling with fresh and dried fruits and nuts too. We like it cooked separately from the turkey, but you can make it either way. This recipe makes about 12 cups — enough for a 14-15 pound turkey.

Bread Stuffing with Figs and Hazelnuts

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 large Granny Smith or other crisp, tart apple, peeled, cored and chopped

1 cup chopped dried figs

1/2 cup raisins

1 cup chopped hazelnuts

8 cups 1/2-inch diced bread

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or 3/4 teaspoon dried)

1/2 to 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the apple, figs and raisins and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Spoon the contents of the pan into a large bowl. Add the nuts, bread cubes, parsley, rosemary and thyme. Toss ingredients to distribute them evenly. Pour in 1/2 cup stock and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss ingredients. Add the remainder of the stock if you prefer a moister stuffing. Place inside the turkey. To bake separately, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, spoon the stuffing into a casserole, cover the casserole and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for another 12-15 minutes. Makes about 12 cups.