Alright, I’m going to tell you a secret… I hate, HATE, cooking whole birds. I’m not sure what part I hate the most, but I just don’t enjoy it… which kinda puts a damper on the Thanksgiving dinner thing!
That is until one of my awesome readers, Meredy, sent me this awesome tip! According to this article by Denise Vivaldo, you can cut up a turkey into pieces (or buy pre-cut pieces) and bake them on top of a dish full of stuffing. The herb infused steam from the stuffing bakes into the meat and the drippings from the turkey flavor and moisten the stuffing… and it all takes a fraction of the time that it takes to cook a whole turkey! Perfect!
I can’t say enough about how easy and delicious this was. The stuffing was a cinch and was packed with flavor. The turkey turned out moist with a nice crispy skin. I’ll probably never roast a whole bird again.
The most difficult part of this recipe will be either finding turkey pieces or cutting the turkey yourself. I found pre-cut turkey pieces at Whole Foods and, of course, I paid an arm and a leg for them. A whole turkey will usually cost less than $1 per pound and I paid $2.49 per pound for my pieces. To me, it was worth it. If it’s not worth it for you, you can follow these step by step photo instructions on how to cut your own turkey into pieces. I just wasn’t that ambitious this weekend! Plus, turkeys can take a couple days to thaw and I threw this together last minute.
Oh, also, if you’re looking to make this more healthy, you can definitely skip the bacon (saute veggies in a touch of olive oil). Enough fat drips into the dressing from the turkey that the bacon fat wasn’t all that necessary in the end… but it sure did taste good!
Turkey & Stuffing Casserole
Turkey and Stuffing Casserole
- 6 oz bacon ($1.65)
- 1/2 bunch celery ($0.65)
- 2 medium apples ($1.19)
- 1 medium yellow onion ($0.30)
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic ($0.04)
- 1 tsp dried sage ($0.05)
- 1 tsp dried thyme ($0.05)
- salt and pepper (as needed) ($0.05)
- 1 large loaf french bread ($1.59)
- 1 tsp chicken base ($0.07)
- 1/2 bunch fresh parsley ($0.40)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.11)
- 6 lbs bone-in turkey pieces ($12.80)
- Cut the bacon into small pieces by cutting across the strips. Cook bacon in a large pot until crispy. While the bacon is cooking, wash and cut the celery, onion, and apples into a dice.
- Add the onion, apples, celery, and garlic to the cooked bacon. Saute just until slightly softened (about five minutes). Turn off the heat and add the thyme, sage, freshly cracked pepper, and salt to taste.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If your bread is fresh, slice it and place it in the oven as it heats up to dry it out. Or, buy the bread a couple of days ahead of time and allow it to dry out or get stale on your countertop. Once the bread is dry, cut it into small cubes. Also wash and roughly chop the parsley. Add the cubed bread and parsley to the cooked vegetables and bacon. Stir until everything is well mixed.
- Mix one teaspoon of chicken base with one cup of hot water. Pour this over the bread mixture and stir until everything is well coated. Transfer the stuffing mixture to a large 9×11 inch glass casserole dish.
- Unwrap the turkey pieces and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Arrange the turkey pieces over the stuffing in the casserole dish. Place the whole dish in the oven and let roast, uncovered, for one and a half hours. The turkey skin should be brown and crispy and the stuffing should be bubbling around the edges. Allow the casserole to rest for about 10 minutes before serving. This will allow the stuffing to soak up some of the moisture and solidify, as well as the turkey juices to redistribute within the meat.
Step By Step Photos
Cut the bacon across the strips to yield small pieces. Again, you can probably skip the bacon if you want because the turkey renders enough fat the keep the dressing nice and moist. …but it tastes good, if you want it!
Cook the bacon down until it’s nice and crispy.
While the bacon is cooking, wash and cut the celery, apples, and onion into a small dice. I ended up using half of the bunch of celery, or about 5 stalks.
Add the chopped celery, apples, onion, and minced garlic to the cooked bacon. Stir and cook this for about five minutes or until it’s just barely softened.
Wash and roughly chop the parsley while the veggies are cooking in the bacon fat.
After the veggies cook, turn off the heat and add the thyme, sage, salt, and pepper (to taste). Stir to combine.
It’s time to cut the large loaf of french bread into cubes. Fresh bread will not cut into small cubes, it will just squish and tear. So, you can either buy the bread ahead of time and leave it exposed on the counter top for a couple of days (which I did) or slice it and place it in the oven while it preheats. Once it’s dry and crispy (but not toasted), cut it into small cubes.
Add the bread cubes (and all of the crumbs) as well as the chopped parsley to the pot of bacon and vegetables. Stir until everything is very well mixed.
Next mix up some chicken stock by combining 1 tsp of chicken base with one cup of very hot water. You’ll notice in the picture that I actually made 2 cups. As it turns out, I dramatically underestimated the amount of juices that the turkey would give off and 2 cups was far too much. So, despite what the picture tells you, only use one cup of stock.
Pour the stock over the stuffing mixture and stir everything really well again.
Transfer the stuffing to a large glass baking dish.
Prepare the turkey pieces by rubbing the skin with olive oil and sprinkling generously with salt and pepper. I ended up purchasing three turkey thighs and two wings. The thighs were so huge that each one was larger than a standard chicken breast. Turkey breast was also available at the butcher, but I like dark meat so this is what I chose.
Arrange the turkey pieces over the stuffing.
Can’t you just tell how awesome this is going to be? The herb infused steam from the stuffing will rise up into the turkey meat and the turkey juices will drip down into the stuffing adding moisture and flavor… It’s just fabulous.
And then all you have to do is place it in a preheated 350 degree oven for about an hour and a half or until the skin is nicely browned and crispy. So easy. No basting required.
The skin was deliciously crispy while the meat under it stayed nice and moist. What more could you want?
It definitely made the whole dinner so much easier to prepare!