Every Thanksgiving or Christmas, my family always looks forward to Dad's stuffing.
The smell of onions and celery simmering in butter always reminds me of the holidays, because each year, me, Mom and my sister would get up early and help him break rolls into small pieces (but not too small) and even help him mix it when it was time.
I knew the recipe came from Grandma - Dad's mom - but I didn't know where it originated beyond that.
Tribune Chronicle / Bonnie L. Hazen
A bowl of holiday stuffing, made with Kaiser rolls, is a family favorite.
My dad said she made the delicious mixture as long as he can remember, preparing it every time she cooked a chicken or a turkey for the family. He said she may have acquired the recipe from Grandpa's mother, and she never consulted a recipe card, always making it from memory.
A couple of changes have been made to her version - Dad makes it with a red onion to lessen the potency of the onion flavor, whereas I use a sweet onion. Both taste great.
Grandma always used hard rolls, but since Dad can never find them, he substitutes Kaiser rolls. Dad said the Kaiser rolls come pretty close.
2 or 3 packages of Kaiser rolls, broken into small pieces
1 stick of margarine
1 cup celery, finely chopped
1 cup sweet or red onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 large eggs
3 to 4 cups of milk
1 teaspoon sage
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the celery, onion and margarine in a skillet to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low. As the margarine boils off, add small amounts of hot water. Cook until the celery can easily be cut with a fork, or 30 to 40 minutes.
While celery and onion mixture is cooking, break kaiser rolls into small pieces (about the size of a nickel).
Combine two eggs with two cups of milk, whisking with a fork until mixed.
In a large mixing bowl, add some of the celery and onion mixture, stirring bread well. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and sage, and then add a heavy drizzle of the egg and milk mixture, stirring well with each addition. Repeat the process until the bread pieces are soaked well, but not so much as to make them into mush. Continue to season with sage, salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the stuffing inside a chicken or turkey, or by itself in a casserole dish at 350 F for 30 to 45 minutes. The crust of the stuffing will be golden brown when done.
Serve with or without gravy.
On a few occasions, I've used a little bit of chicken broth along with the milk to moisten the bread, but not a lot - one of the great things about this recipe is that it isn't overburdened with spices. It is a simple, subtle stuffing that melts in your mouth and tastes great with or without gravy.
The best thing I like about this recipe is its simplicity, and the taste elicits memories I'll always cherish.
Now that I'm married, my husband has come to appreciate the smell of celery and onions simmering in butter as a signal that the holidays have arrived.