You can wax rhapsodic about your sweet potatoes, or glory in the sweet-tart pop of cranberries, or even try and tell me that the almighty burnished bird is the end-all-be-all. But for me, Thanksgiving is stuffing. Full stop. Stuffing is the one food that I only eat at Thanksgiving. In my family, no one would ever say on a random Tuesday, “Hey, how about stuffing with dinner?” Just didn’t happen. I gorge on stuffing at the Thanksgiving table, and then spend the rest of the weekend snaking cold chunks out of the fridge, smooshing it into my sandwiches, and in one fit of genius, half-filling a leftover popover with it and then topping with scrambled eggs for the best breakfast sandwich ever.
Growing up, we did not cotton to fancy mix-ins like dried cherries or chestnuts, we did not like extra vegetation like fennel or mushrooms, and we certainly didn’t shake up the bread with rye or focaccia or wheat loaves redolent of rosemary. Don’t even get me started on the protein-enhanced stuffings with sausages or oysters, I’m sure if those are your family traditions, that they hold as sacred a spot in your heart as our simple one does in mine, but it isn’t what we are going for here. Good sourdough is about as fancy as we got, but as often as not, just decent white bread, staled and cubed and toasted.
Photo by Stacey Ballis
I love the simple flavors of our stuffing. I wait all year to make it, and then I make it at a scale that is a bit shocking. I want everyone to get thirds at the table and have ample to send leftovers home with anyone who wants, and still have a hoarded pile left at home to get me through the weekend. That’s it until next year—which is a good thing because my stuffing is a fat-soaked carbsplosion and not the kind of thing a rational person should eat on the regular.
But I did wonder, what if I could get some of that stuffing flavor now and again to get me from November to November? Something easy and quick—and then it hit me. Since stuffing is essentially toast that is soaked in butter and other pleasures, what if I made a butter with all the flavors of stuffing that I could just smear on my toasted bread?
Stuffing butter. You’re welcome, America.
Photo by Stacey Ballis
The major difference between this and other regular herb compound butters that you might find sliced atop your steaks and chops, is the addition of chicken bouillon paste, which gives you the umami punch to make things really taste like stuffing. Most of the ingredients are in your spice cupboard. It is delicious on any toasted morning breadstuff, from artisanal crusty levain, to a frozen waffle. Biscuits and bagels alike can become stuffing-fied, and I don’t need to tell my Southern brethren what it would do to a slab of cornbread. Even better, for a riff on a homemade Stove Top, just melt a couple tablespoons of it into a cup or so of canned chicken broth and pour over a couple cups of bagged stuffing bread cubes.
This recipe doubles easily, so you can keep some in the fridge and some in the freezer for anytime the mood hits you. Because sometimes, you just want that soul-soothing flavor of stuffing, and Thanksgiving is just too far away.
1.5 tablespoon sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon low sodium chicken base, preferable Better Than Bouillon brand (if you can’t find low-sodium, cut back to 1/2 tablespoon or it will be too salty)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, chopped fine
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
0.5 teaspoon rubbed sage
0.25 teaspoon celery seed
0.25 teaspoon granulated garlic
0.25 teaspoons ground black pepper
1.5 dried chopped onion (from the spice aisle), rehydrated in 1/4 cup warm water for 30 minutes
How to Make It
Drain the rehydrated onion flakes and press dry with paper towels. In a medium bowl, mix the butter and bouillon paste until well incorporated with no streaks. Add all of the spices and the onion and mix well.
Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to six months. Slather on any available bread, top your baked potato with it, melt it down and drizzle it on your popcorn. If you want something to taste like stuffing, this is your new best friend.