Recipe: Popcorn & Venison Sausage Stuffing

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Betty appeared on the second season kickoff of the TV series Foodography on Nov. 14 to demonstrate a recipe perfect for Thanksgiving dinner: popcorn and venison sausage stuffing. We’re posting it here so cooks can take note. Enjoy the holiday!


(for a 12-15 lb turkey, or about 8 to 10 cups stuffing)

Turkey giblets and neck plus water to make about 3 cups stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup unpopped popcorn kernels (to make 4 cups popped popcorn, to be ground in a blender)
8 to 10 slices dried day-old white or wheat peasant bread (to make 4 cups toasted bread cubes)

1 pound venison sausage (or well-seasoned loose pork sausage)
¼ pound (1 stick) butter
2 cups white onions, chopped medium fine
1 ½ cups celery, chopped medium fine
2 tablespoons dried Herbes de Provence, or mixed dried sage, rosemary, thyme.
Salt & black pepper to taste

1 cup dried cranberries

1. Place neck and giblets (except for liver) in cold water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to simmer, season to taste, and cook slowly 45 minutes to an hour. (Cook liver in the broth 3-4 minutes only; remove gizzard and heart after 20 minutes cooking). Chop giblets and set aside. You’ll need about 2/3 to 1 cup chopped giblets. Discard (or chew on) the neck.

2. Film the bottom of a heavy cast iron skillet with the olive oil and heat over a medium flame. Add the popcorn kernels and cover loosely with a large (wok) lid until the kernels begin to pop. Shake the skillet slowly over the flame as the kernels pop until they stop popping (5 to 7 minutes). Uncover the skillet so the kernels don’t “steam” because you want them dry as possible.

3. Scoop popped kernels a cup or two at a time into a blender and pulse until they are finely chopped. Set aside.

4. Cut bread (leave crusts on) into small cubes and toast them in a low oven (300-325) about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

5. In the same cast-iron skillet, quickly sauté the loose sausage (no more than 2-3 minutes) in 2 tablespoons of the butter, chopping the meat with a spatula so it cooks evenly. Remove meat and set aside.

6. Add remaining butter to the same pan, sauté the onions and celery and season them with the dried herbs and salt and pepper. Cook 5-6 minutes until the vegetables begin to brown but are still crunchy.

7. Add to the pan the cranberries, chopped giblets, ground popcorn and bread cubes. Add 2 cups of the turkey stock. Taste for seasoning and moisture. For a wetter stuffing, add more stock.

8. Pack the stuffing into a casserole dish and bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes to make a slight crust on top.

Helpful Notes: This stuffing cooks separately from the turkey as a side dish. It is meant to be crunchy, with a lot of texture. For those who want a really soft dressing, add stock.

Giblets & stock can be done ahead, with leisure to distinguish cooking times between heart, gizzard and liver. You want to retain the soft texture of the liver and keep the heart and gizzard from turning to rubber.

Popping the corn kernels can be done the day before. You want it to be dry and crisp. If it’s not, just dry it in a big baking pan in a low oven (225 degrees) for an hour. Unless you’ve got a superpowerful blender, you’ll need to grind it in small batches so that it’s like coarsely ground nuts.

If your bread is not dry enough to cut easily into cubes, dry it out the same as the popped corn in a low oven. Leaving crusts on aids the crunch.

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Posted on Nov 19, 2010