Recipe: Thanksgiving Is Coming
Nothing Says Lovin’ Like Lard Bread Stuffin' in the Oven.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I could give you a lot of reasons, like “there’s nothing better than gathering around the table with your loved ones to be thankful for the another year together”; or “it’s a non-religious American holiday that everyone can celebrate”; but the truth is: I love stuffing.
I remember my eldest sister, Betsy, and I sneaking into the kitchen to “test” the warm stuffing while it was waiting to be put in the oven. We ate half of it before it was baked. (Mom was lucky if there was enough for the dinner, and she made a lot!) We would get caught with the spoon in our hand and laughingly say (chef’s kiss), “It’s perfect! Don’t add a thing!” And it was, year after year.
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Flash forward thirty years. Robert and I are walking past the Mazzola Bakery in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn (an old Italian enclave) a few days before Thanksgiving. I said, “I’m going to make Lard Bread stuffing.”
Now Lard Bread is mostly called Prosciutto Bread now, but it’s still called Lard Bread at Mazzola, and it’s still Lard Bread to me. And it’s wonderful—a loaf of Italian bread chock full of chunks of Genoa Salami or Prosciutto, and lard. It’s BOTH crispy and soft and I know a certain man who can eat a whole loaf by himself.
When I first moved to Brooklyn in the early nineties, it was a magical thing to discover this bread. I had never heard of it, but it was hard to avoid, especially when I lived on Sackett Street, near the Caputo, Cammareri and Mazzola Bakeries. All three bakeries sold Lard Bread. For this recipe today, I use Mazzola Lard Bread, which is generally regarded as the best in New York City. (Full recipe at the bottom of this post.)
Mary Kate’s Lard Bread Stuffing
2 loaves of Lard Bread
1 cup of diced white onion
1 cup of diced celery
3 cups of either giblet juice, chicken broth or water.
1/2 stick of butter.
Additional pats of butter for top of stuffing
Bell’s Poultry Seasoning
Start with 2 loaves of Mazzola Lard Bread (or any other bakery lard bread).
Tear or dice the bread into small cubes and let the bread sit out until it is stale. If you do not have time to let the bread get stale, tear or dice the bread into small cubes and bake in a 325-degree oven until dried out and crispy, approximately 30 mins to 1 hour.
When the bread is dried out, dice 1 cup of onion and 1 cup of celery and put them into a pot on the stove with 2 cups of the chicken broth, giblet juice or plain water. (Reserve 1 cup for later.) Simmer until translucent and soft.
After the celery and onions soften, add a half stick of butter to melt in the hot liquid.
Take the lard-bread cubes and put them in a bowl or pot.
Add the celery and onions.
Start by adding a cup of liquid (broth, juice or water) and sprinkle it over the bread mixture. You want the stuffing to be moist, but not too wet. You will still feel some firmness in the Lard Bread, which will soften as it bakes (because of the lard). If it is too dry, add more liquid. Mix the ingredients to incorporate.
Add Bell’s Poultry seasoning, salt and pepper to taste; and if you like, oregano, thyme (fresh or dried), and sauteed garlic. Season to taste. And I do mean taste! —are you sure it’s perfect? Maybe you ought to taste it again. Mix the ingredients gently.
Butter a 9” x 13” casserole dish. Add the stuffing mixture and dot with pats of butter.
Cover it with foil and bake in a 325-degree pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. Uncover, raise the temperature to 350, then bake for another 30 minutes, or until crispy on top.*
*Note for stuffing novices. This is hard to screw up. Do you want to dump a bunch of fresh herbs on top? Go ahead. You will be covering this in gravy. Add whatever you want. Sautéed sausage?—add it in! How about the meat lover’s stuffing? That’s right—go ahead and add mortadella. You’re doing fine.
Happy Thanksgiving!—Mary Kate
Do you have questions about this recipe? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I will try to answer them. And remember—don’t make something for the first time on Thanksgiving! Try it out beforehand.