They are easy to make, easy to tote, and easy to serve. Plus, the cupcake thing adds a comment-worthy twist. So be the side dish star this year.
You can use any of your favorite recipes for stuffing and bake with this method. The benefit of the cupcake pan is that you get the perfect mix of browned crunch and softer insides. The recipe here is a classic sage and thyme dressing (technically, since these cupcakes don’t go in the turkey they are “dressing,” but “stuffing” just sounds so much more familiar). I add some fruit and nuts to add interesting flavors and textures. You don’t have to add those though if you’re a dressing purist.
Start with your bread. Choose any loaf of bread that weighs a pound. Shown here is a loaf of Italian bread. You can use, Italian, French, even plain old white bread. Cut the loaf into one-inch cubes. Spread the bread on two baking trays lined with parchment paper. Now, you can either leave these trays out at room temperature, uncovered, for a couple days to make the bread stale. Or follow this shortcut. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the two trays on two oven racks and bake for 10 minutes. Give the bread a stir. If you’re adding the walnuts, dump them on one of the trays at this point. Switch the trays. Bake the bread (and walnuts) for another 7 to 8 minutes until the bread is nicely dried out. Let the bread cool about ten minutes.
Meanwhile, heat up the fruit and vegetables. Melt a stick of butter in a pan. I know, I know, but it’s Thanksgiving, the day for gluttony. So melt that whole thing in that pan. Once it’s melted, add the chopped apples (if using) and celery and heat, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool a bit.
Now it’s time to mix everything together. In a large bowl, as large as you have, combine the bread cubes, walnuts, the celery and apple mixture with all that butter, the chicken broth, eggs, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix it up as well as you can, making sure all the bread cubes are moistened.
Line a cupcake tray with cupcake liners and spoon the stuffing into each liner. Pack the stuffing in there as you go along, overflowing each cup. Press down on each stuffing cup with your palm when you’re done to make sure it’s nicely stuffed and rounded. Bake until the tops are nicely browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool ten minutes before removing from the cupcake tray.
These still taste fantastic when they are room temperature, so you will really be your host’s favorite person if you bring these and no re-heating is required. Happy Thanksgiving!