Tis’ the season to give thanks. And this year, we seem to have an extra helping of things for which to be thankful… not the least of which is our pending end-of-year travels.
Rather than making the journey to family and friends for the holiday, we are instead departing for our grand European vacation — a trip seven years in the making. So while all of you are gathered around the table, eating your fill of turkey and gravy, we will be in the air on our way to London.
It’s been quite the journey to get here. Ever since we started dating, we have talked about showing one another our old stomping grounds in London and Belgium. I studied abroad in London back in 2006 and still consider it my favorite city in the world. I met some of my best friends there and always look forward to returning to be reunited with them and our former haunts. Jason, on the other hand, spent an entire year on exchange in southern Belgium. It’s where he picked up his fluency in French, his partiality to long hair, and his taste for good beer and fries. Both of our experiences abroad ultimately informed who we are as people today, and we are beyond excited to share those special pieces of our lives with one another.
It hasn’t been without its challenges though. Just this week, the entire city of Brussels went on lockdown, the US State Department issued a travel warning advisory, and the world seems to have entered an almost irreversible state of fear that we can only hope is not the new normal.
We certainly toyed around with the idea of rescheduling our trip altogether, but we ultimately came to the conclusion that life is meant to be lived, not holed up watching the television and listening to what “could” happen. We have since diverted some of our plans, mainly to avoid Brussels and some of the larger congregating areas, but we are still going. We will still get to stay with my dear soulmate of a friend Taghrid; we will still get to taste some of the best Indian food on the planet in New Cross; we will still share a home-cooked meal with Jason’s old host family; we will still meet up with some of Jason’s Belgian friends for a pint; and we will most definitely be visiting as many Christmas markets as humanly possible.
There are only a couple of things we will be missing while we are gone. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the first day of Advent at our church, and our dog top the list. But if there was one thing we weren’t going to miss out on no matter what, it was going to be the stuffing.
Stuffing [or, as Jason calls it, dressing] is my absolute favorite Thanksgiving side dish. It probably has to do with my obsession with bread, but it is the one thing on the table that I look forward to every year.
Knowing this, Jason made his own version of stuffing to make sure I had a taste of the holidays before we left. Because from this point on, it’s only fish and chips, Indian food, mussels and fries, waffles, and chocolate [and maybe a pastry or two in Lille] until December. [Not a bad deal, really…]
The mixture of cornbread, country loaf, and sausage is what makes this stuffing recipe a winner in my book. We hope you find inspiration in it for your gathering around the Thanksgiving table tomorrow — just be sure to have an extra helping in our absence.
- 1 lb. Italian sausage
- A skillet of cornbread*
- A loaf of French or Country Loaf bread
- Fresh thyme, oregano, and sage [especially the sage!]
- One onion, diced
- A few stalks of celery, diced
- A few carrots, diced
- 1/2 can corn [optional]
- 4 cloves garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 c. chicken stock
- Begin by sautéing your sausage.
- While the sausage sautés, begin cutting up the bread and cornbread into cubes.
- Place sausage in a bowl after cooked and deglaze the pan with a splash of vinegar, enough to cover the bottom of the pan.
- Add a stick of butter to the pan along with your herbs. Allow the herbs to infuse the butter until the butter is fully melted and bubbly.
- Add the onion, celery, carrots, and corn. Wait until onions become transparent before adding the garlic. Sprinkle in salt and pepper and cook until veggies are soft.
- Pour in the stock and begin adding the bread a little at a time, stirring as you add. Once it is all added and distributed, pour in the sausage.
- Add more stock based on whether it is too dry or too moist. If you like dry stuffing, keep it dry. If you like moist stuffing, add enough stock until it’s saturated.
- Bake at 350-degrees for 45 minutes to an hour until the top is golden brown.
*For those like Jason who would prefer to make their own cornbread instead of buying a grocery store mix, here’s how you do it:
- 1 c. flour
- 1 c. cornmeal
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 c. milk
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbs. butter or nonstick spray
- Mix together the dry ingredients [flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt] and wet ingredients [milk and egg] separately.
- Melt butter in a cast iron skillet or dutch oven until hot and bubbly. [Or simply grease a 9×9 baking pan].
- Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir about 20 times. Don’t over-mix, or else it will be dry and crumbly. It should be lumpy.
- Pour into skillet, dutch oven, or greased baking pan and bake at 375-degrees for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.