Stuffing, or dressing as it is often called when baked outside of the bird, is one of my absolute favorite Thanksgiving side dishes because you can customize in so many ways — and it is the perfect vehicle for gravy delivery (which also belongs on every Thanksgiving table). But often stuffing is gloppy (yes, that is a technical cooking term) and sits on the plate alongside the turkey and other sides as a lump of bland bread and miscellaneous vegetables.
This stuffing recipe from the culinary team at Loews Royal Pacific Resort is savory, light, and a perfect complement to the rest of the Thanksgiving meal. The use of focaccia adds an Italian flair to the dish, and the addition of apples and apple flavors gives it an acidity that helps balance out what is often the heaviest meal of the year.
A special note — not all bakeries keep Focaccia in stock at all times. So make sure to call your favorite bakery or grocery store ahead of time to order a plain or herb Focaccia. It is also a super simple bread to make the day prior — search for a recipe and add the ingredients to your Thanksgiving shopping list and you will be good to go.
Apple-Sausage Focaccia Stuffing
1 ½ Sticks of Unsalted Butter (12 tablespoons)
4-6 Granny Smith Apples (cored, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes – 4 Large or 6 Small)
¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
¼ cup Apple Juice
½ cup Chicken Stock (low sodium is best)
6 Celery Stalks (halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise)
1 Yellow Onion Large (peeled, finely diced)
1 lb Italian Sausage (casing removed)
12 inch Plain or Herb Focaccia Bread (cut into ½ inch cubes)
1 tbsp Thyme (finely chopped)
1 tbsp Sage (finely chopped)
1 tbsp Rosemary (finely chopped)
To taste Kosher Salt and Ground White Pepper
- Preheat the oven to 450 ℉.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat until it melts. Add the onions and celery, sauté until translucent. Add apples and cook for 4 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add apple cider vinegar and apple juice and stir. Cook for 2 minutes and transfer to a large bowl to cool.
- In the same skillet, cook the sausage, breaking it up in pieces with a spatula and sautéing until browned.
- While cooking the sausage, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and toss the focaccia cubes to coat in a baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven until the focaccia is toasted, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Combine the focaccia, sausage, and apple mixture with the sage, thyme, and rosemary. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and stir in the chicken broth. Make sure to taste the mix and adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
- Set the oven to 350 ℉. Brush a 9-by13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Transfer the stuffing mixture to the dish and dot with the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter on top.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes, then uncover and continue to bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
- Enjoy this stuffing warm with you Thanksgiving meal or, even better, as an awesome leftover the day after.
If you are itching to get out of the house and do a little less cooking and cleaning this year, our on-site hotels have you covered. Check out the special Thanksgiving and holiday menus and offerings from four of our hotels. Because — whether it is a new recipe or a new way to celebrate the holidays — 2020 feels like as good a year as any to try something different.
Make sure to share your stuffing creation with us in the comments below or by tagging us on Twitter @UniversalORL and Instagram @UniversalOrlando.