Andreae Prozesky disses busturgophechideckneaealckideverwingailusharkolanine!
Moe: Hey hey, Sabu, I need another magnum of your best champagne here. And bring us the finest food you’ve got stuffed with the second finest.
Sabu: Excellent sir. Lobster stuffed with tacos.
The Simpsons, episode 5F12: Dumbell Indemnity
What better way to celebrate one’s prosperity than with food stuffed with other food? How else to symbolize bounty, wealth, a good hunt, a plentiful harvest? Stuffed dishes are meaningful. A flavourful stuffing doesn’t just say, “eat me, I’m delicious,” but also, “eat me, you’ve had a good year.” Which is just what this food nerd wants to hear as summer’s last shadows start to disappear into the long dark season.
Stuffed food is universal. I’m not talking about stuffed bread here, like the calzone, the empanada, or the spring roll. Stuffed bread is utilitarian. It neatly wraps up a messy snack so it can be eaten on the run.
No, I’m referring to decadent stuffed food whose only function is to be impressive and to make you feel like life is sweet.
Take, for example, the Turkish dish called imam bayildi. It’s a vegetarian meal of eggplant stuffed with a spiced tomato-pine nut filling. The name translates to “the imam (or holy man) fainted.” Experts debate the cause of the fabled imam’s fainting. Overindulgence? Or shock at the amount of expensive olive oil that had gone into his supper? Indeed, some recipes call for up to three cups of the stuff. What fabulous excess!
The North American tradition for this time of year is, of course, the stuffed turkey. The composition of the stuffing varies across the continent: white bread with onions and Mt. Scio Savoury, cornbread and sausage, wild rice with cranberries and pecans. All delicious. Food councils warn us that cooking stuffing inside a bird carries with it a small but significant chance of food poisoning. But home cooks don’t care. We’ll risk salmonella and late-night trips to Emergency for the satisfaction of spooning moist, starchy stuffing from the cavity of a golden-skinned sacrificial animal. It’s a ritual, and it takes more than a warning or two or three to separate people from their rituals, especially when decadence is involved.
Stuffing an eggplant or a bird with bread and nuts and aromatics is one thing, but stuffing a bird with another bird is something else entirely. While we celebrate Thanksgiving up here in Canada, there are pockets of Americans just itching for their Thanksgiving to come so that they can prepare the Turducken. Yes, that’s a turkey, stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken. Wrapped in bacon for good measure. The birds are all de-boned, so the edible chimera is easy to carve. And, of course, anything that comes in contact with duck fat takes on a deliciousness that is unparalleled. I’ve never had the opportunity to sample Turducken, but if offered I wouldn’t pass it up. Decadence, yes, but within reason, for heaven’s sake.
But Turducken, is practically bread and water compared to the great court feasts of Europe. From the Renaissance through to the 19th century, royal chefs were all trying to outdo one another with elaborate dishes of birds stuffed with birds stuffed with birds. One result of such kitchen madness is the busturgophechideckneaealckideverwingailusharkolanine. That’s seventeen birds, from bustard (great big thing, bigger than a turkey), to the wee tiny bunting and the wee-er, tinier house sparrow.
I’m an open-minded gal, but anything that’s bustard on the outside and bunting on the inside is a little too much fowl for me.
Thanks. I’d sooner have lobster stuffed with tacos.
Thanksgiving stuffing with pears and almonds
This stuffing can go in a turkey for the meat-eaters, or in a squash for the vegetarians, or in a casserole dish for everyone. Adjust the butter/drippings/oil component accordingly.
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4-5 cups stale sourdough bread, torn into ½-inch bits
¼ – 1/3 cup melted butter, drippings, or olive oil
1 ½ cups Bartlett pear, in ½-inch cubes (about 2 pears)
½ slivered almonds, toasted
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon fennel seed
Optional: ¼ – ½ cup cooked, crumbled sausage (Italian, turkey, or veggie).
1. Sauté onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil until translucent.
2. Combine sautéd onions with all the other ingredients and toss to combine.
This will stuff a 10-pound turkey, or a large Hubbard squash as a main dish. If you prefer, loosely pack your stuffing into an oiled or buttered casserole dish and cover with foil. Bake at 425F for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake 15 minutes more.
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