Stuffing can be so much more than mushy bread. This fragrant version of the Thanksgiving staple enhances cubes of rustic bread with savory Italian sausage, sweet caramelized onions, crisp apple pieces, tart dried cranberries, and a zesty mix of herbs for an exciting side dish that can easily become the main attraction of your holiday meal.
Apple, Sausage, and Caramelized Onion Stuffing
8 cups cubed rustic country bread
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing the baking dish
2 onions, cut into julienne
½ pound Italian sausage, casings removed
2 celery stalks, minced
1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into medium dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons salt-free poultry seasoning such as Bell’s
1½ teaspoon salt, divided
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
¼ cup minced parsley
2 to 2½ cups low-sodium chicken stock
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a large casserole dish and set aside.
Spread bread in an even layer across two sheet pans, season the cubes with 1 teaspoon salt, and bake until dry, about 10 to 12 minutes; allow the bread to cool on the sheet pans.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saute pan set over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they turn dark and caramelized – about 15 minutes. Transfer the caramelized onions to a large bowl, big enough to hold all of the ingredients.
Increase the heat under the saute pan to medium-high and add the sausage. Cook for about 6 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until browned. Add the minced celery and diced apple then cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle in the minced garlic, dried cranberries, poultry seasoning, ½ teaspoon salt, black pepper, hot red pepper flakes, minced sage, and parsley; stir to combine. Pour in 2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock and bring this mixture to a boil for 1 minute.
Add the bread to the large bowl that holds the caramelized onions; toss to combine. Transfer the sausage and stock mixture to the large bowl and stir to evenly distribute all ingredients. If the stuffing seems too dry, stir in more stock.
Transfer the stuffing mixture to the buttered baking dish and gently press down to compress. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until the top is brown and crisp.