I never know whether to call this sausage-cranberry dish a stuffing or dressing. I’ve always called it a stuffing, though because I don’t ever actually stuff a turkey with it, maybe I should call it a dressing? But then will people think I’m talking about salad dressing? I give up.
Instead, I’m just going to call this our family’s favorite holiday side dish – one we look forward to all year. Baking it in a pan produces a lovely crisp, crunchy top perfectly contrasted with the moist interior. And each bite is full of savory onion, sausage and homemade bread with just a touch of sweet from cranberries and a non-traditional ingredient.
This sausage-cranberry stuffing is based on a much more decadent version that Brian’s cousin is known for in our family (it seriously is the thing we all talk about every year at the holidays) and while I don’t have it in me to use the same amount of fat and sugar that he does, I certainly enjoy eating it when he serves it! My version is a little less indulgent, but keeps the great flavor balance between sweet and savory.
The key ingredient, I believe, is using a quality bread – no dried, old packaged little cubes here. And I don’t bake it or leave it out for hours to dry, either – just a bit of airing while I make the other ingredients. I think the fresher the better.
The ingredients include stuffing basics like onion & celery, plus sausage (preferably hot), garlic, cranberries, and a very untraditional ingredient, a bit of brown sugar. Wait – don’t leave! Trust me, it makes this dish so much more that the normal stuffing.
Give it a try – it just might become your family’s favorite, too!
Sweet & Savory Sausage-Cranberry Dressing/Stuffing
- 1 loaf artisan bread (preferably homemade, like Easy Artisan Bread)
- 1 lb. bulk Italian sausage, mild or hot (we like hot, but tailor it to your family’s taste)
- 1/4 c. butter
- 1/4 c. olive oil (or use all butter)
- 1 lg. onion, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tb.)
- 1 Tb. fresh rosemary (or thyme – your choice), chopped
- 1 tsp. sage or poultry seasoning
- 1/2 tsp. salt & pepper, or to taste
- 1/3 c. dried cranberries
- 3 Tb. brown sugar
- 1 to 1 1/2-c. chicken broth
- Cut bread into cubes (about 1/2-inch or smaller in size) and lay out on a cookie sheet to dry a bit while proceeding with recipe. Generously butter a 13×9-inch pan.
- Brown sausage in a large skillet and remove with a slotted spoon to a large bowl (big enough to toss all the ingredients together).
- In the same skillet, heat butter and oil. Add onion, celery, and garlic and cook until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes.
- Scrape the contents of the skillet into the bowl with the sausage and then add bread cubes, seasonings, cranberry and sugar. Toss to mix and pour the broth over all the ingredients, stirring as you do to evenly distribute the broth. Mix well.
- Spoon the stuffing evenly into the prepared pan (at this point you can refrigerate the dish for up to two days, covered tightly).
- When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the stuffing for 35-45 minutes, until nicely browned.
Makes 8-10 servings
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