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"After all the trouble you go to, you get about as much actual "food" out of eating an artichoke as you would from licking 30 or 40 postage stamps."--Miss Piggy

Aunt Susan's Holiday Turkey and Stuffing Recipe

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This recipe for Aunt Susan's Holiday Turkey and Stuffing, by , is from The Heilman Family Cookbook Project, one of the cookbooks created at We'll help you start your own personal cookbook! It's easy and fun. Click here to start your own cookbook!

Susan Heilman


1 Frozen turkey - size it as per your preference
2-3 loaves of white bread, cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes. The bread should be about 2 days old to ensure it is a bit dry. Place the bread in a large mixing bowl or clean roasting pan for easy assembly. I usually use 2 loaves, but have a third in reserve, if needed.
2 Large white or yellow onions (5-7 onions if you use smaller-sized ones) cut into a 1/4 inch dice
1 celery bunch, cleaned (Cut at least 4-6 stalks into a 1/4 inch dice. It is OK to include the leaves, as they add great flavor)
2-3 sticks of butter (salted or unsalted - you taste during assembly to check the need for additional seasoning)
Seasoned salt, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper, to taste
Dried thyme or poultry seasoning depending upon your preference and whatever is in your cupboard!
1-2 eggs, cracked and beaten in a separate cup or bowl.
String for trussing the bird and turkey pins to secure the bird's stuffed openings
One large baking pan
Optional: One turkey-sized cooking bag and 2 T. of flour
Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil

The Turkey:
Clean your turkey thoroughly, ensuring the cavity is free of organs, the neck, and gizzards. Pat the bird dry internally and externally using paper towels. If you like, you can slide your fingers under the skin on the chicken breast to loosen it and create a packet. To add extra flavor to the bird you can smear some butter on the chicken breast under the skin and pat it to distribute it. This is optional.

The Stuffing:

It is important to prep all your ingredients first (mise en place - as the French would say) because there are a number of things to do once you get started and it's easiest to just have it all ready at the outset.

Melt one one to one and a half sticks of butter in a large frying pan. Add the diced celery and onions to saute. Season with some kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Do not use table salt as it will make your dish way too salty. I typically have a fairly equal amount of onions and celery, as you look at the pan. Sometimes I have a little more onion, just because I like the flavor. Saute them until they are softened and are becoming translucent. They don't need to brown. In fact, I try to avoid any browning.

Add the cooked onions, celery, and butter to the seasoned bread cubes, which are in a large separate bowl. The seasoning is sprinkled on the bread in advance. As noted above, I use whatever is in my cupboard, but usually stick with thyme, some seasoned salt, kosher salt, and pepper. Mix the onion/celery mixture in with a wooden spoon until the bread is moistened throughout. If it is a little dry, add some more melted butter. This is not the time to be worrying about calories! Ensure your mixture is not wet. It should be moist throughout. Now you add the 2 beaten eggs. They will bind your ingredients and add a fluffiness during the roasting process.

Very Important: Taste the mixture to see if it has enough seasoning. This is key to having a good finished product. If it tastes good prior to stuffing the bird, you will be in good shape. This is your last chance to get it right! :)

Prop the cleaned turkey upright in a large mixing bowl to avoid it from sliding around. If you don't have a bowl, put it on a clean kitchen towel on your counter. Scoop your stuffing mixture into the bird's cavities and secure the opening by inserting the turkey pins into the carcass. The pins are further secured using string to loop the sides together and close the opening as much as possible. Don't forget to stuff the other end of the bird. You can get a fair amount of stuffing in there! It should also be secured with a pin. No string necessary.

One last word about the stuffing. The secret to our stuffing is that it is stuffing not dressing. The poultry juices really make it especially tasty. If you plan to make extra "dressing" in a separate container, you'll need to add some chicken stock (about a quarter cup) to the mixture to keep it moist and add that extra flavor. Place it in a buttered/sprayed casserole dish and cover with foil. Remove the foil in the last 5-10 minutes to make the top a little crunchy.

Two Roasting Options:

1. Roaster only: Place the bird in your roasting pan on a rack to elevate it. Tuck the wings under the bird to avoid excess browning and/or burning. Brush the outside with butter or olive oil. I prefer butter because it makes the bird brown to a golden brown. Olive oil makes it too dark. Artfully sprinkle paprika over the breasts, tops of the drumsticks and over the laced openings for color. Cover the pan with tented foil so that the foil doesn't rub against the bird and place it in the oven. You will need to remove the foil cover about 30-45 minutes before the bird is done to ensure it browns.

2. Roasting Bag: Season the bird's exterior with butter and paprika as described in option one above and tuck in the wings. Place it into a roasting bag that has flour added to it. The bag will need a few slits cut into it, so it doesn't explode. The bird in the bag should be placed into a large roasting pan. No foil cover is needed.

Put the bird into a 350 degree oven. If you have a popup timer in the bird wait for it to pop. Otherwise, to test doneness, remove the bird from the oven and insert a meat thermometer into the thickest section and wait for the internal temperature to read 160 degrees Fahrenheit. If you pierce the meat at the thigh, the juices should run clear and not be bloody. You will usually smell that it is getting close to being done and monitor the browning for a visual indicator. Remove the turkey from the oven and tent it with foil to allow the meat to rest for about 20-30 minutes. This ensures that the juices will go back into the meat. If you cut it too soon, your turkey will be quite dry. This doesn't present a problem, because once the turkey is out, the cooks are busy making gravy, finishing potatoes, cranberry sauce, and other dishes. Thirty minutes passes in the blink of an eye!

My other advice to you is to make your side dishes, potatoes, vegetables, salads, and cranberries in advance. It is even possible to make gravy in advance, which really makes life easier! All you need to focus on is getting everything on the table, pouring your water, wine, and Christmas drink, and trying to avoid burning the crescent rolls - a fine family tradition!!! Love your family and share the gift of having family and wonderful memories.

Number Of Servings:
Number Of Servings:
Preparation Time:
Preparation Time:
1 hour prep, 3-4 hours roasting
Personal Notes:
Personal Notes:
This recipe, I believe, is our family's favorite. I learned it from my mom, Clara, and had the joy of taking on the responsibility for preparation, as she grew older and I became more confident in my skills. While other families explored beef dishes at Christmas, it was considered heresy by my brother and Dad to suggest any other dish than a stuffed turkey for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Of course, Christmas also meant doubling up and also having a baked ham, which was sampled as soon as Christmas Eve dinner was over. These are warm holiday memories of good times, good food, and lots of love. I hope you enjoy the food and the opportunity to be together.




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