Firehouse Challenge: Stuffing

Next up came stuffing. Arguably, this has the most “active” time of any of the traditional side dishes. There’s chopping and sauteing involved. I made this dish twice, once manually cutting up the vegetables as a home cook’s pace and a second time using a food processor which dramatically cut the prep time. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of cutting up bread and letting it go stale or toasting it  in an oven.  In the photo left, the boxed version is in the upper pan, the homemade version is in the lower pan.

 

Homemade stuffing 

With a $1.29 loaf of bread, an onion, some celery, carrots, garlic, an egg and some broth, stuffing comes in an inexpensive, yet filling side dish. The total cost of making a pan of stuffing came out to $4.23 for about 12 servings using a 99 cent can of chicken stock. If you used your own stock or used bouillon, it cuts the cost to around $3.24 to serve a dozen. 

Process: Saute vegetables until softened. Add dried bread cubes and seasoning. Then add stock, egg and transfer to casserole and bake for 35 minutes. (See my favorite stuffing recipe.) 
Active time:  16 minutes (11 with a processor) 
Total time:  46 minutes (41 with a processor)
Cost per 1/2 cup serving: 35 cents
Ingredients: BREAD, ONION, CHICKEN OR TURKEY STOCK, CELERY, CARROT, EGG, GARLIC, DRIED SAGE, DRIED THYME, SALT, PEPPER

vs. StoveTop Stuffing

Noticeably high in sodium, as prepared it has 20% of daily sodium intake in a half cup. The box states six 1/2-cup servings. I talked to a woman at the supermarket purchasing this product who said she made it regularly and found it “yielded perhaps three to four” servings at dinner. “At Thanksgiving, people take large portions, so I am planning on making three or four boxes for eight people.” The top two ingredients are bread and high-fructose corn syrup. While the box cheerfully promises “with real turkey broth,” the ingredients list notes that it is less than 2 percent of the overall ingredients. 

Process: Melt 1/4 cup 53 percent vegetable oil spread stick into 1 1/2 cups water. Add pouch to boiling water, cover and remove from heat. Let stand five minutes, fluff with a fork.
Active time:  3 minutes
Total time:  7 minutes   
Cost: $1.39 per box + .18 cents in margarine                 
Cost per 1/2 cup serving: 26 cents

Ingredients: ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN, MONONITRATE (VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIIN (VITAMIN B2), FOLIC ACID, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, ONIONS*, SALT, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2 PERCENT OF PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN AND/OR COTTONSEED OIL,HYDROLYZED SOY PROTEIN, COOKED TURKEY AND TURKEY BROTH, YEAST CELERY*, PARSLEY*, TURMERIC, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, SILICON DIOXIDE AS AN ANTI-CAKING AGENT, MALTODEXTRIN, NATURAL FLAVOR WITH BHA, BHT, CITRIC ACID AND PROPYL GALLATE AS PRESERVATIVES.   *INDICATES DRIED

The Result 

Homemade stuffing: 7
Boxed stuffing: 0 

All seven firefighters favored the homemade version, but at least three noted that the boxed version was good. Among their comments:

  • “This one [homemade version] has a lot more flavor. I can taste the vegetables in it.” 
  • “They’re both good, but the [homemade] stuffing tasted like it could have come out of the bird.”
  • “I eat [boxed stuffing] so I knew the flavor right away. It’s not bad, but more salty and dry in comparison.”
  • “The homemade stuffing is more aesthetically pleasing.”

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About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry" and "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School." Her third book, "Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good" will be published in April 2014. All are published by Viking/Penguin.

Comments

  1. Dear Kathleen,

    Brilliant Comparison, and one that should be celebrated with joy and flavor.

    Real Food vs. Commercial Food, there is no true comparison as your Firefighters Showed! Real is exceptional and succulent, Processed just gets one by! I once did a taste test with little ones across the street: Organic sliced turkey breast sandwich vs. prepackaged name brand sliced turkey breast. They each got a quarter of a sandwich to sample and then decide which taste better. Their mom watched from behind a kitchen counter and was pretty shocked to see each of them choose the organic quarter sandwich as their favorite. They each said it tasted better—and Yes we adults knew the difference by the size of the toothpick in each quarter!

    Personally I find the amount of Processed and Prepackaged food these days irresponsible as well as shady at best.

    Also to cut down on some carbs since I always serve bread with the meal I don’t use a Bread Crumb base for my stuffing—I use chopped apples instead! And Instead of broth I use organic cider. Moist and Delicious! But a High Altitude Tip for you if ever enjoying the Holidays in Altitude, after the first few hours, add an additional 2-3, maybe 4 if a large bird, cups of liquid as such ensures that there will be enough juice to make homemade gravy with!

    ENJOY IT ALL!
    Happy Holidays

    Randi/The Muffin Lady

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