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Taste-Test Stuffing

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Cherry-Pecan Stuffing (with toasted white bread)

1 Cherry-Pecan Stuffing (with toasted white bread)

Chorizo-Almond Stuffing (with toasted white bread)

2 Chorizo-Almond Stuffing (with toasted white bread)

Chorizo-Almond Stuffing (with toasted cornbread)

3 Chorizo-Almond Stuffing (with toasted cornbread)

Cherry-Pecan Stuffing (with toasted cornbread)

4 Cherry-Pecan Stuffing (with toasted cornbread)

Tasting sheets-the Chorizo-Almond Stuffing with toasted cornbread was the winner

5 Tasting sheets-the Chorizo-Almond Stuffing with toasted cornbread was the winner

Whether you have it inside the bird, or cooked on its own, call it stuffing or dressing, it's one of my favorite parts of the Thanksgiving meal. Today, inspired by the stuffings in the current issue of "Everyday Food" Magazine, we had a stuffing tasting. The basic bread stuffing made from crunchy toasted white bread, then combined with a mix of sauteed onion, celery, and garlic. Seasoned with salt and pepper, and dressed with beaten egg and broth; easy. For today's taste test two of the stuffings featured in the magazine were made with bread and 2 were made with cornbread. Two had mix-ins of pecans, dried cherries, and crushed fennel seeds, while the other two had a spicy dried chorizo and almonds. Here's what our tasting panel thought:

Both Monty and Steve preferred the chorizo with the cornbread, but felt the almonds weren't really necessary. They did add some crunch, so it was a matter of personal preference. Here's the basic recipe; the mix-ins, each enough for a full batch, follow.

The basic bread stuffing:
1 loaf crusty white bread, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (8 cups)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for dish
1 yellow onion, diced medium
2 celery stalks, diced medium
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
selected mix-ins (see below)
coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1. Preheat oven to 400, with racks in middle and lower thirds. On two rimmed baking sheets, toast bread until dry and pale golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool.

2. Meanwhile, lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium. Add onion, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion and celery are softened, about 7 minutes. Add mix-ins, if using, and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

3. Add parsley, eggs, and bread; stir to combine. Add broth in two additions, striring until absorbed after each addition. Season generously with salt and pepper and transfer to dish. Bake on middle rack until deep golden brown on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Mix-Ins:
Cherry-Pecan: to onion-celery mix, add 1 cup packed dried tart cherries, 1 cup roughly chopped toasted pecans, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, and 1 tablespoons crushed fennel seed.

Chorizo-Almond: to onion-celery mix, add 4 ounces dried chorizo, cut into thin half moons, 1 cup roughly chopped toasted almonds, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregnao, and 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest.

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