With Thanksgiving around the corner, my mother and I start with the annual discussions about when to host the feast and who is going to come etc. Despite the fact that my immediate family consists of my mother, me and then my cats, dogs and…chickens (if I am to embrace the animal kingdom as my “children”), our table is always packed tight with cousins, cousin in laws, uncles by marriage, second cousins etc. – just like it is supposed to be.

My mother Betty is an excellent cook and her turkey and stuffing is something of legend within the family. I often wonder if it is the act of getting together and the anticipation of the feast (the aroma of which intoxicates the minute one steps in the house) that makes it so.

I have always believed that being entrusted with the task of preparing the Thanksgiving turkey is a right of passage in a woman’s life. It’s right up there in my world with all the other “adult” rites of passage.  For the longest time, I have been able to escape being an “adult” as my mother has firmly held onto the turkey baster as her domain.

This year for the first time, my mother has announced that this will be the last time that she makes the feast. Wow! That threw me for a loop! At first I was a wee bit shocked and then…excited! Now we can start adding new elements to the Thanksgiving feast. So today, I announced to my mother that I would contact Kyra, age 14 and an excellent little baker and ask her to bake the pies (alas, neither the Spinster nor the Widow Novak are bakers!) and I am going to offer a new stuffing for all to try out.

Inspired by the apples I see at the fruit stands, I am thrilled to share with you a recipe which is inspired by one that I saw years ago in Bon Appetit. I will be making this as a side dish because…well I’m not quite able to separate myself from the aprons strings of my mother’s great stuffing. Enjoy!

Apple & Sausage Stuffing
Serves 8 – 10

2 Tbsp    vegetable oil
1 lb          bulk pork sausage
1 Cup      diced celery
1 Cup       diced onion
1 Cup       diced apple (cored & peeled)
1 Tbsp      chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp         minced fresh sage
1                bay leaf

8 Cups     1 inch cubes, baguette with crusts
1 Cup       whole milk
1 Cup       chicken broth (low sodium if store bought)*
2 Tbsp      butter, melted
3                eggs, lightly beaten

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add sausage and sauté until cooked through, breaking into pieces with your wooden spoon.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a large bowl.  Add celery and next 6 ingredients to the frying pan.  Sauté until vegetables are soft – about 5 minutes.  Discard bay leaf.  Add to bowl with sausage.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a 13x 9 inch baking dish.  Add the bread to the sausage mixture.  Whisk together the milk, broth and butter in a bowl to blend.  Mix into stuffing and season with salt & pepper.  Mix in the eggs and transfer to the baking dish.  Bake uncovered until cooked through and brown – about 50 minutes.

* My mother always makes a quick turkey stock from the neck, wings of the turkey and an unpeeled cooking onion.  She uses this to baste the turkey with.   Whatever is left over is used to bulk up the gravy.