I enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Every single year my family makes the same exact dishes, and they are all delicious. However, when I started getting into food and cooking I felt the need to rock the boat, or rather the Thanksgiving table.
Don’t get me wrong, I value tradition, but there is also nothing wrong with putting a new twist on things or adding a new dish each year. My first attempt at this was sweet potato casserole. We had never had this growing up. My grandma used to always make the sweet potatoes ones straight from the can, whole with marshmallows on top.
When I first introduced the casserole there was a lot of resistance. So much so that my mom told me only to make a small dish because it probably wouldn’t all get eaten. Well, the size of that dish has grown each year and she just asked me last night if I was planning on making it again this year.
Change is good.
I have similar rock-the-boat tendencies with stuffing. My mom still makes my grandmother’s and it is a coveted side around the table. Let’s just say that the stuffing meets much more resistance than the sweet potatoes ever experienced. Therefore each year I make a small Thanksgiving meal the week before for my husband and me, and one year we invited a small group of friends, a tradition I hope can continue now that we are back in Kentucky.
I happen to love the stuffing recipes from Rachael Ray. I go back and forth between her Apple and Onion Stuffing
and her Cranberry-Pecan Stuffing
each year. This year, I wanted to try to find a way to put my own twist on it and a familiar combination came to mind.
I really enjoy the pear, walnut and blue cheese flavor combination. I often take a pear slice, top it with cheese, a walnut half and drizzle it with honey for a snack. It is also my go-to salad topping.
So I thought – if apples, onions, cranberries and pecans work in a Thanksgiving stuffing, why not pear, walnut and blue cheese?
Guess what? It does!
Last night I made Pear, Toasted Walnut & Blue Cheese Stuffing and it turned out great. I used both 9-grain and whole wheat bread slices, dried them out in a 200 F oven, and then cut the slices into cubes. I mixed half the blue cheese in the stuffing and pressed the remaining onto the top of the stuffing once I transferred it to the baking dish.
It is officially on the Thanksgiving menu for years to come!
Pear, Toasted Walnut & Blue Cheese Dressing
½ tbsp olive oil
¼ cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 large pear, chopped
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tsp rubbed sage
½ cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
8 cups dried bread cubes
2 – 3 cups chicken stock
1 egg, beaten
½ cup blue cheese, crumbled & divided
Preheat the oven to 400 F and butter a 2 quart baking dish. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and then add the butter. Once melted add the onion and garlic, cook on medium heat for about 3 to 4 minutes. Next add in the pear and cook until tender, about 7 minutes more. Add the salt, pepper and sage and stir to coat the mixture. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Add the bread cubes to a large mixing bowl. Add the onion-pear mixture and stir to incorporate. Stir in the toasted walnuts and add the chicken stock one cup at a time until the stuffing reaches your desired consistency. If you like it dry, add about 2 cups, wet, add all 3. Stir in the egg.
Finally stir in half of the blue cheese and transfer the stuffing to the baking dish, pressing it down gently. Sprinkle the remaining blue cheese onto the top of the stuffing and press the pieces into the top of the mixture. Bake covered for about 30 minutes, remove the top and bake about 15 minutes more, or until the top is browned and crispy.
Note: The baking time has a lot to do with how you like your stuffing. This was my method this time and it was a little wetter than I like it. Next time I would likely bake it uncovered to dry it out more.
Makes 6 to 8 servings depending on how many other sides you have.