Slow Cooker Turkey Or Pork And Stuffing…

If you’re like me you have a taste for turkey and stuffing far beyond Thanksgiving. But who wants to buy a big old bird all the time and roast it in the oven? There’s got to be a better way. Guess what, I found it!

More and more I am becoming adept at using a slow cooker. That means I’m not using it simply to drop something in and cook it until it’s beaten into submission. A slow cooker is a valuable tool but if you don’t use it properly it can create meals that are virtually tasteless.

This recipe, I guarantee you, has tons of flavor. It also has its traditional aspects and its unique aspects and I will discuss those in my lessons learned. I started out by using a bone in turkey breast for this recipe and decided the next time I made it I would try a boneless pork roast. Guess what? Both ways it was fabulous! So let’s talk slow cooker turkey or pork roast and stuffing…

Lesson Learned 1 – How to prepare the stuffing: I used a box of stove stop stuffing for these recipes (one designed to be used with turkey and one designed for pork) so it already had the seasonings I needed in it but you can also use just a plain stuffing mix. If so, you will need to add some poultry seasoning and dried sage. I also added some sliced onions, sliced mushrooms and diced celery to boost the flavor of the stuffing mix when I made the turkey and substituted sliced apples for the mushrooms when making the pork, but you don’t have to. I’ll put both versions in the recipe below and you can chose whatever method suits you.

The first time I made this most of the stuffing was soft except for the very bottom. I stirred everything together after it was all cooked and it turned out ok. The second time I made this I added a cup of chicken broth to the stuffing mix and it turned out perfectly. Since you put the soup/gravy mixture on top of the meat, it does not totally reach all of the stuffing. And since a turkey breast doesn’t have a lot of fat to begin with you need the moistness of the chicken broth to get the desired consistency of the stuffing. I also added carrots on top of the stuffing in both recipes and they turned out perfectly. The pork roast had a little more fat so that also helped to keep the stuffing moist.

Onions And Celery Added To The Stuffing

Stuffing With Mushrooms And Carrots For The Turkey

Carrots and Apples for the Pork Roast

Lesson Learned 2 – Spray the crock with cooking spray: After the long hours of slow cooking the stuffing will stick to the crock if you don’t spray it. Make sure you spray the crock with cooking spray before adding the stuffing. You’ll be glad you did at both serving and clean up time.

Season Each Layer

Lesson Learned – Season each layer: Slow cooking requires careful seasoning so food does not come out tasting bland. Remember to season each layer with salt and pepper as you prepare the slow cooker.

Lesson Learned 4 – What kind of turkey to use: I am fortunate to have a grocery store that cuts half turkey breasts on the bone and sells them fresh. This works so well in this recipe. When I first made it I was surprised at the moistness of the turkey breast. My husband loved it.

You can use a boneless breast as well. You really shouldn’t use more than a 3 pound turkey breast for this recipe. If you do, you will need to cook it longer. If you buy the breast frozen be sure to thaw it before putting it in the slow cooker. For 4 people, 2 1/2 – 3 pounds is perfect. You may even have some leftovers. The breast pictured below is on the bone and 2 1/2 pounds.

Lesson Learned 5 – What kind of pork roast to use: I used a 2 1/4 pound boneless pork roast for this recipe. Make sure when you put it in the slow cooker you put it fat side up. That way the fat will drip down onto the stuffing and vegetables. I also seasoned the pork roast with fresh lemon thyme. I didn’t need to do that when I made this recipe with a turkey breast.

Lesson Learned 6 – Combine turkey gravy or pork gravy and mushroom soup for a delightful sauce: I found combining gravies with the soup created a surprisingly flavorful sauce to put over the meat. When I made the turkey I used a cream of mushroom soup. When I made the pork I used a cremini mushroom bisque soup. Both were great, although in hindsight I preferred the mushroom bisque over the cream of mushroom.

Gravy/Soup Mixture

I started out by making a packet of McCormick gravy on the stove and combined it with a can of mushroom soup. You can used jarred gravy as well. The combination tasted divine and gave flavorful moisture to the meat as it cooked.

If I was having a small gathering at Thanksgiving I would consider either one of these for dinner. They were unbelievably good and super simple to make. This is also a great recipe for having turkey and stuffing whenever you want it. Turkey is not just for Thanksgiving anymore.

Lesson Learned 7 – Both versions of this recipe results in super moist and tender meat: I have to say I was surprised at how moist and tender both the turkey and the pork tasted. I cooked both for 5 hours on low and both turned out perfectly. Once again I want to make it clear that you need to know your slow cooker. Also, to ensure the turkey and pork are cooked, you need to adhere to the weights I have given you. If you choose to cook something a little larger you will want to add a little more time to the cooking process.

Try this recipe combo and let me know what you think. They are becoming staples in our home!

Juicy And Tender Roast Turkey

Juicy And Tender Roast Pork

Slow Cooker Turkey Or Pork and Stuffing...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

1 – 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 pound turkey breast, bone in preferable or,

1 – 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 boneless pork roast

I – 6 oz. box of Stove Top Stuffing (chicken or pork variety)

I cup cremini mushrooms, sliced thick (can use for either chicken or pork)

1 large stalk of celery, diced

1 small onion, diced

1 small granny smith apple peeled and sliced (for a pork roast)

4 carrots, peeled and sliced into 2 inch logs

1 cup chicken broth

2 Tbs butter, melted

I packet McCormick turkey or pork gravy

1 10.75 oz. can of mushroom bisque soup

Kosher Salt

Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

Fresh Lemon Thyme (pork roast)

Cooking Spray

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare gravy mix according to package instructions. Once the gravy has somewhat cooled add the mushroom soup to the gravy and stir until combined. Set aside.

Spray the crock of the slow cooker with cooking spray. Mix onion, celery, dressing mix, chicken broth and butter until combined. Spread on the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the mushrooms, carrots and apple (pork roast recipe) on top of the stuffing.

Place the turkey or pork roast on top of the stuffing and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. If making the pork roast, strip lemon thyme leaves from the stalks and season the top of the pork roast. (You can add remaining stalks around the pork to season the stuffing and veggies – just remember to pull them out before serving).

Pour the gravy/soup mixture over the meat. Cover and cook for 5 hours on low.

Roast Turkey

Roast Pork

 

 

 

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The Best Holiday Stuffing…

I know both Christmas and New Years are over and it’s time to move on to non-holiday recipes. But I just have to blog this one, mainly because I want to make sure I chronicle the recipe for my future use. Most people are pretty fussy about stuffing. My mom made a stuffing that I just loved but did I ever write down the recipe – well of course not. And try as I may I could never replicate it. So for years I have tried various recipes without much success. I just wasn’t satisfied with what I made. This year it was different. I actually put together a stuffing recipe that I loved and although it is not my mom’s it will be the recipe that I use.

The stuffing is a delightful combination of “the trinity”, which is onions, celery and carrots along with sage breakfast sausage, egg bread and herbs. It was a hit at the dinner table and made great leftovers. The guests at my holiday dinner asked if they could have some to take home. Now that is the mark of a good stuffing recipe. I was so happy to finally create a stuffing that I actually enjoyed and will make again. And I learned a few lessons while making it…

Lesson Learned 1 – Make it the day before: I will share a secret with you. When I first made it and tasted it I thought, ugh… this one’s not going to thrill me. But I made it a day ahead of time and let it sit the refrigerator until the following day. When I tasted it the next day it was unbelievably good. I would not recommend making this stuffing the day of your holiday feast. The flavors in this recipe need time to get fully acquainted. It makes all the difference. And, if you are planning a holiday feast, how good is it to be able to make something in advance so that you are not scrambling around on the big day. With this recipe you put it all together, let it sit over night, and then take it out and let it get to room temperature before baking it in the oven.

I also like this recipe because it bakes at 350. I do not have a double oven and so I planned my holiday dinner with dishes that could all be made at the same temperature, including the turkey. This stuffing recipe made my meal preparation easier. I was able to make it a day ahead and bake it in the oven with the turkey. You can’t beat that!

IMG_2542Lesson Learned 2 – Use a good quality egg bread: Like anything else, the quality of what you put into a recipe will determine the quality of what comes out of it. Most recipes call for just plain white bread. I used a egg bread, called a shepherds bread, and it was divine. But if all you have is white bread, use it. I had some extra white bread that I also cubed and I didn’t think it toasted as well as the egg bread. As a matter of fact, the crust burned on many of the pieces. I wound up picking them out and discarding them.

But please, don’t use the prepackage stuffing cubes you find in bags at the grocery store. I’ve never had any luck with those, and who knows what they put in them to get them to last as long as they do. It takes no time to cut the bread into cubes and toast them in the oven.  And the result is so much better.

Lesson Learned 3 – Dice the trinity into equal size pieces: Make sure to finely dice your onions, celery and carrots. If you do, it should take about 8 minutes for them to start to soften and begin to brown. Otherwise it will take a lot longer and chances are by the time your carrots are done your celery and onions will be overcooked.

Lesson Learned 4 – Use fresh herbs in the recipe: I use dried herbs all the time but I think fresh herbs do more to enhance the flavor of this recipe. If you can’t get them, you can use dried. Just remember that with dried herbs you always use less as their flavor is much more concentrated. If you use dried herbs, press the herbs into the palm of your hand with your fingers or slightly crush them with a mortar and pestle to release some of the oil in the herbs before you add them to the recipe. That being said, I still would opt for fresh herbs if at all possible.

Lesson Learned 5 – Cover the stuffing with foil for the first half of the baking process: This is more a matter of taste. I’ve always preferred a softer stuffing while some people prefer a crispy stuffing. I found that by covering the stuffing for the first half hour of baking you get a moist stuffing with just the right amount of crispiness on top. But if you like crispy stuffing, bake it uncovered for the entire hour. Just be sure that if you make this the day before you let the stuffing get to room temperature before baking it off in the oven. I took the stuffing out of the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter for 2 hours before I put it in the oven. The end result was perfect.

This recipe is not difficult to make and only tastes better the more time the ingredients meld. I’m so glad to have finally concocted a stuffing recipe that I like. Keep this one in your file for next year. You won’t be disappointed.

The trinity mixed with breakfast sausage...

The trinity mixed with breakfast sausage…

The Best Holiday Stuffing

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

1 stick of butter, plus a little extra to coat the baking dish

16 cups of good quality egg bread, cut into 1 inch cubes

4 celery stalks finely diced

2 large carrots, peeled and finely diced

1 medium size sweet onion, finely diced

1 pound sage breakfast sausage

2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage

2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme

2 – 3 cups unsalted stock (if you can find turkey stock use that. If not substitute chicken stock)

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the bread into 1 inch cubes and spread out on a baking sheet. Toast for 20-25 minutes stirring occasionally until lightly browned and crisp. Set aside to cool.

Finely dice the celery, carrots and onion. In a large deep skillet melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, pour half of it into a dish and set aside. Add the celery, carrots and onions to the pan and cook over medium high heat until they soften and begin to turn brown. Scrap the vegetables into a bowl and set aside. Add the sausage into the skillet, breaking it up into pieces. Cook until lightly browned and cooked through.

While the sausage is cooking, chop the sage and thyme and set aside. Grease a large 9 x 13 baking dish with butter and set aside. When the sausage is done cooking, add back the vegetables, sage and thyme. Cook for about 1 minute to incorporate the herbs. Add 1 cup of the broth and deglaze the bottom of the pan. Cook until the broth is nearly evaporated, approximately 5 minutes.

Scrape the sausage mixture into a large bowl. Add the toasted bread cubes and remaining stock. Stir until the bread is moistened. Season with salt and pepper. Spread into the prepared baking dish and brush the top with the reserved melted butter.

(Here is where you stop if you are making this ahead. Cover the pan with foil and refrigerate. Take the pan out of the refrigerator at least two hours before baking it in the oven. Remove the foil and cover with plastic wrap while it is coming to room temperature).

Cover the stuffing with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for an additional 30 minutes or until the stuffing is heated through and browned. Let the stuffing stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Add fresh sage and thyme...

Add fresh sage and thyme…

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