Thanksgiving brings together two of my favorite activities – being thankful and drinking whiskey – with one of my other favorite activities, cooking with whiskey. This year for Whiskey Thanksgiving, I am focusing on side dishes, bringing me one step closer to my eventual goal of an entire Thanksgiving full of whiskey dishes (see dishes from past years under my “recipes” page”).
Even though I eat turkey, I would rather have a refrigerator full of leftover side dishes than a bird carcass. Right now, my fridge has remnants of bacon bourbon stuffing and bacon Scotch gravy. This meal is not for the vegan of heart.
Although I spent four Thanksgivings during college watching my grandma make stuffing from scratch, as with most days in the kitchen with Grandma, I didn’t pay attention as much as I should have. So, unless you count adding butter to Stovetop Stuffing, this would be my first time really making the dish. There are a few bourbon stuffing recipes out there, but I went safe and chose the recipe with bacon because it already starts out tasting better – even in my head.
I was also intrigued by the pumpernickel and rye bread in the recipe I chose. It gave the stuffing a distinct flavor that walked the line between overpowering the dish and holding its own against the bacon and bourbon. With just the right bite, all the flavors melted together with a hint of pecan crunch and bourbon, and a burst of bacon and caraway.
I mostly followed the recipe from Creative Culinary with some added cooking time because I like the top crispy and also because I found it had a bit too much broth. It’s possible the half loavesI had didn’t quite match the sizes of the half loaves of the recipe. Either way, beware the soggy mix. Otherwise, yum.
No reason to let that bacon grease go to waste. Since I had no turkey, and therefore no turkey grease, I used the bacon fat for the gravy. That is as good as it sounds. I went for Scotch as the whisky choice for a smoky touch. I used the incredibly high maintenance recipe from Chef a la Porte, which requires caramelizing a bunch of vegetables that get strained out later. It’s a nice, light gravy, though. Perfect for drizzling over a plate of bacon bourbon stuffing. And in the future, I know there must be a purpose for those yummy caramelized veggies.
Bacon Bourbon Stuffing Ingredients
Instructions (taken from Creative Culinary)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease 9x13 inch baking dish.
2. Place the bacon in a large, deep skillet, and cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain on paper towels. Pour remaining bacon fat in the skillet into a bowl.
3. Using the same skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the onions, celery, garlic, and rosemary, and cook until onions are soft and transparent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the reserved bacon fat.
4. Meanwhile, place the pumpernickel and rye bread cubes into a large bowl. Stir in the cooked bacon pieces, eggs, thyme, sage, pecans and onion mixture, and toss to mix evenly.
5. Stir the chicken stock and bourbon together in a bowl. Pour the chicken stock mixture over the bread mixture, adding more stock to reach desired consistency (or in my case, a little less). Use your hands to evenly mix the ingredients together. Spoon stuffing mixture evenly in the prepared baking dish and pat down lightly.
Scotch Bacon Gravy Ingredients:
Directions: (taken from Chef a la Porte)
1. Rough chop the onion, carrot, and celery.
2. Sautee the onion, celery, and carrot in 1 tsp turkey (or bacon) fat or oil until very brown, almost burnt (about 10 minutes).
3. Add in 2 cloves of garlic, smashed, and stir for 1 more minute
4. Set aside the vegetables and the garlic for later.
5. In the same pan, add ¼ c flour and ¼ c turkey fat or oil and stir constantly over high heat until caramel brown.
6. Remove the pan from the flame (if using a gas stove).
7. Stir in 1/3 c whiskey until thoroughly incorporated.
8. Place back over the flame, being careful of flare ups.
9. While stirring slowly, add in 2 cups of chicken broth.
10. Bring to a boil.
11. Add the vegetables, thyme, and rosemary.
12. Reduce to a simmer.
13. Stir frequently until it reaches the desired thickness.
14. Strain out the vegetables and thyme sprigs.
15. Add salt to taste.