How to Make Thanksgiving Stuffing, the Claire Willett Way

THREE MONTHS BEFORE THANKSGIVING

  1. Get an ant infestation in your kitchen.
  2. Have a meltdown.

TWO WEEKS BEFORE THANKSGIVING

  1. Loudly call dibs on stuffing when family emails regarding the Thanksgiving menu are circulating.
  2. Do nothing else.

FOUR DAYS BEFORE THANKSGIVING

  1. Inform your brother that you will be making stuffing at his house (see above, “ant infestation.”)
  2. Stop by Whole Foods on the way home from your meeting.
  3. Forget what goes into your stuffing recipe at least five different times, for maximum time-wastage in store (i.e. walk past chicken broth four separate times before remembering that you need some.)
  4. Realize that the Theresa Willett stuffing technique of “eyeballing” amounts and proportions only works if you buy cheapo ingredients from QFC (i.e. “two packages of that bread stuffing mix, the tall bags of it, and use the spice blend that comes in it too”), and that faced with Whole Foods’ expensive packaging of totally different ingredients you barely know which way is up.
  5. Decide with great resolve that you are going to make this recipe your own, using trial and error if need be, but you are passing on the torch to the next generation of stuffing makers and you will learn how to do this yourself and you will NOT call your father in a panic from the meat aisle trying to decide how much sausage to get.
  6. Have a quiet meltdown in the butcher aisle about how much sausage to get.
  7. Buy four pounds of sausage, with no clue as to whether that is too much or too little.
  8. Spend approximately fifteen minutes debating whether or not to include chicken hearts/livers (traditional?  yes.  disgusting?  totally).   Finally vote “no” based on the inarguable fact that you have no idea where in Whole Foods to find them.
  9. Head for the bulk foods aisle to get cornmeal.
  10. Panic at the massive herd of people elbowing each other in the bulk foods aisle.
  11. Recollect how much you hate crowds.
  12. Hastily throw two packages of “cornbread and corn muffin mix” into your basket without checking to see if it’s the right kind.  (SPOILER ALERT: It is not the right kind.)
  13. Haul your groceries home via taxi because it is pouring and your single grocery bag is packed densely enough to bludgeon somebody with.
  14. Put away groceries.
  15. Collapse from exhaustion in front of the TV.

THREE DAYS BEFORE THANKSGIVING

  1. Decide it’s boring at your house when all the rest of your siblings are staying with your brother.  Pack a giant bag of laundry to go stay at his house.
  2. Vow that even though you have work tomorrow, you will stay up until 3 to go with your sister to the airport to pick up your brother, who has spent the better part of his day desperately trying to get out of Montana and has finally found a flight after three separate delays and an unscheduled stop in Idaho Falls.
  3. Decide that, while everyone is asleep and you are trying to stay awake for three more hours, and in order to avoid a kitchen backlog tomorrow, you will bake the cornbread for your cornbread stuffing now.
  4. Decide that you need cocoa to keep you awake.
  5. Decide that using the kettle is too time-consuming so you will just microwave the cocoa.
  6. Overprogram the microwave so the cocoa explodes all over your brother’s kitchen.
  7. Clean microwave.
  8. Preheat oven.
  9. Definitely do NOT check to see if anything is in the oven before you turn it on.
  10. Make cornbread.  Taste batter and realize you purchased pre-sweetened cornbread mix, not raw cornmeal.
  11. Have a panic attack that you have failed your mother.
  12. Smell something burning.
  13. Open oven.
  14. Realize that your brother placed two plastic bowls of bread dough in the oven to rise overnight.
  15. Remove half-baked dough in melted plastic bowls, which have fused together into an abstract art installation, from oven.
  16. Sigh dramatically.
  17. Put cornbread in oven.
  18. Wash all dishes and clean kitchen in a fit of ruined-bread-related guilt.
  19. Make cocoa again.  Use kettle so you can feel that you have learned at least one lesson.
  20. Consider browning sausage and vegetables for stuffing to make tomorrow go faster.
  21. Realize that the Tupperware bowl you were going to use to store the ingredients in the fridge was one of the bowls you ruined.
  22. Sigh dramatically again.
  23. Go to bed.

NIGHT BEFORE THANKSGIVING

  1. Go home at 2 when office closes with every intention of making stuffing before dinner with family at 6.
  2. Decide to take a brief “power nap.”
  3. Wake up 4 hours later when your sister calls to ask if you’re on your way to dinner.
  4. Go to dinner.
  5. Talk on and on about how great your stuffing is going to be, then worry that you’ve perhaps oversold it.
  6. Go home with every intention of making stuffing.
  7. Watch “Castle” and “Big Bang Theory” with your siblings until 11.
  8. Finally bite the bullet and decide to prep stuffing ingredients.
  9. Realize there is no spare counter space because your brother just made salsa and every available dish, bowl, and knife, plus every piece of both the blender and the Cuisinart, are covered in jalapeno juice and piled in the sink.
  10. OPTIONS: wait for him to do it five years from now, or passive-aggressively wash the Cuisinart yourself.
  11. Passive-aggressively wash the Cuisinart yourself.
  12. Assemble everything.
  13. Realize you have dramatically overestimated some ingredient amounts (2 more cartons of broth and 2 more bags of bread mix than needed) and underestimated others (brother’s house has no ground black pepper).
  14. Sigh dramatically again.
  15. Fry sausage, onions and celery.  Make a horrible mess.
  16. Assemble stuffing.  Taste it at least two or three more times than is strictly necessary because the sausage is so delicious.
  17. Forget whether or not you’re supposed to grease the pan.  Consider calling your father before realizing that it’s midnight.
  18. In the tiny available chunk of counter space between salsa mess and eleventy jillion bags of tortilla chips your brother got out but forgot to put away, assemble your stuffing.
  19. Panic about whether your giant industrial-kitchen-sized stainless-steel mixing bowl actually contains enough stuffing to feed 17 members of your family, many of whom are giant dudes.
  20. Consider adding more bread but decide not to on the grounds that you just washed your hands and don’t want to get egg on them again.
  21. Wrap stuffing in foil.
  22. Make brother carry it down to basement refrigerator because it’s heavy and you’re a wimp.
  23. Still in penance for ruining your brother’s bread and the two plastic bowls, clean the entire kitchen top to bottom.
  24. Watch 4 episodes of “Modern Family” with brother.
  25. Go to bed.

THANKSGIVING

  1. Get up.
  2. Go get coffee with siblings.
  3. Do nothing all morning.
  4. Realize one of these days you should actually write this recipe down so you don’t keep going through this circus every year.
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