SAUSAGE AND APPLE STUFFING
This stuffing can easily be cooked in a crockpot and needn't be stuffed into the turkey. In fact, I've never stuffed a turkey and have no plans ever to do so!
11 cups 1/2-inch cubes firm-textured white bread (about 1 1/4 pounds), or one regular-size French or Italian loaf (not a baguette)
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1/2 stick butter
2 heaping tsp. good-quality dried Italian seasoning
1 1/4 cups finely chopped celery--3-4 small inner stalks (Don't use those horrible coarse outer ribs. Get the loose celery and pick out the small, inner stalks. Use the leaves as well as the stalks.)
1 tart apple, peeled and chopped (Granny Smith is an obvious choice here.)
1 pound Italian sausage casings removed (I like hot sausage, but I've also had good results with the regular version of Boulder Sausage that's available at Costco--it's sort of halfway between sweet and hot. You can use more sausage if you'd like.)
1/2 cup chicken stock or canned broth
Salt, if needed
Preheat over to 250. Spread bread cubes on baking sheet. Bake until dry to the touch, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. (According to America's Test Kitchen, drying the bread in the oven is preferable to just letting the bread cubes sit out overnight. Something to do with the crystallization of starch, as I recall.) Transfer to large bowl.
Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms and generous amount of pepper and cook until mushrooms are thoroughly cooked and juices have pretty well evaporated. Add celery and apple and stir for several minutes, until softened.. Add to bread with Italian seasoning and toss to blend.
Increase heat to medium-high. Add sausage to same skillet and cook until no longer pink, breaking up with fork. Add to bread, using slotted spoon. Add stock to stuffing and mix to blend, adding more if necessary. Season with salt if needed.
It can work well to cook the vegetables and sausage ahead of time and refrigerate, and then mix with the bread cubes and the broth right before you put it in the crockpot. If the stuffing is really cold, it's a good idea to start out with an hour or so on high and then turn it to low. Then just serve it straight from the crockpot--one less serving dish to wash, and it stays hot.