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Different Thanksgiving Stuffing From Across The Country

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We live in contentious times - right versus left, urban versus rural, Alexa versus Siri. And this time of year, regional rumpus is over turkey stuffing. It's an issue that divides north from south, Deep South from the Great Lakes, grandmothers from their descendants. Most stuffings begin with dried bread - but white bread or cornbread? Or pumpernickel, which my Iowa Auntie Chris (ph) used to make with apples and onions, or French bread? B.J. Leiderman, who wrote our theme music, or George Gershwin? Why, in Minnesota, they even use wild rice instead of bread. Over in Cape Cod, the family of Kristen Kagei begins with seasoned white bread. But then -

KRISTEN KAGEI: Well, my dad over the years has gotten really into raking for quahogs. So if you don't know, quahogs are fat clams that have sort of extra clam in them. And it's delicious.

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KAGEI: If there's a little bit of sand, that's OK, too - just adds a little texture. And then you add in some dried cranberries, which is a pretty Massachusetts thing to do.

SIMON: And she adds...

KAGEI: It tastes even better if you bake it back in the shell.

SIMON: Aaron Sanchez, the famed chef and judge on "MasterChef" on Fox. His recipe begins with cornbread and adds...

AARON SANCHEZ: Chorizo from Cacique. And it's a beautiful brand of chorizo that just is really redolent with tons of cinnamon and chili powder and vinegar.

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SIMON: Sausage or not? Another hot-button - or perhaps hot oven - issue. Chef Aaron explains...

SANCHEZ: I'm from El Paso, Texas. So I'm always keeping that in mind. The idea of cornbread is used all over the south and the southwest. So I'm combining those flavors with a sort of a Mexican narrative with the chorizo. You definitely pick up a little bit of heat.

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SIMON: Now to the Plains states, where many German immigrants settled. Product designer Katie Briggs from Scottsbluff, Neb., makes what her family calls a dressing.

KATIE BRIGGS: The dressing that we use - and we prefer the word dressing over stuffing - is kind of the traditional dressing base. It's day-old bread, eggs, sauteed onions - that kind of thing. But then, we add in a lot of sugar, like three quarters of a cup of sugar, and a bunch of allspice and raisins.

SIMON: But something else makes this recipe the stuffing of memories.

BRIGGS: We tear everything apart by hand. And we mash everything together by hand. And over the years, you know, it's been me and my grandma and my mom at the kitchen counter. Eventually, it was my mom and I.

SIMON: Finally, we head to the Gulf Coast. Here's chef Frank Brigtsen (ph) of New Orleans on his mother's oyster dressing.

FRANK BRIGTSEN: There's a lot of chopped vegetables and good, salty oysters and stale New Orleans French bread. It's about a three day process.

SIMON: Chef Frank says, in coastal Louisiana, Turkey and oysters are made for each other.

BRIGTSEN: Oysters really give us the taste of the sea. They have a brininess to them. There's very few meat and seafood combinations that really, really work.

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SIMON: But all these regional differences in stuffing underscore a common theme - family and memories. Frank Brigtsen who has walls full of awards for his restaurants and recipes, makes the same stuffing that his mother did.

BRIGTSEN: Every year, she said the same thing. She said, this is the best it's ever been. And I know she meant that from her heart. And so this is a dish of love for our family.

SIMON: That's an ingredient that seems to flavor them all.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRILOK GURTU & ARKE STRING QUARTET'S "DEA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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