This month, Burlington Children's Space will hold its 6th annual Thanksgiving Family Dinner. My favorite school tradition, it's come to define the holiday season for me.
Each year on the Thursday before Thanksgiving, BCS director Sarah Adams-Kollitz and I are in the kitchen by 7 a.m. We have a huge job: Cooking a full meal for 150 children, parents, extended family members, alumni and community partners. We roast three enormous turkeys, prep tons of veggies, warm student-baked rolls and, most impressively in my opinion, make homemade stuffing.
We have help. Teachers drop by the kitchen during breaks between classes to help chop and prep. As the afternoon rolls on, parents and friends show up to mash potatoes, set tables and carve the birds.
It's a lot of work, but it's such a joyful community effort that the whole day — not just the dinner that night — feels like a party.
Still, when Sarah proposed that we make the stuffing from scratch the first year, it made me a little nervous. I don't cook Thanksgiving dinner for my brood; my mom's generation still has that duty. And though my family is full of good cooks with signature Thanksgiving dishes, we don't have a go-to recipe for stuffing. Actually, it always comes from — gasp — a box.
But Sarah insisted it was pretty easy. For advice, she called her mom, who reminded Sarah of her mom's recipe, which involved bread that's at least a day old and lots — lots — of butter. We recreated that recipe.
It turns out that making delicious homemade stuffing for a crowd is no big deal. And if you're in the mood for something unconventional, endless variations are possible. Pro tip: It's much easier to get creative when you're cooking for just one family.
This is the basic BCS recipe, with a few twists, scaled down to serve 8.
Here are a few variations:
Roasted Vegetables: Dice 8 cups of your favorite winter veggies (squash, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, red onion, etc.) and roast at 400 degrees until they're nice and golden, about 25 minutes. Use the veggies in place of half of the cubed bread in the original recipe.
Kale and Parmesan: Add four cups chopped kale (tough stems removed) when you pour the broth into the onion and celery; simmer. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese over the dish when you remove the foil.
Sourdough: Use cubed, stale sourdough bread.Sarah Adams-Kollitz with Burlington Children's Space kids.
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