“Bread is the king of the table, and all else is merely the court that surrounds the king. The countries are the soup, the meat, the vegetables, the salad, but bread is king.”
– Louis Bromfield, American novelist, 1896–1956.
Thanksgiving Day is almost here, and dinner smells wonderful, yes it does, but nothing, absolutely nothing, has a finer aroma than light yeast rolls baking in the oven.
Each autumn, as the fourth Thursday in November draws closer, I think a lot about turkey and all the trimmings, including my Dad’s sausage-pecan-apple dressing, a green-bean casserole, fried apples, cranberries, mashed potatoes and turkey gravy, sweet potatoes and a large dollop of whipped cream atop a piece of luscious pumpkin pie.
A Thanksgiving feast could possibly be the most wonderful collection of food one enjoys during the entire year, but since childhood, ‘light’ yeast rolls have been my favorite Thanksgiving Day food.
Yours, too, or perhaps not? Some say yes, some no.
However, I know this to be true, at our house kids pop these heavenly rolls into their mouths like candy. Everyone else around the table eats at least two, and my husband would think the world came to an end if we served Thanksgiving dinner without yeast rolls.
The late Emily Post, renowned newspaper ‘etiquette’ columnist and author, wrote once “bread is like dresses, hats and shoes—in other words, essential!”
When families and friends break bread together, we are indeed sharing an essential food staple that has been a part of our world since the beginning of recorded time.
Bread is important. In fact, noted American chef James Beard once called it the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods.
Out of curiosity, I researched the history of bread and learned, to my surprise, that bread, beer and yeast went hand-in-hand in ancient Egyptian culture, where bread is thought to have first originated. Bread and beer were staples of every meal there. At some point, yeast was accidentally discovered when someone dropped it in the dough, as the story goes. Possibly someone had too much beer, but nevertheless, the rest is history. The Egyptian’s flat, hard crusty bread eventually evolved into light, heavenly manna from heaven.
Today when we think of Thanksgiving dinner, we know that bread is a major element in its own right, but it is also an ingredient in stuffing or dressing, whichever you choose to call it.
Inspired by this talk of yeast rolls and dressing, I decided to search for my Dad’s legendary sausage-pecan-apple dressing recipe and found Grandma’s “light rolls” recipe as well. Two undeniable stars of our turkey dinner this Thanksgiving.
After all, bread is the king of the table.
Note to readers: There are many yeast rolls recipes to be found, and you probably have your favorite, so instead here is my Dad’s aforementioned stuffing recipe in case you would like to try it for your next Thanksgiving dinner. It’s good.
Sausage Dressing with Apples and Pecans
8-10 ounces of sausage, chopped
14 cups dried bread, cut in cubes with crusts removed
1 ½ sticks butter, melted
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped onions
4 large apples
3 cups pecans, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh sage
2 teaspoons dried sage
4 large eggs, beaten
5 cups turkey stock, maybe more if needed
Fresh chopped or dried parsley to taste
Dried thyme to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat baking dish with oil or cooking spray. In large skillet, cook sausage. Drain and remove, cool. In bowl, add bread cubes to sausage. Melt butter in skillet and add onions and celery and cook for a 3-4 minutes, add apples and cook two more minutes. Pour this mixture onto bread and sausage mixture. Add seasonings, mix, and finally stir in pecans.
Mix eggs in turkey stock and add to dressing mixture, stirring completely. Sometimes it takes more stock to moisten the mixture. Put in baking dish, cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is slightly browned and crisp, usually takes about 20 more minutes.