Of course, my grandmother (French/Italian) always used stale french bread soaked in milk for her stuffing, too. Just not sourdough, which was unknown in the deep South when I was a kid.
This is an interesting story about how the handwritten recipe was found, deciphered, and ultimately reworked for today's cooks. From today's NYT:
THE image of a bombshell cooking her way to nirvana may seem old-hat now, thanks to Nigella, Giada, Padma and the like. But back in the 1950s, a Hollywood starlet was not expected to squander her talents (or risk her manicure) chopping onions.
A new book, however, includes a recipe in Marilyn Monroe’s handwriting that suggests that she not only cooked, but cooked confidently and with flair.Read the rest of the story here.
“Fragments” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $30) collects assorted letters, poems and back-of-the-envelope scribblings that span the time from Monroe’s first marriage in 1943 to her death in 1962. Most of the material, however, dates from the late ’50s, when she was at the height of her fame, moved to New York, married Arthur Miller and connected with Lee Strasberg and his Actors Studio. Her poignant attempts to assert her intellectual side are what have made news about this collection, but the recipe on Page 180 was a bigger revelation to us.
Scrawled on stationery with a letterhead from a title insurance company, the recipe describes in some detail how to prepare a stuffing for chicken or turkey. The formula is extensive in the number of ingredients (11, not including the 5 herbs and spices, or salt and pepper), and in their diversity (3 kinds of nuts and 3 animal proteins). It is unorthodox for an American stuffing in its use of a bread loaf soaked in water, wrung dry and shredded, and in its lack of added fat, broth, raw egg or any other binder.
It also bears the unmistakable balance of fussiness and flexibility that is the hallmark of an experienced and confident cook. Giblets are to be “liver-heart,” and the beef is to be “browned (no oil),” yet certain other details are left flapping in the wind: the amount of spices is not specified, nor the amount of “parsarly.” O.K., the instruction of “1 handful” of grated Parmesan is clear enough, but what to make of the first line — “No garlic” — of the recipe?
For recipe-restoration geeks like us, this was a challenge we couldn’t resist, especially as we head into high season for stuffing. Our goal was to fill in the blanks and produce a stuffing recipe that anyone could complete successfully. Of all the souvenirs of Marilyn’s life available, this was the one we actually wanted.
The updated recipe is available here. Just in time for your holiday table talk, if you can make it through the lengthy preparation process, which has been somewhat simplified.
And so it goes.