My sister and I may not have grown up rife with traditions–when when Jill and I hung our socks on Christmas eve, the flat unfilled sight of them the next morning may have reminded us that Santa didn’t stop for little Jewish girls–but darn it, we had the stuffing handed down from Grandma Millie. If we were on death row, our last meal would be the stuffing.
You could tweak it (Jill uses garlic, I don’t) but you never messed with the main ingredients: Uneeda Biscuits and stale rolls. The stale rolls might change from year to year—we’re flexible. Recently I’ve discovered that Bertucci’s rolls are perfect and we make sure to stop by the restaurant where our take out order is, um, 2 bags of rolls.
But don’t mess with the Uneeda biscuits.
In recent years, Thanksgiving became a little scary. The weeks before the hallowed meal I became obsessed with finding the suddenly difficult to find blue cardboard crackers boxes decorated with the little boy in the raincoat. Year round, the entire family went on the lookout for these increasingly rare crackers. What was going on with Nabisco?
One year I was able to order them from Amazon. Then not. Finally, I discovered that DeLuca’s Market in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston stocked them (I think for nearby frail ladies in their nineties who crumbled them in their Campbell’s.) For years, I’d drive down and clean them out, sometimes, when only 4 or 5 boxes remained. I’d shudder, knowing how close I’d come to a Uneeda-less year.
Then, when we were already dangerously close to Thanksgiving, they seemed to have disappeared. My older daughter swore she’d seen them in a Market Basket in a suburb 40 minutes from our house. My husband and I raced over. We scoured the aisles. I called my daughter—oh, had she forgotten to mention the sighting had been months before? We drove to DeLuca’s, (surely they’d re-stocked) thinking it an auger of success when we found a parking spot in front (a Beacon Hill miracle.)
A wonderful clerk went to the order form.
Nothing. No longer being ordered.
Nauseated by fear, I went home to, of course, Google Uneeda Biscuits. Where I learned, on Chowhound (my new best friend) that it was over. They were gone. Discontinued. Kaput.
But, oh Lordy, it turned out that Grandma Millie’s secret ingredient was known by others. OMG! We were not the only family in America using Uneeda Biscuits for stuffing. We were not the only family in America for whom Uneeda Biscuits were the cure for stomach aches, depression, and holidays.
We were not alone.
But wait; there’s more. The miracle of Thanksgiving unfolded on my screen. Others, secret byte-sized friends, had already attacked the problem: Goya Snack Crackers. They weren’t a clone or a complete match, but, as my savior,Bicycle Chick wrote, they are quite similar in flavor.
She was correct.
We were saved. Because when it comes to keeping tradition alive, sometimes you have to go online.
Happy Thanksgiving to friends of all dimensions.
GRANDMA MILLIE’S (FLEXIBLE) STUFFING
This is as close as I can come to giving this recipe—as it has always been a trial, error, see-how-it-tastes-raw and then cook-it-when-it’s ready sort of food.
Preheat oven to 350°.
I don’t stuff the bird, but you can. I prefer baked stuffing.
Close as I can come to amounts are:
A bag or two of Goya crackers.
A dozen small Bertucci rolls, or 6 large crispy rolls. (Buy ahead and let get stale. Toast in oven if you forgot to make them stale.)
Break crackers and rolls into small (but not teensy) pieces.
Soak crackers and rolls in warmed milk. (Enough to cover, but not overwhelm. You want the milk to soften the carbs, but not drown them.)
Beat about 5-8 eggs (or more, depending on how ‘eggy’ you like your stuffing)
A bag of carrots (or more, depending on your taste), shredded
One or two large onions (or more, depending on your taste)
5-8 stalks of celery (or more, or less, depending on your taste)
1-3 boxes of sliced mushrooms, depending on how much you like mushrooms
Melt lots of butter in largest skillet or sauté pan you have. Add onions, sauté for a bit. Add all other vegetables and sauté until soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Squeeze leftover milk from crackers (or add more if they seem too hard). Mix in vegetables and butter. Pat into baking dishes and bake until top seems crunchy (about an hour, sometimes less).
This recipe calls for the ability to play and taste as you mix, sauté, and cook. Uncooked it should be heavy and soggy, but not wet. Baked, it should be crunchy in places, soft in others, buttery, and, if you are a carb lover, you should find it almost impossible to stop eating.