I have to admit to a somewhat nagging feeling that is upon me this year as I contemplate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Do I stay with 100 percent tradition or opt instead for a wee bit of innovation?

Recurrent readers of this column know full well that when it comes to any holiday, I am a staunch, unabashed traditionalist.

Much like the proverbial, always-welcome, “regular” who dines at his/her favorite restaurant and always orders the same thing, I could not even consider having anything other than roast turkey, complete with all the trimmings, on Thanksgiving.

But this year I am “chewing” over the notion of one small change to the menu that may or may not cause a riot within my own group of family regulars. Dare I change the dressing?

As anyone who has purchased a box of Stove Top stuffing knows, bread dressing can be an enjoyable side dish that goes just as well with other entrees, such as roast chicken or stuffed pork chops.

And although I tend to eschew the convenience that Kraft General Foods provides with their above named product, this “from scratch” recipe is one that I have been toying with for the past couple of months with pleasing results.

The bread crumbs called for in the recipe are made from day old Challah, a brioche style yeast bread with the addition of eggs that you should be able to find at most bake shops. Any other type of brioche can be used.

For me, the most intriguing component of this recipe is the addition of apple pie filling, which lends an underlying, “clean touch” of sweetness that is most pleasing to the palette.

And about that nagging feeling? I’m still chewing. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

My Holiday Home

This story is part of My Holiday Home, a special section packed with local ideas to help ready our homes for the holidays. Click here to view the entire My Holiday Home special section.

Challah Bread Dressing

¾ cup onion, chopped fine

¾ cup celery, chopped fine

¾ cup carrot, chopped fine

1½ tbsp vegetable oil

1 pound loaf stale (one day old) Challah or other type of brioche

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup turkey or chicken stock
(or more as needed)

1-20 ounce can apple pie filling – such as Comstock or Musselman’s

4 ounces (1 stick) butter, melted

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon dried leaf sage

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 teaspoon sugar (optional, depending on sweetness of the pie filling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium size skillet. Add the onions, celery, and carrot and sweat until soft and translucent. Allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, process Challah in a food processor or blender to make the bread crumbs. Place the bread crumbs in a large mixing bowl. Add the onion, celery and carrot mixture. Add the apple pie filling, melted butter, garlic, sage, black pepper, poultry seasoning and sugar. Add the beaten eggs. Add stock as needed and mix gently to combine all the ingredients The dressing should be moist — neither too dry nor too wet.

Loosely pack the dressing in a greased 9½”x 13″ standard sheet pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the dressing.

Note: Bake the dressing uncovered if you want the top to be crispy.

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Frank Chlumsky

Frank Chlumsky, former executive chef of Philander's restaurant in Oak Park, teaches in Chicago at Kendall College's School of Culinary Arts. In his 37-year career, Frank has owned restaurants in Michigan...