In my family, food is our religion. Needless to say, Thanksgiving is a big deal for us. My mom usually makes 3 types of stuffing, 4 types of cranberry sauce, 2 - 3 turkeys (depending on how many people come that year), endless side dishes and multiple pies - at least 3 varieties and usually more than one of each. Cocktails and wine are plentiful and it's always a great time. I grew up in the kitchen. Holiday meals like Thanksgiving dinner were like going to the fair… excitement, energy, tons of chaos and lots of good, sinful food. It's quite the production in the Aibinder household. 

It's been 3 years since I've been home for Thanksgiving and sadly, it looks like it will be another 2-3 years before I can do it again. Luckily, I've got great family here in Chicago to celebrate with and they do a great spread too. This year I'm going to NY to celebrate Turkey Day with my boyfriend's family. I'm really excited to share their traditions with them and see how they do Thanksgiving. They're a loud, crazy bunch (in the best possible way) and I'm sure it will be nothing short of a good time. 

Over the years, I've added two "must make" dishes to our family's Thanksgiving spread - Spinach, Artichoke + Brie stuffing and a Pumpkin Bourbon Cheesecake with Pecan Crust. Both of which I'll be sharing with you. Lets start with the stuffing. It's like spinach & artichoke dip meets bread pudding dolloped with little chunks of melty brie. Yes I realize that it should be technically called dressing since it's not baked in the bird but i like stuffing - it sounds more classic. This dish is the perfect "stuffing" for your vegetarian guests (make sure you sub the chix stock for veggie stock) and it's just plain delicious. 

I don't know why but I've never been a stuffing fan. When I saw Emeril Lagasse make this dish on the Food Network, I knew I had to try it. Over the years I've tweaked the recipe slightly (mostly just quantity changes of certain ingredients). This dish is pretty easy to improv too! I usually do all of my prep work a night or two before I need to bake it to make assembly of this dish quick and painless. Anything you can do to spare you time on the big day comes in handy. See my improv suggestions below on what to do/make ahead of time. This recipe makes a good amount of bread pudding. If your family is like mine and takes a little of everything, it will easily feed a crowd of 12 - 14. Double it up if you want to serve more people. 

What's on your absolute "must make" list for Thanksgiving? 

spinach, artichoke + brie stuffing
adapted from emeril lagasse
yields 6 generous servings

8 c. cubed (1-inch) day old bread - I used an italian loaf 
1 TBSP butter
1 lb fresh spinach, washed (1 ½ c. cooked, drained and roughly chopped)
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion chopped
1 TBSP chopped garlic
1 TBSP Italian seasoning
2  tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 - 9 oz bags frozen artichoke hearts (defrosted and drained)

1 egg
¾ c. heavy cream
1 c. chicken stock
¼ c. white wine
1 TBSP lemon juice
½ c. freshly grated Parmesan
¼ c. fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 pound Brie, rind removed and cut into ½ - inch cubes

(it all starts here... the size loaf I used)

The day/night before making, cut bread into cubes and let sit out so that it becomes stale. If your bread is already a few days old, you can skip this step and just cut bread into 1" cubes. If your bread is fresh and you need to make it today, cut the cubes and put it in a 200º F oven for 10 - 15 minutes to dry out the bread a little bit.

Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease a 9x9 baking dish with butter (olive oil or non-stick spray works too). Bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil and cook spinach until wilts. About 30 sec - 1 min. Drain and rinse with cold water. Once cool, squeeze all of the water out of the spinach and give it a rough chop. Note this step can be done 1 - 3 days in advance to help prep for a big meal.

Heat 1 TBSP of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent and golden brown. Add in the garlic, italian seasoning, salt + pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Then add in your spinach and artichoke hearts and continue cooking a few more minutes until ingredients are combined. Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit and cool.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, cream, chicken stock, wine, lemon juice, ¼ c. of the parmesan cheese and parsley. This can be done the day/night before you want to make the stuffing (another small, but good time saver. plus it free's up the dishes). Add in your cooled veggie mixture and stir until it's combined. Add the bread cubes to your bowl and gently mix until all of the cubes are coated in the liquid. Toss in your brie chunks, pour into your baking dish and let the mixture sit for 20 - 30 minutes, and up to a few hours before you bake it. This way all of the liquid will be absorbed into the bread before you bake it. Pop it into the oven for about 60 minutes until it's golden brown on top and the egg mixture has fully cooked. 

improv style:
thanksgiving is a chaotic time. make it easier on yourself by prepping your spinach a few days before you make the stuffing. if you're not going to make it ahead of time, save a dish and cook the spinach in the sauté pan once the onions are translucent. basically you need to get them wilted so whatever way is easiest for you. don't have fresh spinach or enough fresh spinach? that's ok. you can use frozen, just make sure you drain all of the liquid once it's defrosted. one year i bought only half the amount of fresh spinach i needed. i did half frozen half fresh and it still turned out great.

can't find frozen artichoke hearts? just use 2 cans instead. i find the frozen to be a little better in flavor and texture but really it doesn't make or break the dish. use what you can find! not a fan of brie? you can use mozzarella or leave the cheese out!

to save more time, the wet ingredients can be assembled the day before to save you time and dishes. if you make the entire veggie mixture before, you can combine the liquid with the spinach + artichoke mixture but it will turn your liquid a greenish color. however you prefer to do it, will work!

cooking temperature. 350º F is ideal but you can get away with a range of 325º - 400º.  you have to adjust your cooking time accordingly but the bread pudding is more forgiving with a different temperature than your turkey is. if you're cooking at a higher temp, cover it with foil the first half of the baking time and reduce the time by 15 - 20 minutes. if you're cooking at a lower temp, make sure you increase the cooking time (most likely 15 - 20 minutes more). 

on to improv'ing the dish… mushrooms would be a fantastic addition to the mix. if you're not a fan of spinach or artichokes you can leave one of them out. you can use any kind of bread you like… white, wheat, french, italian, brioche, you get the point. if you want to leave the wine out, just use chicken stock or veggie stock (if making it for true vegetarians). adding in a little truffle oil would be nice. don't have lemon? leave it out, it will still taste good. 


  1. This is SO coming with me to the in-laws! Curious if I could make this into an 'egg-bake' for Christmas morning? Do you think it would just be a matter of adding more eggs?

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