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A bread pudding worthy of a song

Parsley sage rosemary thyme bread pudding.| Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme bread pudding.| Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 19, 2012 10:39AM

We eat hundreds of meals every year, yet none is ever more controversial or stressful than the Thanksgiving feast.

What started out to be a community affair to celebrate perseverance and triumph over impossibly hard conditions in a New World has become a contest of will and culinary prowess.

Is there ever a family that can relax and enjoy this day as it was intended? At too many gatherings, it’s not too long until the conversation dissolves into “What time is kick-off” and “My mother never made it that way.” Or the competition for the new: “I thought I’d try something I saw on the Food Channel.”

While there are as many tried and true ways to cook the turkey as there are families, it’s often the stuffing — called dressing in some families — that garners the most debate. Inside the turkey (stuffing) or out (dressing)? Oysters? Lots of spice and herbs or lightly seasoned? Giblets used or discarded?

In fact, I once asked long-married friends what the secret to their content 67-year marriage might be. The husband, very taciturn and serious, thought for a minute and then said, “When I realized her mother’s Thanksgiving dressing was the same as my mother’s, I knew we’d never fight about that.”

I cannot say I have been without some of these controversies myself. My mother made what the family called “Soupy Dressing” because it was more of a soft pudding, mildly seasoned and served from a huge casserole used only on that day and only for that dish.

When I married, I learned from the in-laws about adding Polish sausage to stuffing, then eventually changed my standard to a Southern influenced cornbread based dressing with sage sausage and lots of spice. Some years more than one type found its way onto the table to avoid stand-offs among the guests.

Whichever style you remember as The Right One, I recommend trying this recipe this year.

It has a custard base, lots of crusty bread and plenty of fresh herbs, all baked in a casserole.

The basic recipe allows for creativity and efficiency. You can add giblets or sausage, or tuck in some mushrooms.You can double it to make enough. Make it ahead of time and finish in the last few minutes to cut down on kitchen chaos.

You may want to change the combination of herbs, but if you serve it up per the exact herbs included in its full name,

I guarantee you can expect a chorus of Simon and Garfunkel sing-along — maybe just what every disparate family needs to come together on a stressful day.

Judith Dunbar Hines is a cooking teacher, tour guide, writer and culinary consultant in Chicago. For upcoming classes, visit

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