Photo by Travis Rainey, Food Styling by Mira Evnine
Welcome to Jesse Fixes Dinner, a series in which food editor Jesse Szewczyk shares his best tricks for effortless weeknight cooking.
November is the month of forgotten weeknight dinners. Sure, Thanksgiving gets the star treatment as the ultimate all-out meal, but what about the other 29 days of the month? Can you name a single memorable weeknight dinner you’ve cooked during November? Who has time for an elaborate homemade dinner when the inlaws are bombarding you with requests for gluten-free options on the holiday table? But this is the exact season when you should prioritize weeknight dinners: Because you deserve an exciting meal during the most stressful month of the year.
One way to fit in weeknight cooking is to take advantage of shortcut grocery items. Frozen meals, exciting seasoning mixes, and shelf-stable gnocchi are all great options, but my favorite shortcut ingredient is boxed stuffing mix—and not for the reason you might think. Instead of rehydrating the mix and making stuffing, I like to blitz the mix into tiny pieces and fry it in butter to create intensely flavorful breadcrumbs that instantly upgrade any meal. Sprinkle them over pasta, chicken, fish, or anything else and suddenly your weeknight dinner is one worth remembering.
Turning dried stuffing mix into breadcrumbs isn’t just a gimmick: It makes sense from a culinary POV. Boxed stuffing mix contains bread, aromatics like onions, garlic, and celery, and a plethora of seasonings like sage and thyme. All of these built-in seasonings means you don’t need to add anything to them to make them shine. They have plenty of bold autumnal flavor—and adding anything else would simply be unwarranted. So why not utilize that convenient mix of ingredients in a smaller, crunchier package?
To make these stuffing breadcrumbs, dump the entirety of a boxed stuffing mix (bread, seasoning, and all) into a food processor and blitz them into a coarse, sand-like texture. Then, for each six-ounce box of stuffing mix you’re using, melt four tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toast them, stirring constantly to prevent burning, until golden brown. As the breadcrumbs toast you’ll begin to smell the aromatics come back to life. As soon as the breadcrumbs tan into a golden-brown hue, transfer them into a bowl. The salty, herby, buttery breadcrumbs can be used immediately or stashed away in an air-tight container at room temperature for about a week.
As for what to do with the breadcrumbs: Shower them onto roasted chicken, salmon, or pork to get the crunch of a cutlet without having to deep fry. Or try adding them to roasted vegetables as a final flourish that jazzes them up. For a one-bowl meal, I use these breadcrumbs to adorn a simple weeknight pasta full of wilted kale and sweet Italian sausage. The breadcrumbs lend the pasta a nostalgic stuffing flavor while adding a pop of welcomed texture in each bite. So take that box of stuffing mix in the back of your cabinet and transform it into the flavor-boosting crunchies your November dinners deserve.
Weeknight Pasta With Stuffing CrumbsJesse Szewczyk
Originally Appeared on Epicurious
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