Sweet Potato Stuffing with Bacon and Thyme

When I told my sister-in-law that I wanted to make stuffing with bacon for Thanksgiving dinner, she started to say, “Well, we were thinking about wrapping the turkey in bacon…” and my first reaction was to assume that she was going to say that two bacon dishes might be overkill.  But then I remembered she is Nick’s sister, so it didn’t surprise me at all when she finished, “so those should go really well together!”

The thing that excited me about this recipe was that it would bring sweet potatoes into the dinner without adding an extra dish.  (Well, that and the bacon excited me.)  I followed the recipe closely, except that I used 1 1/2 cups celery and 1 1/2 cups fennel instead of 3 cups of celery.  Why?  Because if you couldn’t tell from my typical dinners, I kinda love fennel.

Sweet Potato Stuffing with Bacon and Thyme (adapted from Bon Appetit November 2009 via Epicurious)

Makes 16 servings

10 cups of sourdough baguette with crust cut into 1-inch cubes (they say you can get this from 1 and 1/2 one-pound baguettes, but I couldn’t find a baguette, so I used one 16 ounce round loaf, which yielded just over 10 cups.  Plus some extra cubes of bread for a lovely pre-cooking snack.)

1 pound thick-cut bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces*

2 tbsp butter

2 3/4 pounds of peeled sweet potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (should yield 6 1/2 cups )

2 large onions, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (should yield 4 cups)

about 4 stalks of celery, cut into 1/2 – 3/4-inch pieces (should yield 1 1/2 cups)

2 small or 1 large fennel bulb, cut into 1/2 – 3/4-inch pieces (should yield 1 1/2 cups)

1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

1 1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt

1 1/3 cups fresh orange juice

3 large eggs

1 1/3 cups low-salt chicken broth

With rack in center of oven, preheat to 350 degrees.  Spread bread cubes in a single layer on a large baking sheet (I had to use two baking sheets).  Bake until almost firm to touch, about 10 minutes.  Cool.  *This can be made 1 day ahead.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Place bread cubes in extra-large bowl.  Cook bacon in skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.

Reserve 3 tbsp of bacon drippings and place in a large, heavy pot.  Heat pot over medium-high heat and add butter, sweet potatoes, onions, celery, fennel, thyme, and 1 1/4 tsp coarse salt.  Saute until onions are slightly soft but not brown, about 6-8 minutes.  Add orange juice and bring to a boil.  Cook until sweet potatoes are almost tender and juice is almost absorbed (the original recipe says this takes about 5 minutes, but it took me closer to 10 minutes).  Add bacon and sweet potato mixture to bowl with bread cubes.  Season with more salt and pepper.  Cool slightly.  *This can be made 1 day ahead.  Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter 15 x 10 x 2-inch baking dish (I totally skipped the buttering and had no problems with anything sticking).  Whisk eggs and chicken broth in a medium bowl to blend; add to stuffing and toss to combine.  Transfer to baking dish.

Bake uncovered until top is lightly browned and crisp around the edges, 50 minutes to an hour.

*PS- Who takes photographs of mounds of raw bacon??  Oh right- I do. Below, bonus bacon photos:

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