Even a run of the mill Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful, but we really set ourselves up for trouble one year. We invited Parisians. Not fashionistas, mind you, but underfed twentysomething students and interns we’d met at a party a few months before. After all, we were entertaining the very people who can turn a tiny cup of coffee into a two hour event.

In the end, everything went fine. We cooked a lot of food: two turkeys and two stuffings (we were feeding hungry young people, after all). The only hiccup was the stuffing, the “pice de rsistance” of this very American meal. Our guests loved it they just didn’t understand it. There’s no word for stuffing in French. cheapgoose “Farci?” (Stuffed?) The dish calls to mind a ground meat pt. But we made converts. They ate it up, then took it home in packets.

Although there’s no trick to great stuffing you put it in the bird and let the natural juices do the work there are a few things to remember when preparing it:

1) Once the stuffing is inside the large cavity, truss the opening closed with food safe butcher’s twine, sold at most hardware stores and all cookware stores. Tie the legs and any large skin flaps together over the large opening. Or tie the legs and then lace the flaps together with soaked 10 inch bamboo skewers.

2) If you roast a kosher turkey, omit the salt from the stuffing (kosher birds are salted in processing). By the same token, if you use a pre brined turkey (such as those from Butterball), omit the salt. Read the turkey’s label to determine if the meat has been injected with a saline solution.

3) In keeping with food safety requirements, once the turkey’s been stuffed, don’t delay: Get it in the oven. And once the bird’s done, remove the stuffing as soon as you can handle the bird.

4) Any additional stuffing that doesn’t fit in the bird can be cooked, covered, in a small baking dish for 30 minutes, then uncovered and baked until lightly browned and bubbling at the edges, about 15 minutes longer.

5) If you make an egg bound stuffing, you must take both its temperature and the bird’s. An instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the bird’s thigh without touching bone should register 180F; inserted into the center of the stuffing, it should register 165F. If the bird’s done before the stuffing, tent the breast with foil and continue roasting until the stuffing reaches the appropriate temperature. If the stuffing’s done first, don’t fret: The bird’s natural juices will keep it moist as it continues to roast. Stuffings made without eggs do not need to be cooked to any exact temperature they can be removed when the turkey is done. A 12 to 15 pound stuffed turkey roasted in a preheated 350F oven should take 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Sourdough Stuffing with Chestnuts and Apples

If you don’t want to bake this stuffing inside a 12 to 15 pound turkey, place it in a sprayed 9 x 13 inch baking dish and bake covered at 375F for 30 minutes, then uncovered until lightly browned, about 15 minutes more. If you want to test it out before making it on Thanksgiving Day, consider doing a half recipe inside a large chicken. Makes 12 servings.

Sourdough Stuffing with Chestnuts and Apples

Makes 12 servings

PointsPlus value 5 per 2/3 cup serving

1 pound button or cremini mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced

2 medium apples, peeled, cored and chopped

One 1 pound sourdough loaf, left unwrapped on the counter overnight, then torn into 1 inch chunks

One 8 ounce jar roasted Chinese chestnuts, chopped

1 1/4 cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup fat free egg substitute, or Egg Beaters

2 teaspoons rubbed (crumbled) sage

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Spray a large skillet with nonstick spray and set it over medium heat. Add the onion and celery; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the mushrooms; cook, stirring often, until they begin to release their liquid. Add the apples and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and the juice in the pan has been reduced to a glaze, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the large bowl.

Stir in the bread, chestnuts, broth, egg substitute, sage, thyme, salt and pepper until well combined. Stuff into a 12 to 15 pound turkey.

Place the juice in a large saucepan set over high heat. Stir in the prunes, apricots, and cranberries; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer the fruit to a large bowl with a slotted spoon.

Raise the heat to high and bring the liquid in the pan to a boil. Cook until reduced to a thick glaze, about 4 minutes. Pour over the fruit.