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HSD secretary shares green chile piñon stuffing for the holidays

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

It’s the kind of question a county extension office might get, not the state Human Services Department.

David Scrase

Nevertheless, HSD Secretary David Scrase has been getting calls from people around the state wanting his Thanksgiving recipe for green chile piñon stuffing.

During a news conference last Thursday, Scrase emphasized that people can have a COVID-safe Thanksgiving and still honor family traditions even as they limit the celebration to immediate family members living under the same roof. In passing, he mentioned that in his own family it’s tradition for him to make the New Mexico-influenced green chile piñon stuffing.

The proof that people listen to Scrase during these news conferences is the large number of requests his office fielded for his recipe, HSD spokeswoman Jodi McGinnis Porter said.

That’s quite a departure from the usual pandemic-related questions about where to get tested, why the lines are so long, which stores in a community have been ordered closed, or why the data doesn’t reflect infection clusters that they know about.

“We don’t get many calls for a recipe,” McGinnis Porter said. “It was really kind of sweet and warmed all our hearts.”

And no doubt delicious, too.

In Dr. Scrase’s words

First, this recipe has been adapted almost word for word from “The Joy of Cooking.” So all credit goes to them. I have been preparing this recipe annually at Thanksgiving for at least 40 years. I adapted it to the Land of Enchantment in 1998 – when I moved here – with the spicy pork sausage, the hot green chile and the piñon nuts. It is so popular with my family that I make a double recipe so that the leftovers can be consumed for another week. And while I always use hot green chile and spicy pork sausage, you can use milder versions if you like – as long as you are not worried that some may see you as an inauthentic New Mexican as a result.

The recipe yields enough to stuff a 14- to 17-pound turkey. Many of the variations yield enough for an additional small casserole of stuffing. To stuff an oven roaster or 6 to 8 rock Cornish hens, halve the recipes. For a larger turkey, increase all the ingredients by half. The optional egg(s) makes the stuffing firm (I always use two of them). If you prefer the bread to be moist, skip the toasting step.


1 pound sliced firm white sandwich, French, or Italian bread, including crusts

½ to 1 cup of piñon nuts

1 pound of spicy pork sausage

½ to 1 stick of unsalted butter

2 cups of chopped onions

1 cup of finely chopped celery

2 four-ounce cans of hot green chile or frozen, diced

¼ to ½ cup of minced fresh parsley

1 teaspoon of dried sage, or 1 tablespoon minced fresh

1 teaspoon of dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon minced fresh

¾ teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon of freshly grated or ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves

2 large eggs (optional)

1/3 to 1 cup of chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toast until golden brown (or precut and allow to dry overnight, which is what I do, or both):

1 pound sliced firm white sandwich, French, or Italian bread, including crusts, cut into ½-inch cubes, or 10 cups lightly packed bread cubes. Place into the largest bowl you own or can borrow. (Trust me.)

Toast ½ to 1 cup of piñon nuts until lightly browned. Set aside for now.

In a large skillet on medium to high heat, fully cook 1 pound of spicy pork sausage. Transfer cooked sausage to another bowl, keeping drippings in the frying pan.

Heat butter in the same large skillet over medium-high heat until the foam subsides. Add onions, celery, green chile and cook, stirring until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in parsley, sage, thyme, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cloves.

Stir this mixture into the bread cubes and toss until well combined. Depending on how much butter you started with and how firm you want the stuffing, stir in, a little at a time, until the stuffing is lightly moist but not packed together:

2 large eggs, well beaten (I always use 2 eggs).

One-third to 1 cup of chicken stock (Note: If I am cooking the stuffing inside the turkey, I do not add chicken stock. However, if cooking in a dish in the oven, I add enough to make the stuffing moist but not wet.)

Once bread, vegetables, and seasoning are well mixed, add sausage and piñon nuts. Adjust seasonings to taste.

1. To use as a turkey stuffing, reheat just before spooning it into the bird(s). Or moisten with additional chicken stock and/or egg. (I stuff the turkey and put it in the oven immediately, so I don’t have to do this step.)

2. To cook outside of the turkey, turn into a large, shallow buttered baking dish. Bake in a 350 degrees oven until the top has formed a crust and the stuffing is heated through, 25 to 40 minutes. (Note that I prepare both ways. I cover the stuffing in the oven – not in the turkey – with foil for most of the time and then remove with 10 minutes left to let it brown and form a crust.

Enjoy! And have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving this year, with the hope that we can all be together with families in 2021.

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