Sort of a scrappy extramural stuffing, this is a warm mix of crispy, tender and chewy chunks of bread, moistened with vinaigrette and turkey drippings. It is a holiday variation on our traditional bread salad—I've substituted dried cranberries for the usual dried currants. Tasting as you make it is obligatory, and fun. I recommend you allow a little extra bread and vinaigrette the first time you make this recipe, so you can taste with impunity. For the best texture, use chewy, peasant-style bread with lots of big and little holes in the crumb. Such loaves are usually scaled at 1 or 2 pounds; plan on 1/4-pound bread per person. I don't use sourdough or levain type bread for this recipe, finding the sour flavor too strong and rich for this dish. And make sure to use day-old bread; fresh bread can make a soggy, doughy salad.
- 3 pounds slightly stale, open-crumbed, chewy, peasant-style bread (not sourdough)
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups mild tasting olive oil
- Generous 1/2 cup Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 6 tablespoons dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 6 tablespoons warm water
- 1/4 cup lightly salted chicken stock or lightly salted water
- 3/4 cup pine nuts
- About 12 garlic cloves, slivered
- 3 cups slivered scallions, including a little of the green part (about 24 scallions)
- About 12 ounces arugula, frisée or red mustard greens, carefully washed and dried
Starting the bread salad (you can do this step up to several hours in advance):
1. Pre-heat the broiler.
2. Cut the bread into a couple of large chunks. Carve off all of the bottom crust, and most of the top and side crust. (Place the top and side crusts in a plastic bag to use as croutons in salads or soups.) Brush the bread overall with olive oil. Broil very briefly, to crisp and lightly color the surface. Don't worry that the edges are dark. Turn the bread chunks over and crisp the other side. Trim only badly charred tips, then tear the chunks into a combination of irregular 2- to 3-inch wads, bite-sized bits, and fat crumbs.
3. Combine about 1 1/2 cups of the olive oil with the Champagne or white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss about 1 1/2 cups of this tart vinaigrette with the torn bread in a wide bowl (or 2 if your bowl isn't large enough!). The bread will be unevenly dressed. Taste one of the more saturated pieces. If bland, add a little salt and pepper and toss again.
4. Place the currants in a bowl and moisten with the red wine vinegar and 6 tablespoons water. Set aside.
Finishing the bread salad:
5. Place the pine nuts in a small baking dish and set in the oven with the turkey for a minute or two, just to warm through. Add them to the bowl of bread. Place a few tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium skillet, add the garlic and scallions and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until softened. Don't let them color. Scrape into the bread and fold to combine. Drain and fold in the plumped currants. Dribble the chicken stock or lighted salted water overall and fold again. Taste a few pieces of bread, a fairly saturated one and a dryish one. If it is bland, add salt, pepper or a few drops of vinegar, then toss well after you adjust. Since the basic character of the bread salad depends on the bread you use, these adjustments can be essential. Pile the bread salad in a deep baking dish (or a few dishes) and tent with foil. Place in the oven after you remove the turkey to warm through, about 20 minutes.
6. Spoon off a few tablespoons of drippings from the turkey platter and set aside. Tip the bread salad into the salad bowl or bowls. It will be steamy hot—a mixture of soft, moist crispy-on-the-outside-but-moist-in-the-middle wads, and a few downright crispy ones. Drizzle and toss with the dripping. Add the greens, another healthy splash of vinaigrette and fold well. Taste and adjust any seasoning, then serve promptly.