I have to stop the show. I think it needs said that no one has ever mentioned, let alone surrendered the recipe for, The Filling. I know I've lost many of you already, but sit tight, I am coming back for you.
The Filling: This esteemed and shadowy culinary creation comes to us via my Godmother's family hailing from Hazelton, Pennsylvania. It is, all at once, a stuffing, a Frank Stitt style savory bread pudding, and a rich bread casserole. It is airy with custard and deeply eggy with undoubtedly specially considered bread: Saved and frozen from the blessed Easter loaves, maybe. Or gently mixed with challah. It is very hard to say whether the bread is toasted before incorporation or not .or whether there is a ratio of bread to custard or the ladies of Margaret's family make the Filling by feel and with a cadence developed as children.
I should say first, I have not seen The Filling in recent years and there is some good information afoot that I just might see the pillowy eathenware bowl of golden crusty magic this year. This potential event is very much on my mind you see because this is no Stove Top-y looking mongrel. This is the Queen of Holiday Accompaniments. The Holy Grail of Turkey Side Dishes. The Mother of all Good Bread Dishes. And hard as Food Network may try, nothing they have told you about what goes with the turkey is true: They don't know from side dishes. They don't Thing 1 about perfect stuffing. Here is who does: The Sharkeys of Hazelton, Pennsylvania. Write it down. Call your Mom tell her that her hoax is done, she can quit the stuffing masquerade and lay down her slotted spoon. Give her that name and tell her if she can find these ladies, get them to reveal the details of the revered Filling, and return home to recreate it, she will be the envy of all.
Sadly, the Hostess is unable to help you in your Stuffing Grail quest because the Hostess is as in the dark as you. And the Hostess would be questing right along side you through the mysterious peaks and valleys of Pennsylvania heritage cuisine: Through the pickled egg forest, tasty sausage hollows, and remarkable homemade bread hills, but the Hostess is very much at Hostess High Alert. Known in the Hostess' world as Warning Level Red, I am tied to the oven with the baking involved with a holiday cocktail party for 50 which seems to now be precariously hovering around 80. And that's almost as serious as this stuffing enigma, People.
Because I am prevented by other festive obligations from assisting you in this quest, I encourage you to begin a letter writing campaign to the Sharkey's who read here often, issue public appeals in newspaper ads, letters to editors, and cable commercials. Why stop there? A billboard conspicuously located near their routes of travel! Another on your front lawn! A sit in! Do what you have to do, but for the sake of all of us forced to endure seemingly endless Food Network segments on pretenders to the Filling Throne, prevail upon this family to give up the secret!
Happy Thanksgiving and Heritage Recipe Cooking to you all!