By Ann Pittman
November 15, 2011
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When we were invited by the editors of FoodNetwork.com and their blog FN Dish to attend a virtual Thanksgiving dinner, where we’d be joined by other members of the food community who all would contribute a dish, I knew immediately what dish I would choose: Fennel, Sausage, and Caramelized Apple Stuffing.

Why? Well, because it’s just that good. The flavors are classic—sausage, apple, sage—so the Thanksgiving traditionalists will be happy. (After all, isn’t this holiday meal the most tied-to-tradition of all?) But for those who like a little oomph mixed into their tradition, there are some new flavor twists that make this stuffing more interesting. It starts with the choice of bread—sourdough, with its full, tangy flavor. We also toss in fennel (both fennel bulb and a hint of fennel seeds) to add light anise notes to the mix. Even the apple gets a little extra: It’s caramelized for deeper, richer flavor with the slightest whiff of burned sugar. And the cooking technique is perfect. Once everything is stirred together, the dish bakes covered for a while and then uncovered for a while, giving you the best of both worlds, texture-wise: a moist, almost creamy-bready interior and a deliciously crisp top crust. With every bite, you discover something new that you love about this stuffing! And there’s even more to love… It’s a healthy option for a meal that’s usually anything but. This stuffing includes over nine cups of fruits and vegetables, and it’s much lower in calories, sat fat, and sodium than a traditional bread stuffing with sausage—saving you as much as 500 calories, 16 grams sat fat, and 1800 milligrams sodium per serving!

Browse all of our Thanksgiving stuffing recipes—from traditional to those with a twist plus our entire collection of Thanksgiving Menus.

HERE'S THE MENU FOR THE FULL VIRTUAL THANKSGIVING DINNER: