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East County Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021 8 months ago

East Bradenton residents share Thanksgiving stuffing traditions

Thanksgiving tweaks produce stuffing that will be gobbled up.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

East County’s Rebecca Blitz remembered the first time she ate her family’s dressing on Thanksgiving.

She was 4 years old, sitting at the family feast in Louisiana. She picked up her fork and grabbed a small portion of dressing.

She was disgusted. 

Blitz, who was born and raised in Louisiana, wasn’t sure what it was, but a gooey glob was dangling from her fork. All she could think was “yuck.”

Her family’s New Orleans oyster dressing is a Thanksgiving tradition passed down for generations. As a child, Blitz didn’t care much for the Cajun-style stuffing, but as the years have passed, and she started to make the recipe for her own family, she’s grown an appreciation and love for oysters and the Louisiana dressing.

Blitz is preparing to make her family recipe once again this year but with a twist. She likes to add crab meat or shrimp to her stuffing.

“You have to like seafood, but it doesn’t taste fishy,” she said.

Greyhawk Landing's Sheila Bianco makes bacon to go in her stuffing. Courtesy photo.

Greyhawk Landing’s Sheila Bianco also has made changes to a family recipe that was passed down from her grandmother Josephine Grande to her mother, Antonia Grande, and on to her.

Growing up, Bianco remembered always having a traditional stuffing but with giblets mixed in. It was the norm for her family, so when she married Domenic Bianco and made the recipe for his family on Thanksgiving, she was surprised to find they wouldn’t eat it.

After that first Thanksgiving together, Bianco made changes to her recipe. Rather than giblets, she added bacon and cranberries.

“Everybody loves bacon,” she said.

The new recipe was a hit.

She said the stuffing that’s cooked inside the turkey is everyone’s favorite. She calls it “gold” because the juices enhance the flavor, making it even more delicious than when it’s  prepared in a dish.

Some families like to stick with a classic stuffing of bread, celery, onions, turkey stock, sage, butter, salt and pepper. 

Greg Campbell, the executive chef and director of operations at Grove, has become a master at making traditional stuffing. He’s prepared stuffing for the restaurant for the past 16 years. He’s feeding 5,400 people on Thanksgiving.

“This is traditional grandma’s stuffing,” Campbell said. “We do everything from scratch.”

Campbell recommends preparing the stuffing the day before Thanksgiving to allow turkey stock to saturate the ingredients.

“It helps to solidify it a little bit,” he said. “Also, when you put it in the oven, it allows it to bake evenly.”

When making his stuffing, Campbell doesn’t depend on exact measurements but rather uses his eyes to judge the proper amount.

Campbell said a common mistake people make is adding too much turkey stock. If the bread starts falling apart, there’s too much liquid, so add more bread.

“It is not willy nilly,” Campbell said. “It is taking your time. You can’t take the liquid out, but you can always put it in.”

Campbell remembered when he first started doing Thanksgiving dinner at Pier 22 in downtown Bradenton and someone else made the stuffing.

“We literally had to squeeze out the liquid (from the bread),” Campbell said. “It was like a sponge. It was terrible. We decided that nobody else touches the stuffing.”

On Thanksgiving, Campbell said to bake the stuffing in a separate dish from the turkey to ensure the stuffing is cooked all the way through to avoid chances of food poisoning.


New Orleans Oyster Dressing


  • 1 ½ pounds turkey or chicken giblets
  • 3 loaves stale French bread, about 9 ounces each, torn
  • Oil
  • 1 pint oysters, chopped if large, and their liquid
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups finely chopped onions
  • ⅓ cup chopped green onions
  • 1 ½ cups chopped celery
  • ⅓ cup green pepper
  • 3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Directions (can be used to stuff a 12-pound turkey or can be cooked in a large greased casserole dish at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes): 

  • In a saucepan, cover the giblets with water and boil until tender. Save the boiling liquid.
  • Put the cooked giblets through a meat grinder or process in a food processor until minced. 
  • Combine the giblet broth and oyster liquid in a large bowl and soak the French bread in it. 
  • In a large skillet, sauté the onions in oil. When brown, add green onions and celery. Add bell pepper, then add the ground giblets followed by the chopped oysters.
  • Squeeze the excess liquid from the bread. Add the bread to the other ingredients, along with the parsley, salt and pepper. 
  • Remove from heat and quickly stir in the eggs. 
  • Stuff in turkey or put in casserole dish.


Greyhawk Landing's Sheila Bianco adds bacon and cranberries to a traditional stuffing recipe to make her famous Mama B's gold stuffing for Thanksgiving. Courtesy photo.

Mama B’s Gold Recipe


  • 3 lbs thick-cut maple smoked bacon
  • 8 cups organic celery cut in quarter inch pieces
  • 4 cups Vidalia onions chopped
  • 2 to 4 sticks of organic salted or unsalted butter
  • 3 32-oz. containers of organic chicken or vegetable stock
  • 4 cups organic dried cranberries
  • Poultry seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 bags Pepperidge Farms Country Style Seasoned Cubed Stuffing


  • Cut bacon into ¼ to ½ inch pieces and fry in large frying pan until crispy. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a thick layer of paper towels. Drain residual fat from frying pan. 
  • Using the same frying pan, place chopped onion in a layer, with the celery on top.
  • Cut 2 to 4 sticks of butter into thirds, lengthwise. Place butter on top of celery. Add poultry seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and sauté over medium heat. Let simmer for 5 minutes and then start to turn mixture to combine. Cook until celery and onions are cloudy/clear not milky white, about 15 minutes.
  • Add cranberries and bacon, cover and set aside. 
  • In the stock pot: Combine one bag of bread cubes and one-half of your onion/celery/cranberry/bacon mixture and mix together. Add a second bag of bread cubes and the remainder of the onion/celery/cranberry/bacon mixture. Mix well.
  • Slowly add 32 oz. of organic chicken stock, mixing as you pour. Add a second 32 oz. of stock, making sure that you do not put so much that the bread cubes breakdown and become mushy (this will ensure that the stuffing will not expand too much in the bird, but fully cook as well.) You may need part of a third container of the stock to get this just right. Stuffing that will not fit in your bird can be cooked separately.
  • Use aluminum foil to cover stuffing at the ends of the bird before trussing so that stuffing stays in the bird and not in your pan.  


Puerto Rican Stuffing


  • 3-4 green plantains
  • A few pieces of pork rinds
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Olive oil


  • Cut the plantains into pieces and fry them well. Dry them on paper towels and mash them.
  • Mash the pork rinds and garlic.
  • Combine the plantains, pork rinds and garlic and mix in oil so the mixture is soft. 
  • Stuff the mixture in the turkey, and cook.


Greg Campbell, the executive chef and director of operations at the Grove restaurant, sautés onions and celery in butter.

Traditional stuffing

Ingredients (measured by sight): 

  • Butter
  • Pieces of homemade bread that's been toasted
  • Turkey stock
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Salt and pepper


  • In a large skillet, melt the butter.
  • Add onion and celery. Season with salt, pepper and sage.
  • Once the onions and celery are a little brown, add turkey stock.
  • With the toasted bread pieces in a bowl, pour the onion and celery mixture into bowl with the bread, and mix them together.
  • Add more salt and sage. Add parsley and more turkey stock to the mixture little by little. Mix until all the bread is saturated and you can't hear the sound of the bread hitting against the bowl.
  • Leave the stuffing in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Bake uncovered in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.

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