Marilyn Monroe’s stuffing recipe called for liver and eggs

Marilyn Monroe's handwritten stuffing recipe called for liver, raisins, and hard-boiled eggs.  (Photos: Getty/Jenny Kellerhals)

Marilyn Monroe’s handwritten stuffing recipe called for liver, raisins, and hard-boiled eggs. (Photos: Getty/Jenny Kellerhals)

There’s an old icebreaker question: If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would you choose? But what if you had to ask those dinner guests to bring a covered platter? Many people would choose Marilyn Monroe as one of their guests from a conversation standpoint, but it turns out her stuffing recipe can also make her an impressive choice for a potluck dinner party.

Behind the face of a Hollywood starlet, Monroe was an avid home cook who collected cookbooks and filled them with handwritten recipes and shopping lists. Her well-worn cookbooks are such a charming glimpse into Monroe’s personal life that two of them are expected to fetch up to $75,000 this year at auction through Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries in New York, NY

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get your hands on some of Monroe’s personal recipes. The book Fragments: poems, intimate notes, letters, published in 2010, includes a handwritten recipe for Monroe’s stuffing that I recreated just in time for Christmas this year. Not only is it Monroe’s personal stuffing recipe, it’s also interesting because of the addition of liver, ground beef, hard-boiled eggs, raisins, and parmesan cheese.

(Photo: Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe)

(Photo: Fragments: poems, intimate notesletters from Marilyn Monroe)

Like many handwritten recipes, quite a bit has been left open to interpretation in this recipe, so here’s how I chose to recreate it.

After noting “no garlic” at the top of the recipe (which is a bit odd), Monroe notes that sourdough or French bread should be used. Sourdough would have been appropriate in San Francisco, California, where Monroe probably lived at the time. She wrote this recipe out – indicated by the insurance company letterhead on which the recipe is written, but it seems she may have used French bread in making this one stuffing for chicken. I went with the sourdough because I had it on hand.

She then specifies “guts”, with “liver heart” underneath. Giblets is a collective name for the edible muscles and organs in the bird, including the heart, liver and gizzard. You can find them in the pouch that usually comes in your bird’s den at the grocery store. In many shops you can also buy guts, hearts and livers separately.

The ingredients for Monroe's stuffing, which also contained Parmesan cheese and ground beef.  (Photo: Jenny Kellerhals)

The ingredients for Monroe’s stuffing, which also contained Parmesan cheese and ground beef. (Photo: Jenny Kellerhals)

I asked Hugue Dufour, chef and owner of M. Wells restaurant in Queens, NY why anyone prefers liver over heart, and it comes down to a matter of texture. “The hearts [muscular]so it will be more like the meat you chop it with,” says Dufour. On the other hand, the liver is an organ known for being more tender with a creamy mouthfeel.

There’s no wrong choice here, but I chose to go exclusively with liver, so as not to compete with the meatiness of the ground beef, and to add a creamier element to the filling since it contains no butter or milk.

Dufour also says that you generally want to use the guts of the animal that a stuffing is being put in (in our case chicken livers with a chicken), but if you can’t get your hands on turkey liver, it’s fine to use chicken instead.

It’s unclear how much liver to use, so I used about ½ pound. If you’re particularly fond of chicken liver, it’s perfectly acceptable to add more, as it’s relatively inexpensive and often sold in packages of a pound or more.

I used about half a pound of chicken livers.  (Photo: Jenny Kellerhals)

I used about half a pound of chicken livers. (Photo: Jenny Kellerhals)

According to the recipe, the liver should be boiled in water for 5 to 10 minutes. I split the difference and boiled the livers in salted water for about 8 minutes. If you prefer to sear them, you can do that quickly too. “You stroke [the liver] dry, quickly sear it on each side and it’s done in no time,” says Dufour.

“Spices” are listed, a mix of herbs and spices. The recipe says “put rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, oregano…” without specifying fresh or dried herbs. I chose fresh and added about two tablespoons of each, finely chopped. This portion of the recipe also calls for poultry seasoning, which is traditionally a mix of dried herbs including sage, thyme, and marjoram. If you can’t find poultry seasoning, you can use any chicken seasoning that appeals to you.

Moving on, the recipe calls for one cup of chopped nuts, listing “walnuts, chestnuts, and pine nuts,” but doesn’t give specific measurements for each. I chose to add a cup of chopped walnuts and ⅓ of a cup of pine nuts. The recipe also calls for “1 ½ cups or more” of raisins, which may put some people off. You can bet they’ll be a great addition to your filling, but feel free to replace the raisins with any dried fruit you like, including apricots, prunes, dates, cranberries, or cherries.

Finally, the recipe calls for “1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped,” which is a bit different from traditional stuffing recipes that call for eggs to act as a binder during baking.

Monroe's stuffing can be baked in your bird or in a casserole dish.  (Photo: Jenny Kellerhals)

Monroe’s stuffing can be baked in your bird or in a casserole dish. (Photo: Jenny Kellerhals)

This recipe consists of about 85% chopping and preparing, 5% mixing and 10% baking. Use the largest bowl you have, as this recipe makes enough filling to generously fill a standard baking dish. I baked about three-quarters of the filling in a shell and stuffed the rest into a 4.5 pound chicken to see how it would taste each way. While the recipe differs substantially from the stuffing my family usually brings to the table, it absolutely smelled heavenly when it came out of the oven and tasted great for dinner, topped with a little gravy to bring it all together.

Marilyn Monroe’s stuffing

Adapted from Fragments: poems, intimate notes, letters by Marilyn Monroe

(Photo: Jenny Kellerhals)

(Photo: Jenny Kellerhals)

Ingredients:

  • Sourdough, about 1 lb

  • ½ pound chicken livers

  • ½ pound ground beef (85% lean)

  • 1 onion, medium white or yellow, finely chopped

  • 4 celery stalks, finely chopped

  • 1 ½ cups flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons each: fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, fresh oregano

  • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried, finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste

  • 1 tablespoon of pepper

  • 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning

  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

  • 1 ½ cups raisins or various dried fruits, chopped

  • 1 ⅓ cups mixed walnuts, chestnuts and pine nuts

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Cut the sourdough in half and soak in cold water for 10 minutes. Remove from the water, wring it out and shred the bread in a large mixing bowl.

  2. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the chicken livers and cook for 8 minutes, skimming off any impurities that come to the top. Drain and cool. While the liver is cooking and cooling, fry the ground beef with a pinch of salt and pepper in a skillet without additional oil. Cut the cooled liver into small pieces the size of the cooked pieces of ground beef. Add the browned beef and chopped liver to the large bowl with the torn sourdough.

  3. Add all other prepared ingredients to the bowl and mix well. If baking separately, butter or lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and bake at 350 F for about 45 minutes, until top is lightly browned, visible onion bits are tender, and all bread pieces on surface are dry and crispy. If you’re stuffing a chicken or turkey, prepare your bird to your liking and cook according to the weight of the bird — keep in mind that the stuffing temperature should reach 165 F along with the bird.

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