This year like so many other people, I will not be seeing my family on Thanksgiving. Prior to this year, I've only missed one Thanksgiving holiday with my parents and siblings and that was when I was studying abroad in Hong Kong for my junior year of college. And since I married 14 years ago, this will be the first Thanksgiving that my mother in law will not be making the trek out from Paris. It will be a much smaller celebration this year, we're roasting a chicken and vegetables but stuffing is for me, what really makes a meal a Thanksgiving meal.
I took a cooking class years ago called Everything but the Turkey with local LA chef Elana Horwich. Her stuffing recipe has become my family's favorite holiday recipe. My mother who is an incredibly picky eater (Vegetarian now Vegan) even has requested it. It will make all other stuffing recipes pale in comparison.
It's secret lies in the use of really good bread. I grew up with my grandmother and mother using store bought bread cube from a mix and while I always enjoyed it, one taste of this stuffing and I knew there was no turning back. Elana calls for La Brea Bakery Multigrain but this year since my local market didn't have it I'm using Ciabatta. The point is, it should be good quality fresh bread.
This recipe is not hard to make, it just involves a bit of elbow grease with a lot of chopping since it's loaded with fennel, leeks and portobello mushrooms, some of my favorite vegetables which provide a unique flavor profile. Sausage is an optional ingredient that I happen to like but leave it out and use vegetable stock and you have a delicious vegetarian stuffing. I hope you will enjoy it with your family and be well!
Multi Grain Stuffing With Portobello Mushrooms and Fennel
Serves 6-10, you may easily double or triple the recipe
Ingredients:1 pound loaf (more or less) of best quality crusty multi-grain bread. (I use La Brea Bakery Multi-grain loaf)
2 links uncooked chicken sausage (mild Italian or chicken apple), squeezed out of its casing. (optional)
1 ½ tablespoons chopped sage
1 tablespoon thyme sprigs + 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
3 fennel bulbs
3 portobello mushrooms
2 + 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (*watch video on how to choose the best olive oil)
1 + 1 teaspoons of kosher salt
2 ½ cups of homemade chicken broth (You can use a box of organic chicken broth, simmered for a good 30 minutes with a piece of carrot, celery, onion peel and bay leaf.)
⅛ cup parsley
freshly ground pepper
Roast the Mushrooms and Fennel:
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
3. Wash mushrooms.
3a. Pull off stem and slice mushrooms into ½ inch slices.
3b. Lay on one of the baking sheets and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Add some fresh ground pepper.
3c. Holding the thyme sprigs at one end, use the fingers of your other hand to gently slide down the stem, pulling off the leaves and sprinkling them on mushrooms.
3d. Use your fingers to mix mushrooms, lick your fingers, adjust seasoning as necessary, and lay them back down flat.
4. Prep the Fennel:
4a. Cut the feathery fronds off the fennel so you are left with just the bulb. Cut the bulb in half vertically. Using a paring knife carefully remove the triangularly shaped tough core. Cut the fennel into vertical slices about ¼ inch thick and then again into ¼ inch cubes.
4b. Place fennel on other baking sheet and douse with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt and add freshly ground pepper.
4c. Use your fingers to mix it all together, lick your fingers to test seasoning, adjust as necessary and lay fennel back down flat.
5. Put both sheets in oven and roast for about 17-20 minutes.
Stale the Bread:
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Cut bread into cubes ranging from ¼ inch squares to 1 inch squares.
Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool.
The Sauté and the Sausage:
In a large pan, over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter.
Sauté onion, leeks, celery, sage and tablespoon of thyme for about 7 minutes. Put in large bowl.
If you are using chicken sausage, add another tablespoon of butter to pan and sauté for about 4 minutes or until just cooked. Add to the bowl.
Assemble the Stuffing:
Put the mushrooms, fennel, the saute, the sausage, and the bread in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, parsley, and broth to the bowl and mix well. Season generously with freshly ground pepper.
Transfer to a casserole dish and dot with remaining 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of butter (or duck fat)
Cover with aluminum foil.
Bake the Stuffing:
Bake for 30 minutes at 375°F.
Uncover and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, until browned and crisp on top.
Serve right out of the oven!
Make Ahead Prep:
Up to 2 days ahead of Thanksgiving, complete sections 1-3 of the recipe, which includes roasting the mushrooms and fennel, stale-ing of the bread, and the sautéing and the sausage. Refrigerate the goods. On the day of, all you need to do is assemble, and stick in the oven for 30 minutes! Voilà!