Herbed mushroom stuffing
FoodA stuffing worthy of Thanksgiving

Herbed mushroom stuffing

Herbed mushroom stuffing (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Herbed mushroom stuffing (Photo by Jessica Grann)

I’m so happy to share my savory stuffing recipe that complements both turkey and roast chicken. I find that many people associate stuffing with Thanksgiving, but I cook and enjoy it all winter long.

This has warming herbs like sage, thyme, rosemary and marjoram, which come in a seasoning blend simply called “poultry seasoning.” My recipe is easy to prepare, and the addition of mushrooms is a fantastic way to get more vegetables into the meal while elevating the flavor.

You can make this the day before and warm it up before your meal. If you love stuffing but are not a fan of mushrooms, you can omit them and still get a wonderful result.

3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cups of onion, diced
1½ cups of celery, diced
4 cups of white mushrooms thinly sliced
1½ teaspoons of dried sage
2 teaspoons of poultry seasoning
¾ teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of black pepper
2 cups of chicken broth
10 cups of dried bread cubes

The most important factor in making stuffing is making sure that the bread you’re using has been toasted in the oven. Don’t skip the step of toasting fresh bread cubes — you will end up with a sloppy mess if you use soft bread pieces.

I was lucky this year and able to find stuffing cubes for sale at my local bakery, but you can use any bread that you may have on hand. When I’m going to be making stuffing, I take my leftover bread, cube it and place it on a cookie sheet in a 180-degree oven for 10-15 minutes to dry it out. (This is also how you make homemade breadcrumbs: You just need to grind the bread up after it’s dried out.)

Keep an eye on the bread while it’s toasting because you don’t want it to burn. You can use all white bread, but if you have some pumpernickel or cornbread, you can mix it in with the white bread which could be made from challah, Italian bread or even sliced sandwich bread.

Just keep in mind that better quality bread will give you a better-tasting stuffing. If you’re making the bread cubes ahead of time, store the toasted bread in an airtight container until you’re ready to cook with it.

Measure out 10 cups of dried bread cubes and put them in a large mixing bowl before you prepare the savory broth.

Set your oven to 350 degrees.

Add the olive oil to a large pot and turn the flame to medium heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the mushrooms to the pot, stir them well with the onion mixture and cook them for 5-7 minutes. The mushrooms should appear soft and cooked but still have firmness to them. Be careful not to overcook the mushrooms because they will bake in the oven, and you want them to retain their shape.

Add the herbs, salt and spices to the pot. Stir well and allow it to cook for a minute more before adding the chicken broth. Bring the chicken stock to a gentle boil. Once the broth is gently bubbling, you can pour the hot liquid over the bowl of bread cubes. Mix well and allow the bread to stand for 10 minutes so that the liquid softens the toasted bread.

Transfer the stuffing to an ungreased 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish, cover it with foil and bake it for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake it for an additional 10 minutes before serving.

You can also use this recipe to stuff a turkey or chicken. My absolute favorite is when stuffing has been cooked inside of a bird. It collects all the juices from the poultry, and it will have a softer consistency than stuffing baked in a casserole dish.

You need to be careful about cross-contamination. Make the stuffing as directed, then take about ¼ of it and put it into a separate bowl. Be sure to use a separate spoon in the smaller bowl to stuff the bread mixture into the cavity of the bird. If you need more stuffing for the bird, use the clean spoon in the larger bowl to transfer extra stuffing into the smaller bowl. Immediately wash the spoon and bowl to avoid bacteria in your sink.

If you accidentally cross-contaminate the bowl, you need to bake the larger portion immediately. If you were careful, you can cover the unbaked version and store it in the fridge until closer to dinner.

I’m admittedly a little OCD when cooking raw poultry, and I usually spray my entire sink and the utensils that were used with a bleach solution immediately after preparation. When cooking stuffing inside of chicken or turkey, it is extremely important to use a digital thermometer to check the temperature to avoid bacterial illness.

Instead of poking the flesh of the bird to check the temperature, insert the probe into the center of the cavity, directly into the stuffing. The temperature must reach 165 degrees for food safety.

If the temperature is not at 165 degrees and your bird is looking a bit brown, loosely wrap the entire bird in foil. If you check the temperature and it’s below 165 degrees, be sure to wash the thermometer immediately so that it’s clean when you recheck the temperature of the stuffing. If you use a thermometer, you can put any fear of illness to the side.

I rarely suggest cooking tools to readers, but an instant digital read thermometer is a must for your health, and there are affordable versions available online and in stores.

When you stuff a chicken or turkey, you must let the bird rest on the countertop for half an hour before removing the stuffing. It can be steamy, so be careful not to burn yourself.

Use a large spoon to scoop the stuffing out into a separate bowl and carve the bird as you wish. If the bird is steaming hot, it usually carves better if it rests (empty of stuffing) for an additional 15-20 minutes. A small chicken will cool much more quickly than a large turkey.

This recipe makes one large 9-inch-by-13-inch casserole dish that serves 6-8 people. The recipe is too large to fill a turkey or chicken cavity.

If you wish to stuff the bird, take the amount that you need for that purpose, then place the additional stuffing mixture into a smaller casserole dish and bake as directed. This recipe can be easily doubled if you’re expecting a crowd; just divide it between two casserole dishes when baking.

Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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