Okay. So. Here’s the thing.
When I was a kid, my grandmother always called stuffing, “dressing”. I would try my hardest not to give her side eye and move on with my day. I always thought, “it’s not Thousand Islands, it’s stuffing”. It seems that this is what happens below the Mason-Dixon line. Southerners tend to refer to the dish as dressing no matter what, and us Yanks always call it stuffing. I learned later that, at least in this situation, she was right. The real answer is that if you bake it stuffed inside of a bird (or anything else with a cavity to stuff), then yes, it is stuffing. That’s because you stuff with something it, but if you serve it on the side, baked separately, it is called dressing. That’s because, while they weren’t cooked together, you use one to “dress” the other.
So, as much as it pains me to admit it, Grandma was right, and now I’m sharing a recipe for “dressing”. Look at me, sharing a Thanksgiving recipe over a full week before the big day! Aren’t I organized and proactive? Yep. Sure am. It’s almost like I’m a real blogger or something!
As someone who truly LOVES food, both preparing and eating, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. The pies, the huge spread filled with a variety of veggies, the giant golden bird, and a feast that seems to go on all day, eating “dinner” in the early afternoon and going back for seconds and maybe even thirds between naps. Christmas is great, but in my family it can be a bit hectic and stressful, but on Thanskgiving you get all the food and all the family without the pressure. Even when I was a vegetarian, Thanksgiving was my favorite because I love all the sides almost even more than the Turkey itself.
This year we’re not able to head home to be with family for Thanksgiving, so we’re hosting our own here in Brooklyn with a couple of friends. One of our guests is a vegetarian, so as much as I’d love to fill the dressing with sausage and chicken stock, I’ve thought of something just as good! This dressing is STUFFED (get it?) with the meaty texture and earthy flavor of mushrooms and the savory goodness of celery, onions, leeks & herbs.
Rather than buy a stale old bag of pre-cubed bread, I started with a fresh country sourdough loaf which I cut into 1/2 cubes. I like to trim the crusts off, especially the bottom crust, because they can be tough and chewy in the finished dressing. Once the loaf is completely cubed I dried them in the oven on 275 for 30 minutes or so, turning occasionally to prevent browning. Starting with fresh bread gives you a dressing with a firm custardy texture rather than the bread crumb mush that you sometimes end up with when you used boxed or bagged mixes.
All the herbs and savory vegetables combine with the mushrooms in such a rich earthy way and make for such a flavorful dressing. Everyone, vegetarian on not, will love it. If you arent’ worried about making your Thanksgiving feast vegetarian friendly, you can definitely swap the vegetable stock for chicken or turkey.
Oh my god you guys, it’s just over a week away! I’m so excited!
It’s going to be a busy week!
Mushroom, Leek & Sourdough Dressing
3 large leeks
1 small onion, diced
5 stalks celery, cut into large dice
coarse kosher salt & pepper
3/4 lb white button mushrooms, cut into large dice
1/2 lb portabello mushrooms, cut into large dice
2 tablespoons sage, finely chopped
2 teaspoons thyme, finely chopped
8 cups sourdough, cut into 1 cubes and dried
3 to 4 cups vegetable (or chicken or turkey) stock
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
To prepare your leeks, slice the white and tender green parts in thin disks, and slice each disk in half. Discard the deep green leaves. Place all the sliced leeks into a bowl and top with cold water. Leeks are very sandy so this is important. scoop the leeks out being careful not to disturb the sand at the bottom of the bowl. Repeat, and set aside.
In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and saute onions and celery over medium high heat. Season generously with salt and pepper. When the onions are getting soft and translucent, after about 5 minutes, add all of your mushrooms, leeks and herbs. Turn the heat up to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and the leeks are soft and tender. Mushrooms have a lot of moisture so this could take up to 20 minutes or so. Remove mixture from heat and transfer to a large bowl to cool completely.
Add bread crumbs into cooled mushroom mixture and stir until well combined. Stir in stock and adjust seasoning if needed. Stir in eggs and transfer mixture to a 2 quart oven safe dish. Dot the top with remaining butter and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes, remove foil and bake 25 minutes more.