stuffing

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks

I tend to go a little crazy around Thanksgiving every year.

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

Not only is it one of my favorite holidays, one that I take VERY seriously, but it’s also the beginning of the busiest season of the year where I work.

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

No matter how much planning and thinking ahead I do to make things easy on myself, the chaos at work and the perfection pressure I put on myself always starts to overwhelm me in the week or so before the day of the big bird.

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

This year I’ve been poking around the internet for tips and ideas on the best way to host a stress-free Thanksgiving; and make sure every aspect of the day, from the shopping and prep work to the serving and cleaning up, goes as smoothly as possible.

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

This ain’t my first time at the rodeo, so a lot of the information I found wasn’t entirely new to me. One tip that I realized would actually make a big difference though, is not testing out any new-to-me recipes when I have a million other things going on in the kitchen.

Sometimes those unfamiliar recipes on Pinterest may look perfectly delicious on the screen but can actually turn out to be a big fat flop in reality. You don’t need to add that flop possibility, or any extra time figuring out a new recipe, to the already lengthy list of chores and worries you have when people are on their way for the biggest meal of the year.

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

Even when the tips I’ve found haven’t been entirely new to me, I’ve tried to do my best to share them with you on facebook and pinterest. I hope you’ve been learning (and making your lives easier) right a long with me.

If you don’t follow me on social media, you totally should. Not only does it make me feel warm and fuzzy to get new “likes” and “follows”, but you might learn something too! I try to share as much information as I can right here on the blog, but I can only do (and write) so much. When I find something interesting or helpful on the internet that I don’t have the time or expertise to blog about, I try my best to the share the wealth on social media so you don’t feel left out.

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

This Thanksgiving I’ll be making the same (life-changing) turkey recipe that I made last year, along with some pies that I’m completely comfortable with.

In the name of not testing new recipes with so many other projects in play, I’ve been working on a few things ahead of time to make sure I know what to expect and don’t need to work out any kinks. Last week a good friend was visiting from out of town so I used her as a guinea pig for my new sweet potato gratin recipe and this here apple walnut dressing (or stuffing, if you prefer, though technically it’s not stuffing unless it’s actually stuffed in something).

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

This recipe has everything I want to see in my dressing. Yeasty artisan bread made tender with rich stock on the inside with a crispy craggy buttery golden top. The variety of flavors and textures going on here are the perfect compliment to any roasted poultry (or pork), no matter what the occasion. Tender sweet apples, crunchy bitter walnuts, chewy savory sausage, and rich caramelized leeks all brought together with plenty of autumnal herbs and a mixture of chicken stock and apple cider. I seriously cannot get enough of these flavor combinations this time of year, and I think you and your friends and family won’t be able to either.

This can easily be made vegetarian by leaving out the sausage and swapping vegetable stock for chicken. There are more than enough other elements and flavors at play here that the dressing will still be amazing, and truth be told, it looks like I’ll be leaving the sausage out myself to accommodate my guests.

apple walnut dressing with sausage and caramelized leeks | Brooklyn Homemaker

Apple Walnut Dressing with Sausage and Caramelized Leeks

Inspired by thekitchn

One 1 1/2 to 2 pound loaf artisan bread
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage (spicy works too)
2 cups thinly sliced leeks or 1 cup finely diced onion
3 celery stalks, diced (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 large firm apple, diced (I used Braeburn)
3 large eggs
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup apple cider
2 cups chicken or turkey stock
2 tablespoons butter

Heat the oven to 350°F. Slice the bread into small cubes, removing the crusts if desired, and spread the cubes in a single layer on two baking sheets. Toast for ten minutes, stir up, and add the chopped nuts. Continue toasting until the bread is completely dry and the walnuts are toasted, approximately another 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. If you like to think way ahead, you can toast your bread and store it up to a week before moving on with the next step.

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 twice, and set aside to drain dry.

Brown the sausage with a sprinkle of salt over medium heat, breaking it up into crumbles as you cook, about 10 minutes. Transfer the cooked sausage to a bowl and drain off all but a few teaspoons of the fat.

In the same pan over medium heat, cook the leeks with a sprinkle of salt until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 or 10 minutes. Add the celery and continue cooking until the celery is softened, another 5 minutes. Add the apples and the fresh herbs. Cook until the apples are just starting to soften, another 1-3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Remove the pan from heat.

Increase the oven temperature to 400°F.

Combine the sausage, vegetables, apples, bread cubes, and nuts in a large mixing bowl. In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs, and add in the salt, cider and chicken stock. Whisk to combine and pour over the stuffing. Gently fold or stir until all the ingredients are evenly coated, being careful not to mash down or squish the bread cubes.

Pour the dressing into the baking dish and try to even it out. If you have a bit too much you can mound it a bit in the center, or bake some separately in ramekins (or you can make it into stuffing by filling it into the hollow cavity of a turkey). Dot the top with butter and cover the dish with aluminum foil. If you’re trying to make things a day ahead, you could stop here and refrigerate the whole shebang to be baked the next day. Just make sure you take the dish out about an hour before baking so you don’t crack your baking dish by putting a cold dish into a hot oven.

Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the top is crispy and golden, another 15-20 minutes. Let cool briefly before serving.

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Mushroom, Leek & Sourdough Dressing

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.

mushroom, leek & sourdough dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

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!

mushroom, leek & sourdough dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

mushroom, leek & sourdough dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

mushroom, leek & sourdough dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker mushroom, leek & sourdough dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

mushroom, leek & sourdough dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

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 | Brooklyn Homemaker

Mushroom, Leek & Sourdough Dressing

5 tablespoons butter, divided
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.