My family is comprised of solid omnivores. We hail from a state that exports chicken, folks. Come a holiday meal, there may be bacon, sausage, duck or chicken in every dish — often several at once when gumbo graces the table. Last Christmas we made an English goose and fried everything in goose fat. We’ve adopted The Barefoot Contessa’s stuffing recipe as the gold standard. My dad recently killed a deer in the backyard with a crossbow and is busy crafting new venison stew recipes. We are meat-o-saurauses.
This Thanksgiving, however, I spent the holiday with two meat eaters and one vegetarian. To keep it inclusive, we made everything except the turkey vegetarian friendly. I chose stuffing and mashed potatoes as my dishes, which offered the challenge of how to create a delectable stuffing that wouldn’t make me notice the lack of meat. I’d also never made stuffing from scratch thanks to Pepperidge Farm’s bags of dried bread bits. After much hemming and hawing, I settled on this recipe for Vanishing Stuffing by Vegetarian with Benefits.
All I can say is that this was the first dish of leftovers we polished off — in under 24 hours. There were rave reviews by vegetarians and carnivores alike. If I’d known how well it’d turn out, I’d have doubled the recipe to bring home a tupperware for myself! As is, this makes one 9×13 pan of 6-8 servings, depending on the size of your appetites. It took about 90 minutes start to finish, mostly because my knife skills leave something to be desired.
- 1 loaf Italian or French bread
- 8 TBS butter (1 stick)
- 16 oz mixed mushrooms, chopped – include shiitake if possible
- 2-3 large carrots, sliced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1/3 cup cranberry sauce, whole berry or jellied
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped finely
- 10 leaves fresh sage, chopped finely
- 8 leaves fresh basil, chopped finely
- 2 sprigs rosemary, chopped finely
- 4 TBS parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper
- 4 TBS+ olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F
2. Cut the bread into small cubes, aiming to keep them under a square inch. Spread the bread cubes evenly on 2 baking sheets. Toast the bread in the oven until browning – careful not to burn! This took about 10 minutes, with checks every few minutes.
3. In a large stock pot or large sauce pan fry the onion with a couple TBS of butter and a couple TBS of olive oil. Saute onions until translucent. Add mushrooms and carrots. Saute on medium low head until mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Add more butter and olive oil to keep bits from sticking and over-browning.
TIP: Since you’ll be chopping and stirring for a good bit, keep a glass of wine handy. The art of pairing wines with food is largely a matter of personal preference however, some safe bets for Thanksgiving wines are Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. We enjoyed all three!
4. Add the thyme, sage, basil, rosemary, and 3 TBS of the parsley. Add 2 cups of vegetable stock. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes then add the bread cubes. Turn off the heat. Stir from the bottom up, folding the contents like soft whipped cream to keep the cubes from getting too broken up or drenched. Add additional butter and/or olive oil as needed. Mix in the cranberry sauce and dried cranberries. Salt and pepper to preference. Sample. Yes, grab a spoon and taste it!
5. Transfer the stuffing to a buttered baking pan. Top with thin slices of the remaining butter before putting it in the oven. Bake until the top is golden brown and crunchy – about 40 minutes. When it’s done baking, top it with remaining 1 TBS parsley. Indulge!
Like any new recipe, this one could be tweaked with additional ingredients and experimentation: toasted pecans, green apples, chopped celery…sweet Italian sausage…