Stuffing is the tried-and-true side dish that makes the holiday feel like the cozy moment that it is. This classic-with-a-twist version from consummate chef and host Elana Horwich is sure to impress your guests, while also checking all the comfort food boxes. This week Elana has been walking us through holiday hosting like a boss including tips, advice and recipes for your entire Thanksgiving plan. Tomorrow we’ll be sharing the final recipes you need to complete the menu…
As with the creation of any dish, the choice of quality ingredients is the key to ultimate deliciousness. Make this stuffing with the best quality multi-grain bread you can find, and use homemade chicken broth. The abundance of fresh herbs, along with roasted juicy mushrooms and fennel make for a sophisticated, heartwarming stuffing to blow your mind. And don’t skimp on the butter, it’s Thanksgiving so just go for it.
When I conceived the idea for a multi-grain stuffing, I immediately called Andrea and begged him to come over. As a native northern Italian who has travelled the world eating at the finest restaurants, and with a grandmother who spoiled him with cooking, Andrea knows food.
Like me, he believes—no, he knows—that the best food in the world comes from an Italian home. Unfortunately for us, we both live in Los Angeles. Hence, Andrea and I cook together and aspire to replicate—and even outdo—the cuisine we know and miss so much.
Stuffing is the star of American Thanksgiving and I would only let an Italian in the kitchen to help me create it. The notion for this stuffing was mine, but credit must be given to Andrea who, at every step, added more butter (which can be substituted with duck fat or shmaltz for a kosher stuffing) against my wishes. We rarely fight, but I held my ground, as I know my students and fans want healthier options. But in the end, he is the Italian, and so his cooking advice must be heeded.
The extra butter was a good choice, I am forced to admit. There are few things better than good bread and butter, and once homemade broth, aromatics, roasted mushrooms and fennel are added, well, what else do you want in life? This stuffing is a winner.
In fact, once it finished baking, and while we were eating it with our hands (because we couldn’t leave it alone long enough to get a fork), Andrea could not stop repeating, “This is the best thing ever. Not the best stuffing ever, but this is the best THING ever.” There are no words that truly show love. But food can.
Make food from your heart and share this stuffing over and over again. And when I win the Nobel Peace Prize for it, I will be sure to give Andrea credit for the extra butter and recognize all of you who choose to make the planet better and safer through food.
Cooking tip: If you substitute cheap sliced bread or make any other shortcut or processed substitutions, you will not get the results I am speaking of and you will not help to revolutionize this planet. And if you still use cheap sliced bread, for God’s sake, please don’t tell me about it.
Multi-Grain Stuffing with Portobello Mushrooms + Roasted Fennel
Serves 6-10 (but can recipe can easily be doubled to feed a crowd)
1 pound loaf (more or less) of best quality crusty multi-grain bread ( I use La Brea Bakery Multi-Grain loaf)
1 onion, chopped
2 leeks, whites and light green parts, sliced
1 cup chopped celery
2 links uncooked chicken sausage (mild italian or chicken apple), squeezed out of the casing (optional)
1 stick salted butter or 7 Tbsp duck fat or shmaltz
1 ½ tablespoons chopped sage
1 Tbsp thyme sprigs + 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
3 fennel bulbs
3 portobello mushrooms
2 + 2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 + 1 tsp of kosher salt
2 ½ cups homemade chicken or vegetable broth, salted (or cheater’s broth, see note below)
⅛ cup parsley
freshly ground pepper
For the mushrooms + fennel:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Wash mushrooms. Pull off stem and carefully remove brown “gills” underneath with a paring knife. Slice mushrooms into ½ inch slices. Lay on one of the baking sheets and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Add fresh ground pepper.
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 sprinkle on mushrooms. Use your fingers to mix mushrooms, adjust seasoning as necessary, and lay them back down flat.
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. Place fennel on other baking sheet and douse with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and add freshly ground pepper. Use your fingers to mix it all together, test seasoning, adjust as necessary and lay fennel back down flat.
Put both sheets in oven and roast for about 17 to 20 minutes.
For 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.
For the stuffing:
In a large pan, over medium heat, melt 4 Tbsp ( ½ stick) butter. Saute onion, leeks, celery, sage and 1 Tbsp of thyme for about 7 minutes. Put in large bowl.
If you are using chicken sausage, add 1 Tbsp of butter to pan (or duck fat or shmaltz) and saute for about 4 minutes or until just cooked. Add to the bowl.
Add the vegetable/herb (with optional chicken sausage) medley, the bread, mushrooms, fennel, 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 Tbsp (1/2 stick) of butter (or duck fat or shmaltz). Cover with aluminum foil. 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.