This wild mushroom, baby kale and sausage stuffing is a side that will shine on Thanksgiving, but shouldn't be eaten once a year. In fact, it may just catapult beyond the confines of Thanksgiving, landing safely at your next no particular occasion winter meal for friends. Once there, it could enjoy its own stardom and perhaps be renamed the savory country bread casserole of mushrooms, kale and sausage. Think about serving it with beef or lamb and some additional sauteed baby kale. You'll have yourself a dynamite dinner party entree.
I will confess: I hated stuffing as a kid, passing it, while trying not to gag. Even as an adult, I could take or leave most stuffings. Often, you'll see my dalloping one spoonful on my plate just to be nice to the host. So my goal here is to make people like me take more than just the token spoonful. For those who love stuffing, I want them to battle over the remaining seconds.
But some disclosures. First, this is a stuffing for mushroom lovers. If you are not a fan, then look elsewhere for your recipe.
Second, if you like that gamey, dark turkey infused taste of a stuffing cooked inside the big bird, this isn't the stuffing for you. I've decided that I am not cooking stuffing inside the bird this year. So maybe I should be calling this dressing? But I will say that the sausage and mushrooms still give you a fairly rich taste.
Third, the bread pieces are a fairly substantial size, and I like to use a mixture of french and wheat bread so you get a little different taste with different bites.
Fourth, while this stuffing does have about half as much butter as many stuffings, it does still have sausage. As I began to consume this tasty side last night, along with Grandma's Mashed Potatoes, sautéed kale and some lamb chops, I was sort of wishing that I'd taken a Zumba class or gone for a jog before I settled down for this hearty meal last night.
What I like about this stuffing is that it can essentially be made the night before and then browned after the turkey comes out of the oven. This is important to me because my last Thanksgiving entertaining experience was a tad bit traumatic. Despite having been an entertainer for my entire adult life, I had never hosted Thanksgiving due to the fact that I lived up until two years ago in New York City (in small apts). We always trucked out to the burbs or even visited relatives in Ohio or Florida. But when we moved to the burbs, suddenly we became the hosts.
This year, I love that I get to host Thanksgiving. But I REALLY didn't love it that first year, because I was 8 months pregnant and feeling like I had basically been overdosed with triptophan despite the fact that I had not eaten a single bite of turkey. I was working ridiculous hours and every moment at home was spent on the couch or in bed sleeping. Needless to say, I didn't do a very good job of planning ahead for Thanksgiving dinner. My guests arrived, and there I was nice and fat in a messy kitchen, pulling my hair out, stressed out of my mind because everything I had picked to make seemed to require last-minute preparations and at least 4 utensils and 6 dishes. Everyone felt like they needed to help me (probably because they were hungry!), which made for an even messier and incredibly chaotic kitchen. I became even more and visibly stressed out and pretty annoyed at myself and anyone who came within 6 inches of my big belly (which happened about every 2 minutes). Eventually, the meal was served. The Turkey was a tad dry (still was acclamating to my very hot oven) and the rest of the meal was "fine," but I vowed never to let people see me exasperated and stressed out like that again on a Thanksgiving.
That is a long way of saying that this year I will be making my stuffing in advance outside of the bird.
My biggest smile last night came from my 22 month old son, who an hour earlier had eaten only a couple spoonfuls of the macaroni and cheese his sister had requested I make because she was starving. I'd just served dinner to my husband and myself. I'd taken about 3 or 4 bites. As I got up to grab a glass of water, I watched as my little white-haired monster sauntered over to my seat in front of the t.v. and stood in front of my plate, assessing the meal. Next thing I knew he had scooped up a big piece of sautéed kale (!!). Next, he devoured some bread, kale and mushrooms in one large bite. And then he proceeded to have about 10 more bites, tasting some mashed potatoes in between. My toddler ate half my dinner! Maybe I didn't need that Zumba class after all....
Wild Mushroom, Baby Kale and Sausage Stuffing
- 1 lb mixed 3/4 inch bread cubes of french and whole wheat baguette (about 1 1/2 to 2 baguettes)
- 2 Italian sausages, crumbled and casing removed
- 2 tbsp
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 lb shitake mushrooms, chopped
- 1/2 lb cremini/baby bella mushrooms, chopped
- 3 cups baby kale
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 3 cups chicken low-salt chicken broth
- 2 eggs
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place bread on cookie sheets for 1 hour until dried out and slightly crispy. Let cool and place in a large bowl.
- Saute sausage in frying pan until browned. Add to large bowl with bread.
- Add butter to pan and melt until sizziling and slightly browned.
- Add shallots and garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes.
- Add mushrooms and saute until mushrooms are slightly browned, 5-7 minutes.
- Add kale and saute for 2-3 minutes more until wilted.
- Add thyme, rosemary, sage and salt and pepper to taste and toss for 1 minute.
- Add mushroom and kale mixture to bread and sausage mix.
- Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth to mixture and stir with wooden spoon.
- Combine eggs with remaining 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth and fold into mushroom, kale and sausage mixture.
- Transfer to 13 x 9 x 2 baking dish. Cook for 40 minutes covered with foil. (Up to this point can be made ahead).
- If continuing to cook, remove foil and cook until browned another 30 minutes. If reheating after chilling, cook for 40-45 minutes until browned.
Julie du Pont is a Darien resident, mom and lawyer. She blogs about food and entertaining at Weekend Table.
Editor's note: This blog post is featured on the "Thanksgiving in Darien" topics page, where you can find Darien Patch's articles, announcements and blog posts on Thanksgiving—including recipes. See also the "Darien Food Blogs" and "Darien Food & Drink" topics page.