Recipe by Betty Liu
I used to have a love/hate relationship with stuffing. I loved eating it – the almost custard-y texture with savory herby flavors was one of the highlights of Thanksgiving dinner. The first year I hosted my own Thanksgiving (luckily, a casual dinner-potluck with college buddies), I attempted a seemingly benign cornbread-stuffing recipe that became something resembling a cross between pudding and soggy bread. Not exactly appetizing. Of course, I freaked out and instead made a classic Chinese stuffing – sticky rice!
However, this unsuccessful stuffing lurked on my mind and taunted me until the next Thanksgiving rolled around. I began to read up on stuffing, a dish most people called easy and something you just throw together. This list of stuffing mistakes by Bon Appetit and a wonderfully logical article explaining stuffing from from Serious Eats helped tremendously, and I made challah mushroom stuffing, with great apprehension and great hopes. It’s simple – dehydrated bread re-hydrated with flavorful stock, enhanced by other flavorings ranging from sausage to vegetables, baked to form a savory bread pudding, with the bread chunks literally soaking up all the delicious seasonings. Serious Eats enlightened me to the difference between dry and stale bread, and ever since then I’ve been drying my bread instead of leaving it on the counter to harden. I’ve been on a huge mushroom kick, so I included a medley of my favorite types – oysters, shiitake, and crimini. Melted butter is uncompromisingly added, and I was deliberately heavy on the thyme and oregano. Wild mushrooms, herbs, fluffy challah, butter, and chicken stock – what more do you need in a stuffing? Leeks. That’s what. The second year I made this I just had challah and mushrooms, which was great but lacking something. I discovered that something was an allium. Mushrooms and alliums are a match made in heaven, but for this particular dish I wanted something fragrant but also structural to create a wonderful texture to the stuffing. And this is it – a lovely wild mushroom and leek challah stuffing that will have everyone diving in. Everyone who loves mushrooms, to be specific.
Wild Mushroom and Leek Challah Stuffing
1 loaf challah, cut into 1” cubes – 8 cups total
4 tbsp butter
2 stalks leeks, sliced into rounds
1 tsp salt
2 cups wild medley of mushrooms
10 sprigs thyme, chopped
3 sprigs fresh oregano, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten,
2-3 cups chicken stock
1| Preheat oven to 275. Lay challah cubes in a single layer and let bake and dehydrate for about 45 minutes, gently tossing 2 times throughout.
2| Increase oven to 350 F.
3| Melt butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add in garlic and leeks and cook until leeks begin to soften and wilt.
4| Add in mushrooms and herbs. Cook until mushrooms just begin to soften, 5-10 minutes.
5| Toss mushroom mixture with challah cubes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread into a buttered baking dish.
6| In a separate bowl, mix beaten eggs with stock and whisk. Pour evenly across bread mixture until bread is saturated.
7| Cover buttered parchment paper and a top layer of foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove foil and parchment paper and cook for another 15 minutes.
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