Stuffing is the tried-and-true side dish that makes the holiday feel like the cozy moment that it is. Add to stuffing the earthy flavors of portobello mushrooms and roast fennel and you’ve got a new tradition. This multigrain stuffing with portobello mushrooms from consummate chef and host Elana Horwich is sure to impress your guests, while also checking all the comfort food boxes…
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.
The notion for this multigrain stuffing with portobello mushrooms was mine, but credit must be given to my Italian friend Andrea who, at every step, added more butter (which can be substituted with duck fat or shmaltz for a kosher stuffing) against my wishes. As a native northern Italian whose grandmother spoiled him with cooking, Andrea knows food.
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? Once we were through experimenting, we agreed that this is one of the best stuffings we’d had in our lives.
Please note that if you substitute cheap sliced bread or make any other shortcut or use processed substitutions, you will not get the results I am speaking of!
Multigrain Stuffing with Portobello Mushrooms + Roasted Fennel
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.