I love Mondays. Well, I love this Monday, anyway. My house is (mostly) clean. The Packers crushed the Bears last night. A win over the Bears is always good, but a final score of 55-14, at Lambeau Field, is a really great win. Watching the Packers play in Green Bay makes me feel just a little closer to home. And finally, I have Mushroom-Leek Cornbread Stuffing in my refrigerator. I plan to eat it for breakfast, lunch, and supper today. It’s that good.
Last year I made Apple Sage Stuffing. That recipe is perfectly flavored. It is crunchy on top and moist in the middle, in classic bread pudding fashion. I’d make it again in a heartbeat. Frankly, I’d make half a dozen kinds of stuffing for Thanksgiving, if they’d all fit on the table. This year I wanted to go in a new direction, but still rely on traditional Thanksgiving flavors.
I didn’t grow up eating cornbread stuffing for the holidays. Our family recipe relies on sandwich bread. It’s a bit dense (in a terrific way). My mom loads her vegan dressing (we call it dressing, but since most of the internet calls it stuffing, that’s what I’m going with here) with vegetables, and she uses a lot of vegetable broth for an intense flavor and a pudding-esque texture.
My Mushroom-Leek Cornbread Stuffing has distinct pieces of bread. The bits of bread on the top of the baking dish are a little bit crunchy. The ones underneath take on a creamy texture that I can’t get enough of. Now, if you want the flavors in this recipe, but you are looking for a more solidified texture, you can increase the liquid (quantities are in the notes section of the recipe, below). You can also mix the stuffing with your hands, to break up the pieces of bread a little more. I was looking for a looser stuffing with this recipe, so I mixed the liquid in and tossed everything gently. I like how it turned out.
You guys, I hate to brag, but I got this recipe right. I wanted the flavors of mushroom, leek, and sage to come forward, so I mellowed the intensity (i.e. salty flavor) of vegetable stock with my favorite ingredient: beer. Cornbread brings a hint of sweetness to balance the woodsy flavors from the sage and mushrooms. The leeks and beer are quieter flavors, in contrast to the spices in the Italian sausage. The overall flavor is well-rounded. I seriously can’t wait to dig into a bowl of this stuffing for breakfast today.
A couple notes, before you jump into the recipe:
1. It’s worth taking the time to make the cornbread recipe below. I created the recipe specifically for the stuffing. It wouldn’t be great to eat on it’s own (too dry), but it is just right in the stuffing.
2. The stuffing takes quite some time to make. This is for Thanksgiving. I was looking for an outstanding final dish, not to cut corners or speed up the process. If you’re concerned about the time (or having your oven set to just 275 for an hour and 15 minutes on Thanksgiving Day, you can definitely make the stuffing 2-3 days in advance. Reheat the stuffing in a covered dish, in the oven (anywhere from 300-400 degrees is fine). When heated through, remove the cover and continue to bake until the top crisps up again. Perfect.
- 8 cups diced sandwich bread (about 9 slices, cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
- 5 cups diced cornbread (one batch of the cornbread recipe below, cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
- 3 tbsp vegan butter, divided
- 1 large leek
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1 pound cremini or button mushrooms
- 7 ounces vegan Italian sausage (I used 2 Torfurky links)
- 1 tbsp fresh, minced sage
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 cups vegetable broth*
- 1 cup beer*
- 1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Spread the bread and cornbread in a single layer, on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 75 minutes, or until the bread is dried out and crisp, but not browned.
- 2. Remove the dark green portion of the leek, and discard. Halve the remaining leek lengthwise. Cut into thin slices. Put the sliced leek in a sink (or large bowl) filled with cold water. Separate the layers of leek, to make sure they are thoroughly cleaned. Drain and give another quick rinse. Allow to drain well.
- 3. In a large skillet (at least 10 inches, 12 is better) over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the sliced leek and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Saute until softened and just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer the leek to a large mixing bowl.
- 4. Clean, trim, and thinly slice the mushrooms. Melt another tablespoon of butter to the pan. Increase the heat to meium-high. Add the mushrooms and remaining salt. Saute until the mushrooms have released their liquid and have browned. Transfer to the mixing bowl.
- 5. Cut the sausage into small dice (about 3/8-1/2 inch). Melt the remaining butter in the pan, reducing the heat back to medium-low. Add the sausage and cook until browned. You don't want the sausage to burn, but you want to cook it is well done. This will keep it from getting mushy in the stuffing. Transfer to the mixing bowl.
- 6. Deglaze the pan with the broth and beer. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.
- 7. Add the sage, thyme, and pepper to the leeks, mushrooms, and sausage. Toss to combine.
- 8. Add the bread and cornbread to the bowl, and toss again.
- 9. Slowly add the broth and beer to the other ingredients, stirring as you add it. Toss until all the bread is moistened.
- 10. Spread the stuffing in a large, greased baking dish (I used an 10x16 inch, 3 quart casserole dish). Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 75 minutes. The stuffing is done when the top is crisp and golden brown.
- *If you want a more moist stuffing, increase the broth to 2 1/2 cups and the beer to 1 1/4 cups.
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup fine, yellow cornmeal
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened, non-dairy milk
- 6 tbsp plain, unsweetened, non-dairy yogurt
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1/2 tsp white or apple cider vinegar
- 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
- 2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients.
- 3. In a medium or large mixing bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients.
- 4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Use a fork to stir until the batter is just mixed. Don't over work the batter.
- 5. Spread the batter into the pan. It will barely cover the bottom of the pan (there might even be a couple spots where you can see the bottom of the pan). That's just what you want.
- 6. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool in the pan, for at least 10 minutes, prior to cutting up for making stuffing.