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RECIPE: Mushroom Bread Stuffing from Joanne Sasvari

Note that food safety experts advise against actually putting the stuffing in the cavity of a bird while it roasts; that’s a great way to create food-borne illnesses, to cause the bird to cook unevenly AND to lose way too much stuffing in there, when it could be on your plate. Cooking it separately is by far the best way to go.

Serves 8 to 12 people

1 large loaf crusty French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (10 to 12 cups)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus additional for buttering the baking dish(es)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 lb fresh mushrooms, well-cleaned and sliced
1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp minced fresh sage leaves
Optional: a handful of parsley leaves, chopped
2 to 3 cups chicken or turkey broth
2 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp pepper or to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Spread the bread cubes evenly on a rimmed baking sheet or two and place in the oven to toast for about 15 minutes. You want them dry and little bit golden; stir them occasionally to make sure they’re evenly toasted. Remove from oven, let them cool a little, then scrape them into a large mixing bowl.

In a large skillet, melt the butter, then add the onions and celery and cook until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the thyme, sage and mushrooms (and parsley, if using), and continue to cook until the mushrooms are lightly browned.

Add the mushroom mixture to the bread cubes and mix well; add 2 cups of the broth, season with salt and pepper, and mix again. If it looks really dry, add a bit more broth.

You can prepare the stuffing ahead of time to this point and, in fact, it’s best to do so. Letting it sit in the fridge overnight allows the flavours to mesh better.

When you’re ready to bake the stuffing: Remove it from the fridge about an hour before you plan to bake it. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or a couple of loaf pans.

Scrape stuffing into your baking dish(es) and cover with foil. Pop it into the 350° oven (alongside the turkey, perhaps) and bake for 30 minutes to heat through.

Remove the foil, “fluff” the stuffing with a fork, and bake for another 30 minutes until the top is crisp and golden.

Serve alongside the turkey, with plenty of gravy.

Tips and options:

This is a fairly forgiving recipe, so feel free to make it your own.

If you don’t have French bread, you can use thick-cut white, brown, sourdough or multigrain.

If you like a really herb-y stuffing, you can double the amount of fresh thyme and/or sage, or add a little rosemary, if that’s your thing. If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can use dried, about ½ tsp of dried thyme leaves and 1 tsp ground sage, or to taste.

You can use just about any type of mushroom you like – plain old button ones if that’s what’s available; wild ones like morels or porcinis if you’re lucky; or best of all, a mix that could include cremini, oyster and shitake mushrooms.

You can also add cooked, crumbled bacon, pancetta or sausage meat to this, or chopped pecans for crunch, if that’s your thing.

Finally, loaf pans aren’t as pretty as a ceramic baking pan, but they’re easier to slide alongside the turkey, especially if you only have one oven to work with. If you use disposable foil ones, they are also convenient for transporting to someone else’s house.