I’ve been adjusting my stuffing recipe for 10 years, and I think I’ve finally got it just right. Maybe. I’ll probably come up with a few more ideas to try out, but for now it’s pretty good. For dishes such as this, I don’t have a recipe of specific quantities as such, so my directions may seem frustratingly nebulous if you need that kind of detail. If you’re a “little of this, little of that” kind of cook, this should suit you just fine. Please feel free to leave a comment with your success stories, or disaster stories if they’re especially hilarious.
I use home made white bread for this recipe, but a store bought bakery loaf will do just fine. If your bread is a few days old and a bit stale, you can jump right in. If you’re using fresh baked bread, you’ll want to follow the “prepare your bread” instructions first.
Prepare Your Bread
Fresh baked bread is soft and moist and delicious. Soft and moist bread is the enemy. We need to dry that stuff out a bit and make it fake stale. If the bread is hot out of the oven, let it cool to room temperature first. Hot bread is difficult to work with, and it’ll save your fingers if you let it cool.
Once cool, cut the bread into 1(ish) inch cubes. Spread the cubes on as many baking sheets as your oven will accommodate. Set the oven temp to 200 degrees (F) and let the bread cubes dry out. You don’t want the cubes to become toasted, just dry on the outside and still a bit soft on the inside. We’re not making croutons here. This process may take a half hour or more, and you’ll want to flip the cubes periodically so they dry out evenly. (I usually just toss them with a spatula, but if you want to be more methodical, go for it.) Set your cubes aside in the biggest, widest bowl you have while you prepare the broth.
One or more loaves of bread, cut into 1(ish) inch cubes
Baby bella mushrooms
Water (3+ cups)
Vegetable bouillon paste
(Note: I use Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base. I like the paste because I can control the concentration. If you can’t find bouillon paste and have to use prepared stock, cook it down until it’s quite a bit more concentrated. Omit the water if using prepared stock.)
Set the bread cubes aside in the biggest, widest bowl you have. Chop the onion, celery, and mushrooms into small pieces. Press the garlic (or chop into tiny pieces if you don’t have a garlic press). Grind the herbs a bit with a mortar and pestle. They don’t need to be reduced to a powder or pulp, but you’ll want to process them enough so they release their fragrant oils. Since we’re working with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, it helps if you sing a bit of Scarborough Fair while you’re grinding up the herbs. Science.
Sautee the onion and celery in olive oil until they’re a bit softened and starting to turn translucent. Add the mushrooms. Cook until all are soft. Add the garlic and sautee with the rest for about a minute. It’s important to not burn the garlic or it’ll become bitter. Add the herbs, stirring to coat the vegetables in the herb mixture and cook for another minute or so.
Add water and a blob of the bouillon paste. Once the bouillon paste is dissolved in the water, taste the broth. It should be fairly concentrated – we’re adding it to plain bread after all. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes or longer. This is where the flavor melding happens.
Preheat the oven to 350(F). Once the oven is heated, ladle some the broth over the bread cubes in that giant bowl. Using a spatula or large wooden spoon, work the cubes around gently until they begin to absorb the liquid. Some of the cubes will begin to break up, which is fine. Try to not let it become one big pile of mush, though. Continue adding broth a little at a time until the cubes are soaked through, but there isn’t a pool of broth at the bottom of the bowl. If they still seem too dry, mix a bit of bouillon with warm water and pour over the cubes until you reach the desired saturation. If you end up with extra broth, use it in your next batch of soup. (Make sure to get all the veggies into the cube mixture regardless of how much of the liquid you end up using.)
Dump the cube mess into a baking dish and cover. Bake at 350(F) for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Test a bit from the middle. If it seems way soggier than you’d like, continue to bake uncovered for another 5 or so minutes. Let the stuffing rest for 10 minutes before serving. If it’s too dry, make some gravy and make note to either add more broth or bake it less next time. Also make note of the seasoning blend you used. Do you want to use more rosemary next time? Less sage? This recipe is great for experimenting.
Good luck and happy stuffing!
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