Monday, October 12, 2015

Italian Sausage, Leek, Mushroom & Apple Stuffing

For many, turkey stuffing is one of the best parts of any Thanksgiving dinner. Recipes may vary, but what is certain is that every family has their own special recipes that they make each and every year, for "what good are traditions if they're going to be broken?" This year I was in charge of making the dressing and was intent on creating my own unique recipe, paying homage to my Mom's recipe but adding other new ingredients that seemed seasonally appropriate: dried cranberries, apples from our garden plus fresh sage, thyme and rosemary, sweet Italian sausage, leeks, mushrooms, celery, homemade croutons made from a loaf of fresh Italian bread, and to moisten the mélange, a combination of homemade chicken stock and fragrant marsala wine. The combination of flavours were a triumph, but as with any special occasion, it's not just about the culinary offerings — it's being with family and sharing special moments with those who make a difference in our lives. 

A loaf of Italian bread with crusted removed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes toasted in a 350° oven for 15 minutes until dried through

Two sweet Italian sausages

The sausage meat is removed from the casing and sautéed until cooked though

Sliced leeks, celery and chopped apple to be sautéed in a little butter until soft, about 8 minutes

Thinly sliced cremini mushrooms to be sautéed until soft, about 3 minutes

The sautéed vegetables are combined with the dried bread, together with Marsala wine, chopped fresh rosemary, sage and thyme, dried cranberries, chicken broth and a beaten egg 

Placed in a greased casserole, the stuffing is ready to go into the oven

Italian Sausage, Leek, Mushroom & Apple Stuffing
Serves 8-10

1 loaf French or Italian white bread
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
5 tbsp butter, divided
2 leeks, trimmed, cleaned and cut as 1/4-inch slices
2/3 cup sliced celery
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
10 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced in 1/8-inch pieces
3 tbsp marsala wine
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp chopped fresh sage
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme 
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup chicken broth
1 large egg

Remove the crust from the bread and cut into 1/2 or 3/4-inch cubes to make about 9 cups. Arrange the bread on rimmed baking sheets in a 350°F oven until dried and evenly toasted, about 10 to 15 minutes, then allow to cool before transferring to a large bowl. 

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium and cook the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until no longer pink and cooked though, about 5-6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage meat and add to the bread. In the same pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and sauté the leeks, celery and apple, stirring frequently until softened, about 8 minutes, then mix in with the bread. Add the remaining butter to the pan and sauté the mushrooms until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the Marsala, salt and pepper and cook until almost no liquid remains, then transfer to the bread bowl, along with the chopped sage, thyme, rosemary and dried cranberries. 

Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Once satisfied with the flavour, stir in a beaten egg and mix well to combine. Drizzle the broth over the mixture — it should be moist but not soggy — and stir well to combine all the flavours. Spread the stuffing into a lightly greased baking dish and cover with aluminum foil.

MAKE AHEAD: The stuffing can be covered and chilled overnight at this point, but bring back to room temperature before baking the next day.

Preheat oven to 375°F and bake until heated through, about 30-40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue cooking until the dressing is crisp and golden brown, about another 15-20 minutes.