The holidays are quickly descending upon us, people. And while I am so filled with the spirit of the season that I can hardly contain myself, I also must admit that I can already feel that familiar sense of stress and anxiety that inevitably overwhelms us all at some point this time of year begin to creep its way into my being…I’d like to think that with each year I manage to handle it all with a little more grace and poise, but my mind is already churning over Thanksgiving travel plans, holiday baking strategies, Christmas gift ideas and my own wish list (hello, Vitamix!).
However, there is one thing I can check off my seemingly endless holiday to-do list, and that is my Thanksgiving stuffing recipe. Stuffing may be an afterthought to some people, but for me it is the absolute star of the show, especially when done right. Carbs are my weakness, so I have had a soft spot for this particular side dish for as long as I can remember. Every year I toy with a different stuffing recipe, but I’m so excited to share this one with you today, because folks, this one’s a keeper.
I started with a bread of extraordinary quality- a Lemon Cracked Pepper Loaf from local bread purveyor Crazy Good Bread Co. It inspired me to create a recipe that would enhance its bold citrus flavor. If you like sourdough bread then you’ll flip for this bread. Then I thought of the typical stuffing additions and elevated them slightly to make this stuffing extra special. I replaced onion with leeks, celery with fennel and plain button mushrooms with silky shiitakes. For a final touch I charred a lemon on the grill and squeezed the juice into the stuffing mixture before baking. This stuffing is vegetarian, but if you’re inclined to add sausage as many people like to do, I recommend using one studded with fennel seeds to accent the roasted fennel. Enjoy, I know I will!
Roasted Fennel, Leek & Charred Lemon Stuffing
- 2 fennel bulbs chopped
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil divided
- 2 leeks trimmed and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup shiitake mushrooms sliced
- 2 Tbsp. fresh thyme chopped
- 1 lemon
- 2 loaves day-old Crazy Good Bread Co. Lemon Cracked Pepper Bread cubed
- 3 cups low sodium chicken stock
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat fennel with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and spread on a foil-lined baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and roast, stirring occasionally, until fennel is lightly browned, approximately 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add leeks. Cook until leeks begin to soften, approximately 3 minutes. Add garlic and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring.
Zest lemon and set aside. Cut lemon in half and place each half on a hot grill pan, pulp side down. Grill until surface is charred, about 5 minutes.
Remove leek mixture from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Add roasted fennel, thyme, lemon zest, juice from charred lemon, bread cubes and stock. Stir to combine.
Transfer to a greased casserole dish, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Garnish with charred lemon slices, if desired.