Thanksgiving potlucks are always a bit of a debacle for me, especially if they’re church related. My Sunday mornings are completely tied up, as I am up at 6:30am getting materials ready for my contribution to the church service. When the morning of the Thanksgiving potluck rolls around I have very little time to prepare food, so my main prep needs to happen the night before. Someone else had chosen to make the turkey this year, so I was off the hook. After looking over the list of items other churchgoers had signed up for, I saw three staples had been unclaimed:
Stuffing, Dessert, and Cranberry Dressing
They became mine. We’ll get to all three but, for now let’s start with the stuffing.
The Stuffing Problem: Find an amazing stuffing that could be prepared the night before and, most importantly, arrive for its debut moist and fluffy, rather than dried out and disgusting. No one likes dried out stuffing, especially me.
I went to my cache of food magazines and pulled out every November issue of every magazine I owned. After narrowing my choices down to three potentials, I went to the internet to read the reviews of each recipe. One recipe in particular was found in the Nov. 2005 issue of Bon Appetit, but I couldn’t find it listed on their website anywhere. When I went back to the magazine to check the title, I realized why: The recipe is from the Readers’ Favorite Restaurant Recipes section, and it comes from Chef Tom Colicchio’s restaurant, Craft.
His flavor profiles are on.
The other recipes were forgotten about and I went with Chef Colicchio’s. It had everything that I needed, including the addition of golden raisins. Growing up, I had never been offered stuffing with a sweet component in it and, though I had heard so many raves about adding apples or cranberries to stuffing, I was wary. In my mind, stuffing was meant to be salty, and letting apples sit overnight in a damp stuffing was a mushy disaster waiting to happen. Golden raisins seemed to be the perfect compromise. Mostly, I’m just a sucker for golden raisins. The recipe also contains a strange component that intrigued me, something that makes the stuffing fluffy and moist: Scrambled eggs.
Sausage Stuffing with Caramelized Leeks & Onions
1 – 16 ounce loaf of crusty French bread, cut into 1/2 or 3/4 inch cubes (or be a slacker like me and pick up a 16 ounce bag of unseasoned bread cubes)
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 1/4 pounds bulk pork breakfast sausage
2 tablespoons butter
3 1/2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
3 cups chopped onions (about 2 medium)
2 large carrots, peeled, diced (or given a whirl in your food processor)
1 large fresh fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup (packed) golden raisins
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
6 large eggs, beaten to blend
Chopped fresh parsley
If using a loaf of French bread, spread bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet; let stand uncovered at room temperature to dry overnight. If using a bag of unseasoned bread crumbs, skip this step entirely. Keep your bread in the bag until later.
Stir fennel seeds in large, nonstick skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Transfer fennel seeds to small bowl. Cook sausage in the same skillet over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through, breaking up with back of fork, about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to large bowl (leave drippings in the pan). Add butter to drippings in skillet; melt over medium-high heat.
Add leeks, onions, carrots and fennel bulb, and saute until leeks and onions are soft and deep brown, about 20 minutes. Add garlic and toasted fennel seeds, saute 3 minutes.
Transfer vegetable mixture to bowl with sausage. Stir in raisins, sage, and thyme. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish. Mix bread cubes and broth into sausage-vegetable mixture. Season stuffing to taste with salt and pepper; mix in eggs. Transfer stuffing to prepared dish. Cover with buttered foil, buttered side down. Bake until stuffing is heated through, about 35 minutes.
Uncover and bake until top is slightly crisp and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
The end result was a delicious blend of savory and sweet and, though I had finished the dish in the morning, it was still moist and fluffy when the turkey came out of the oven at 2:00. Although I expected the fennel to be overpowering it was actually very well balanced, and the overall dish accompanied the turkey well – something I was concerned about because I wasn’t cooking the turkey and wasn’t really sure what the seasonings were going to be. If you are looking for a new stuffing to try out this season, give this one a whirl. You won’t be disappointed.