I’m bummed. Just like other food bloggers throughout the land, I decided I’d document part of the famed Thanksgiving feast on film. Other bloggers, I’m sure, are also far more meticulous than I am–they’re probably not 2 weeks late in posting their Thanksgiving posts, they probably document non-traditional, exotic foods that thumb their nose at the rest of us who still insist on a turkey dinner, and they are probably smart enough not to wipe the step-by-step photos they took of how they made a freakin’ awesome (if they do say so themselves) cornbread stuffing from their old iPhone without having saved them to iCloud after activating a new phone over the weekend. If I were Homer Simpson, I’d be screaming “D’OH!” at the top of my lungs right now.
So, we’ll have to settle for my powers of description sans photos. As my sister-in-law noted, “Proust didn’t have photos of his madeleines.” Touche! Of course, Proust also didn’t live in a digital age, so he didn’t need photos, but onward and upward.
A few years ago, a former co-worker of mine brought in some leftover cornbread stuffing to the office after the Thanksgiving holiday. Being a bit of a Thanksgiving traditionalist (although not unwilling to experiment), I’d never tried cornbread stuffing before. This is likely because every freakin’ cornbread stuffing recipe on the planet seems to include sausage as a key ingredient. Not that I have anything against sausage, but does a meal that’s already ridiculously calorie-laden and full of loads of butter really need more animal fat in the form of sausage? For me, no. So, when the co-worker brought in a cornbread stuffing made expressly for her vegetarian boyfriend, I was on board. And damn was it good.
Last Thanksgiving, sick of serving the same old Bon Appetit mushroom and leek stuffing we’d been making for about ten years (yummy though it is), we decided to look for a new stuffing recipe. Cornbread intrigued. Of course after pouring through recipes at epicurious and The Food Network‘s websites, still nothing without sausage. Determined, I emailed the former co-worker to see if I could snag her boyfriend’s recipe. I did. And it was a hit!
This year, we decided to get corny once again. But I was a little loathe to go for last year’s recipe-delicious though it is–mostly because it calls for a huge can of Cream of Mushroom soup–the Family Size variety. According to Michele, Jon’s recipe actually came from Paula Deen, so no wonder. But I’m trying to avoid processed foods, so I really wanted to avoid the Family Sized can o’shroom soup. Again, I searched for cornbread stuffing sans sausage; again, I was foiled. So I decided to go with last year’s recipe and soup it up my own way!
The basic recipe is as follows:
– Family sized Cream o’Shroom
– Veggie or Chicken stock
– Poultry seasoning (or sage, rosemary and thyme)
1) Make cornbread ahead of time.
2) Saute celery and onion in butter until translucent.
3) Break cornbread and bread into pieces and place in large bowl.
4) Toss veggies with bread.
5) Stir in soup and seasonings.
6) Add stock, making sure everything is well moistened.
7) Bake in greased baking pan at 350 for approximately 30 minutes or until brown on top.
So, here’s how I literally souped this recipe up my own way.
First, I made my own cornbread. I used Mark Bittman’s cornbread recipe from the NYTimes. But since I rarely ever completely follow any recipe, I used buttermilk for mine instead of whole milk.
Since I still wanted to try to get some of that mushroom flavor into the stuffing, I bought two cartons of mushrooms. Any variety of different kinds will do. I went with using half plain ol’ white button mushrooms and then used a variety pack that included shiitakes, chanterelles and oysters. Had I happened across some cremini or porcini, I would have used those, too.
At first I was just going to chop the mushrooms into bits and sauté then and then add them to the bread and veggie mixture. But then I got to thinking, that it might be fun to try to create a real substitute for the cream o’shroom rather than just toss some mushrooms into the stuffing, so I came up with…
Fancy Pants Creamy Mushroom Sauce-y Soup Substitute
First, rough chop approximately 1 lb. of mushrooms (variety is good) and sauté in approximately 2 tbsp butter. Add salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Can also add approx 1/4-1/2 cup white wine. Set aside.
Then make a basic béchamel sauce. Since I was supposed to replace a 16 oz. can of soup, I made 2 cups of sauce. (2 tbsp butter and flour per cup of milk–I used approximately 1 1/2 cups whole milk and 1/2 cup of half and half. If I were to do it again, I’d probably lighten up on the dairy a bit because the sauce was a bit thick.To finish the basic béchamel, add nutmeg and pepper to season. Add mushroom mixture to béchamel.
Because I felt like the sauce was bit thick, I decided to thin it out and flavor it with more white wine. Then I spied some beef broth in my brother’s fridge and added some of that. Together the wine and beef broth, along with the mushrooms, gave the sauce a really rich, hearty flavor. If you don’t want to use beef broth, I think veggie stock would be a fine substitute. Sherry would also be good instead of white wine. I just added the liquids until I was happy with the consistency and flavor of the sauce.
I actually let the sauce simmer for quite some time before I put the stuffing together. Some of it evaporated, of course, but the flavor ended up having a lot of depth when done. Something like this would probably make a good stroganoff-type sauce or pasta sauce if thinned out.
After making the sauce, I pretty much proceeded with the stuffing recipe from there. I used fresh herbs. Go a bit lighter on the rosemary than the sage and thyme, otherwise it will overpower everything–you can probably use half the amount of rosemary as compared to thyme and sage. Because I’d picked up a Holiday Herb pack at Whole Foods that happened to include savory, I used that as well.
And I’m sure that, if you really, really wanted to, you could add sausage to this and it wouldn’t ruin it! 🙂
I’m just sorry I deleted those photos…