Secret Mushrooms: Thanksgiving Stuffing with Morels

stuffing thanksgiving morel mushroom

Perfect Thanksgiving Plate

Everyone has a food or two that they just won’t eat. I, for example, do not eat raisins (yes, I eat grapes) or chopped coconut. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy an occasional Pina Colada and am happy to drink coconut milk. I just can’t stand the texture of raisins or raw coconut – no macaroons for me.

Some time ago, I was dating someone who refused to eat mushrooms of any kind. Seriously? We were on the verge of spending Thanksgiving together and his aversion to mushrooms put me in quite a conundrum. I mean, I had been making the Turkey and Stuffing for Friends-Giving since I was in college and had really perfected it.

And part of that perfection is morel mushrooms, the bacon of the mushroom family, and a key ingredient in my Thanksgiving stuffing. I had a difficult decision to make….Eliminate the mushrooms? Make two separate batches of stuffing? Or, just don’t tell him and hope for the best.

Hmmmmm….This particular boyfriend had a career where knowing things and figuring things out were sort of important. Like part of his job and such.

Bacon Mushroom

Bacon Mushroom

What he might not have known is that Morels are prized by gourmet chefs around the world. In the US, they are known by many names including Hickory Chickens, Molly Moochers, Merkels and even Miracles. In our house growing up, we called them Bacon Mushrooms because of their smoky, rich flavor.

So, I couldn’t imagine Thanksgiving without morel mushrooms…I took the risk and I put them in and didn’t say anything. What? Like you’ve never done that?

Old School Stuffing with a Bacon-y Twist (serves 8)

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. You can make this the night before to save counter space and pots and pans on day of
  2. Dried morel mushrooms are tricky to find…But, Eve’s Garden on West 23rd St usually has them
  3. You can never have enough chicken stock on Thanksgiving

Ingredients:

  • pepperidge farm stuffing thanksgiving morel mushrooms

    Stuff It

    2 Medium Onions – diced

  • 4 – 6 Celery Stalks, peeled and diced
  • 2 Sticks of Butter
  • 1/4 Cup of Rosemary – chopped small
  • 4 Slices Wheat Bread – cubed
  • 4 Slices Portugese or White Bread – cubed
  • 1 Bag Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing
  • 1 oz Dried Morel Mushrooms
  • 1 Box of Chicken Stock
  • Salt and Pepper

1. The night or two nights before, cube the white and wheat bread. Put into a baking dish, cover with plastic wrap. Poke some holes in the wrap and set aside. This will stale up the bread a bit. You can also just toast the cubed bread in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the oven at 200 degrees for about 10 minutes to crust it up a bit.

stuffing bread thanksgiving

Staling Up the Bread

2. Put the dried morel mushrooms in a medium bowl and cover with chicken stock to rehydrate – this takes about an hour or less. I usually buy Whole Foods 365 brand Chicken Stock – it’s not any more expensive and very good.

3. Preparation – so important. Dice the onions and celery and finely chop the rosemary leaves.

4. Remove the morels from the chicken stock and rinse gently to remove any residual dirt

morel mushrooms thanksgiving stuffing

Rehydrated and Gently Rinsed Morels

5. Chop the morels into small pieces

dinner stuffing mise en place

Mise En Place – critical to a successful Thanksgiving

6. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, melt two sticks of butter – I use salted and then I don’t need to add more salt later

thanksgiving stuffing butter

Butter makes it Better

7. Add the onions, stir for about 2 mins and then add celery and cook until softened – about :10 minutes. You want the celery to maintain some of its crunch.

stuffing celery onions butter

Add onions about a minute or two before celery

8. Add the chopped rosemary and morel mushrooms and stir to combine

stuffing recipe thanksgiving

Add the rosemary and stir until fragrant

stuffing dinner recipe thanksgiving

Gently stir in the Magic Morels – Tastes Like Bacon

9. Add salt and pepper to taste – if you use salted butter and/or chicken stock with sodium, be sparing in any addition of salt

10. Pour in 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock and stir to combine and warm through

11. In a large bowl, combine 1 bag of Pepperidge Farms Herbed Stuffing and the cubed, staled bread

12. In stages…like 1/2 cup at a time…pour the buttery, oniony, celery, morel-y, rosemary, chicken stock-y mixture over the stuffing/cubed bread mixture.

Thanksgiving stuffing morel mushrooms

Add moisture in stages – you don’t want it soggy

13. Gently fold together the ingredients until moistened and combined. You don’t want the mixture to be soggy…especially if you are going to stuff your bird. The stuffing will absorb the juices from the turkey during the roasting process

14. Allow to cool entirely before stuffing in the bird. You can choose not to stuff the bird…but will miss out on the flavorization that the turkey juices provides to the stuffing

thanksgiving stuffing recipe

I stuff the top and bottom of the bird

15. Depending upon size of your bird, you will have extra stuffing. Put this extra in a baking dish and reheat prior to serving. You may need to add a little extra chicken stock to keep it moist and delicious. Remember anything not stuffed in the bird won’t benefit from the turkey juices.

Thanksgiving that year was a big success. The boyfriend ate the stuffing and never caught on to the secret mushrooms. I’m not saying lying is a good thing – it’s not. But, I just couldn’t give up my bacon-y morel mushrooms. Some secrets are worth keeping.

For other Thanksgiving Day tips see Talkin’ Turkey….

Indulgences – who am I to say no?

Listen. Not the best advice. But today I had a croissant for breakfast and cashews for lunch.
So when the waitress comped the donut-wich – like a chipwich with cinnamon donuts instead of cookies – for dessert tonight, who was I to say no?!?
Amazing. Wrong. And delicious at Umami burger. Where, bee-tee-dubs it’s #truffleseason.

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Ending the Curse of the Turanos: Tuscan Grilled Chicken

tuscan chicken on the grill

Better to offer a chicken to Italians…Never send a fish

My people are Italian….like Sicilian Italian Our people take vendetta seriously – did you see The Godfather? Family feuds are way more intense than Hatfield-McCoy.

Because we are innately aware of our peoples’ tendency toward revenge, my brothers and I grew up in fear of the Turano family. See, in the 1930s our great uncles – Gasper aka ‘Cap’ and Vincent married sisters – not just any sisters, Turano sisters. Uncle Cap, the eldest, led the way – the oldest must marry first in traditional Italian families. Vincent, the second son, followed shortly thereafter with his own Turano bride.

italian family feast chicken

Sal and Grandma – not a Turano. and my brother, no Turano blood.

It would have naturally followed that my grandfather, Salvatore – the youngest – would then choose one of the two remaining Turano sisters as his wife…and both families urged him to do so. Sal, as he was known, would, however, buck this trend and spurn the Turano girls. He instead married his high school girlfriend, my grandmother.

Ever since Sal made the choice to disregard tradition, the Turanos looked at us funny. Funny, like with evil, spell-casting glares, slanty eyes and stuff. We felt their hatred and sensed that they were cursing us behind closed doors. We blamed mysterious happenings throughout our lives on the Turanos…a bike went missing, a pet passed away, the car ran out of gas…must be the effing Turanos.

But, now, 80 years since Sal’s jilting of the Turano sisters…It’s time to bury the hatchet and end our fear of the effing Turanos. So, I offer the descendants of Cap and Vincent, (some of whom are kind enough to read this blog) an olive branch….a feast from a neutral region of Italy…Tuscan Grilled Chicken.

Tuscan Grilled Chicken (serves 8)

Tiny apartment tips:

  1. You could do this in your apt…just use a much smaller (3lb ish) chicken
  2. Open windows and doors to vent during grilling as the chicken should and will smoke up
  3. Yes, the butcher at Food Emporium, Whole Foods etc WILL de-backbone the chicken for you. Just ask.
  4. Plan ahead…chicken needs to marinate for at least 4 hours, though I’d recommend marinating overnight

Ingredients

  • rosemary lemon chicken on grill

    Always mise en place. Always.

    2 4-5lb whole chickens

  • 2/3 Cups Olive Oil – you can order DiGiovanna Olive Oil online – that’d really get the Turanos mad….
  • Lemon Zest from 4 lemons
  • 2/3 Cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP minced garlic = about 5ish cloves
  • 2 TBSP minced rosemary leaves
  • Kosher Salt
  • Pepper

1. Ask the butcher to remove the backbone from the chickens and flatten them. We actually bought Perdue wrapped chickens and took them to the butcher who gladly helped us out. Put the flattened birds into baking dishes.

2. Sprinkle the chickens with salt on both sides – don’t be shy here, the salt will help crisp up the skin

3. In a medium bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary and 3 tsp of pepper

tuscan lemon marinated chicken

Green-y, Lemon-y, Garlic-y marinade

4. Pour the marinade over both sides of the chickens

chicken tuscan marinade

Marinating

5. Cover the chickens with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours

6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

wolf range stove dinner chicken

Guest-Chefing and a Wolf Oven – bonus

7. Heat a gas grill to low heat

8. Remove the marinated chickens from the fridge and temperate for at least :15 mins

9. Spray the grill with non-stick spray

10. Place the chickens on the grill breast-side up

chicken on grill flattened

Breast side up…lefty is a little slanty

11. Weight down the chickens with a heavy pan or baking dish to ensure that the entire surface of the bird is in contact with grill

weighted down flattened chicken on grill

We weighted lefty with a baking dish. Righty was weighted down with a cast iron skillet

12. Cook for :20minutes – leave the lid of the grill open as it’s a smoky deal

13. Flip the bird (not at the Turanos) – literally and re-weight down so that the entire breast-side is in contact with the grill surface

tuscan grilled flattened chicken

Our two little guys flipped

the flipping is hard

the flipping is hard

14. Cook for another :20 minutes

15. Transfer the browned birds to a baking dish and bake in the oven for :15 more minutes to ensure bird is wholly cooked.

16. Remove the birds from the oven, transfer to a cutting board, cover in tin foil and let rest for :15 mins before slicing

17. Slice and serve

tuscan chicken on grill

Sliced and ready

I hope that enough time has passed to heal the relationship between us and the effing Turanos. And I hope they see this chicken as the olive branch they may have been waiting for.

That said….when eerie things happen, I still have a thought in the back of my head, that it just could be the curse of the effing Turanos.