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….

Talkin’ Turkey in a Tiny Kitchen

norman rockwell thanksgiving

This MIGHT not be your family

OK. So I realize that as a blogger of food  (and stories) it might make sense for me to dazzle my audience this week with spectacular Thanksgiving recipes. But, really, all of the food bloggers are doing that already for you…And, I can even bet you’d be hard pressed to avoid seeing or hearing at least one (but most likely dozens more) shows, specials, series, tweets and posts about the best way to make each and every dish traditionally and maybe even not so traditionally served at Thanksgiving.

What I think I’ll do instead is lend you some of the learnings I’ve accumulated since I started making the Thanksgiving meal as a sophomore in college…I’ve suffered through Thanksgiving with one oven and a party of 12 and have been fortunate enough to have two…This year, I’m down to one again, so every hint below helps!

  1. Shopping: Make a list. Like a real hard thought out list
  2. Shopping: Categorize the list by grocery department or aisle (like ‘Produce’, ‘Meat’, ‘Dairy’ etc) Is this anal? Yes, but it will save you a lot of time and keep you from doubling back in the store.
  3. Get extra potatoes, onions, celery, carrots and fresh herbs – you might want to put some cut veggies in the bottom of the roasting pan to help flavor the bird and the pan drippings and by might I mean you will.
  4. Get extra chicken stock. You might need it for your stuffing. You might need it for your gravy. You might need it to rehydrate your bird if, gasp! you over cook it and it’s dry. A good trick for a dry bird is to pass each piece through some warmed chicken stock before serving.
  5. If you can get a free-range bird, do…No, it probably won’t have a pop out thingamajig to tell you when the bird is done, but those things don’t really work anyway. And, no, it won’t be injected with butter and fed fat only…But, we’ll fix that too.
  6. Articles will advise you to buy a bird that is equal in weight to one pound per person…Yeah, but that’s just not enough. A 10lb bird is the smallest you might ever want to consider. I would recommend getting no smaller than a 12lb bird for a party of 6. Let’s face it, one of the best parts of Thanksgiving is the left overs. Plus, you may not know who wants light and who wants dark meat.
  7. Brine the bird

    Family Fun! Bird Brining

    Brine the bird (see how we’re fixing the non-butter injection issue). It’s a fun family activity for the night before and, believe me, makes a big difference. The big grocery stores sell very affordable brining kits that include the mix and the bag. You can also and very easily make your own brine with just a ton of salt, brown sugar and some herbs heated and dissolved in water, cooled and poured over your bird. 10 –  24 hrs in the fridge and voila, brined bird.

    Note: you will need to keep the bird cold overnight during the brining and will need space in your fridge or another plan. Last year we put it in a large cooler and left it outside BUT put a very heavy rock on top of the cooler so that animals couldn’t get in and eat our feast!

  8. OK. The Bird… The bird has bags of stuff in the bottom and top cavities. The top cavity bag usually has the gizzard and the bottom bag usually has the heart, pancreas and other creepy organs. You can put these in a pot of chicken stock over low with some herbs (a bay leaf and maybe some rosemary) and simmer until cooked through. The simmering organs actually make the kitchen smell like Thanksgiving…And some people cut this stuff up for their stuffing, others give it to an odd relative who eats it as is…It’s your call
  9. laura ingalls

    Good Enough for Half Pint

    Stuff the bird. Yes, there are health hazards. But if it was good enough for Laura Ingalls, it’s good enough for me. Plus the stuffing in the bird is sort of the best stuffing ever because it soaks up the juices while cooking. Just be sure to rinse the bird out completely and salt the inside before stuffing.

  10. OK Stuffing…You don’t have to get fancy, but it’s always good to add a personal touch. Personally, I use a mix of the Pepperidge Farm stuffing in the blue bag with cubed, staled white and wheat bread and pretty much follow the directions on the package. BUT, I add morel mushrooms – the bacon of the mushroom family. I buy them dried and rehydrate in chicken stock for additional flavor. I then slice them into small rings and add them to the onions, celery and rosemary, butter mix before mixing with the breads…delish!
  11. Thanksgiving butter

    Butter Trot to the Mobil Station

    Have enough butter on hand. Just when you think you have enough, buy just a little bit more. You don’t want to have to make the annual turkey day butter trot to the only open store on the morning of. Also you may want to dot the top of any premade dish (the stuffing that didn’t fit in the bird, the sweet potato pie, puree, the green bean casserole) with butter to keep it hydrated when you reheat it.

  12. Plan to eat at 5:30 or 6:00pm…It’s dinner, not lunch people! Plus that gives the chef enough time to get everything ready AND shower before all of those guests arrive.
  13. Whatever time you decide to serve, create a timeline (like write it down) and work backwards. So create a timeline starting from when you want to eat and include how long the bird should rest (at least :30 mins) once it’s out of the oven, how long your knife wielding brother/husband/father/aunt/cousin will take to carve it, how long the last minute items like mashed potatoes take to make, how long the other pre-prepared dishes will need to reheat etc…
  14. Set the table the night before and really think about where everyone should sit. Some of your guests might not want to sit next to others, or am I the only one?…think about it
  15. While setting the table the night before, include all serving bowls/platters you will need. Into each, put a label or a hand written piece of paper to denote what each will hold. Yes, again, this is anal…but helpful – for reals.
  16. Ask people to bring dessert. Unless this is your thing, dessert will just crowd your fridge and will be one more thing for your to worry about. Plus, people like to bring stuff.
  17. Ask people to bring wine. No explanation needed.
  18. Make what you can ahead of time…A sweet potato casserole or puree can be done days before for example
Roasted Turkey perfect

It’s Ok if your turkey doesn’t look like this…

Most importantly, RELAX. Give yourself a break. Your turkey might not look all Norman Rockwell. Your guests might not all love each other. Your dinner might be a few minutes late…

That’s not the point. It’s Thanksgiving. Be thankful. And, enjoy.