To make the stuffing, you will need:
First, preheat the oven to 250°F. Hard crust doesn't taste good in stuffing, so before you cube your bread, you'll need to slice off the crusts.
Try to get all the crust without cutting off too much of the soft bread.
To cube the bread, first cut it into long slices, lengthwise.
Then cut the slices into long strips, about an inch wide, and cut the strips into 1-inch cubes.
Spread the cubed bread out over 2 lined baking sheets, and bake them in the 250°F oven for about 30 minutes, until they're dry but not toasted.
While your bread is drying out, prepare the vegetable and sausage mixture: Chop the onion and celery into a rough ¼-inch dice.
Pick the leaves rosemary, thyme and marjoram leaves off of the stems.
Then, chop the herbs all together, until they're really fine.
Melt all but one tablespoon of the the butter (which you'll reserve for cooking the sausage) in a large skillet over medium heat.
When the butter is melted, add the celery, onion and chopped herbs. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
While the vegetables cook, slice the pear. First, cut it into pieces and discard the core.
Then, slice it thin.
Then, cut each slice into 2 or 3 pieces, crosswise, so that the pear is in bite-sized slices.
After about 10 minutes, your vegetables should be soft.
Add the pear, and stir everything together. Cook until the pear starts to soften, about 3 minutes more.
Meanwhile, prepare and cook the sausage: Squeeze the sausage meat out of its casing.
Then, break the sausage meat up into bite sized pieces.
Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the sausage.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
When the bread cubes are dry, remove them from the oven and raise the oven temperature to 350°F. Put the cubes in a very large mixing bowl, then add the cooked sausage...
... and the poultry stock...
(You don't need to toss it yet, but you might want to, just to saturate the bread and make it shrink a little before you add the vegetables.)
Finally, add the cooked vegetable-pear mixture along with all the butter you cooked it in. Toss everything together again.
Once everything is evenly mixed, pour the stuffing into a large greased baking/serving dish.
Really press it down in there.
Bake it in the 375°F oven for 45 minutes, until heated through and browned. If it starts to brown too much, cover the top with foil.
Let it cool for about 5 minutes before serving.
Whole Wheat Stuffing with Fennel Sausage and Pears
2 1-lb loaves crusty, whole wheat bread (you can use white bread)
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), divided
4-5 stalks of celery, diced in ¼-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
2 medium yellow onions, diced in ¼-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
2 medium, firm pears (Bosc or Anjou are best)
1 lb pork fennel sausage, removed from casings and crumbled into bite-sized pieces*
8 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and finely chopped
3 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
6 sprigs marjoram, leaves picked and finely chopped**
3 cups chicken or turkey stock
freshly ground pepper
*If you can't find pork fennel sausage, sweet Italian pork sausage is a good substitute. You could also easily leave the meat out if you are cooking for vegetarians; use vegetable stock instead of chicken or turkey stock.
**If you can't find fresh herbs, you can use dried herbs instead. Use 1 tablespoon of each dried herb. And if you can't find marjoram, don't worry, you can leave it out.
1. Preheat the oven to 250°F and line two large rimmed baking sheets with foil or parchment paper.
2 To prepare your bread cubes, first cut a thin layer off the bottom of both loaves, just to remove the crust (you don't want too much crust in your stuffing). Then, cut bread into 1-inch cubes and spread them out over 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Bake in the 250°F oven for about 30 minutes, or until bread is dry but not toasted (it should not start to brown at all).
3. When the bread cubes are done, remove them from the oven and raise the oven temperature to 375°F.
4. Core and thinly slice the pears, then cut each slice in half crosswise.
5. In a large sauté pan, melt all but one tablespoon of the butter over medium-low heat, then add onions, celery, rosemary, marjoram, and thyme. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, and cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add pear and cook just until pear starts to soften, about 3 minutes more.
6. Meanwhile, cook your pork sausage: Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in another medium skillet over medium heat, then add sausage meat and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
7. In a very large mixing bowl, combine bread cubes, cooked vegetables in butter, sausage and poultry stock. Mix until the bread is saturated with liquid, and everything is evenly mixed.
8. Press stuffing into a deep, 9×13-inch baking dish, and bake at 375°F for 45 minutes, until browned and heated through, checking the stuffing after 30 minutes and covering it with foil if the top is starting to brown too much.
9. Let the stuffing cool for about 5 minutes before serving.
If you're planning to bring this to a potluck (like we suggest in our Friendsgiving menu), here's what to do:
If you're bringing this stuffing to a potluck, here's what to do:
Before the potluck, up to 1 day in advance, cook the stuffing exactly as the recipe explains above. Let it cool to room temperature uncovered, then cover the stuffing in it's baking dish with aluminum foil and refrigerate.
Right before you head to the potluck, let the stuffing sit out at room temperature for 30-60 minutes still covered with aluminum foil. At the potluck, reheat the stuffing, uncovered, in a 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes, until it's hot in the center. To check this, insert a knife into the center of the stuffing, then test the temperature of the knife on the bottom of your palm; it should be very warm.
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