Umami Girl's Vegetarian Mushroom Stuffing with Gravy
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Thanksgiving at our house inspires a devotion that borders on the comical. A day when the whole country stops to give thanks for delicious food is essentially a national endorsement of our family’s way of life, and we think that’s really something to celebrate.
Most of the time our devotion borders on the comical. Then, of course, there are the times when devotion shows its passport, crosses the border and never looks back. We train for Thanksgiving dinner the way runners train for a marathon. With a certain scientific precision, all meals on Thanksgiving Eve balance maximum stomach stretching with minimal caloric intake. Several family members arrive on the big day with elastic-waisted sweatpants in tow, in case the need arises before dessert. And then, of course, there’s the stuff-off.
Its proper name is The Great Great-Grandmas’ Stuff-Off, but don’t try to say that five times in a row after the tryptophan hits your bloodstream. Each year the two family matriarchs prepare their two outrageous stuffings. This recipe is adapted from one of them.
Although the original recipe contains no small amount of meat, I’ve adapted it over time into a vegetarian dish. With all the savory, meaty mushrooms in this version, it’s sure to please carnivores and vegetarians alike. The gravy is our go-to recipe for a versatile vegetarian sauce. It can also be prepared with turkey stock if that’s how you like to gobble.
Umami Girl’s Vegetarian Mushroom Stuffing
1 1/2 to 2 baguettes, cut into 1-inch cubes (12 slightly heaping cups)
6 Tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, diced
3 stalks celery, with leaves, diced
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps halved if large and sliced
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved if large and sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme
2 Tablespoons minced fresh sage
1 cup dry white wine
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
1. Preheat the oven to 250° F. Arrange the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 25 minutes to dry. (Alternatively, leave the bread cubes out, uncovered, overnight.) Remove the bread from the oven and raise the oven temperature to 375° F.
2. Meanwhile, in a wide pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and celery along with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, thyme and sage and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have halved in volume, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. There will still be liquid left in the pan. Remove from the heat to cool slightly.
3. In a very large bowl, beat the eggs with a fork until slightly frothy. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the vegetable stock and stir to combine. Add the bread, the mushroom mixture and the parsley and stir to combine thoroughly. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bread has absorbed all the liquid.
4. Bake in a 3-quart covered casserole or a deep 13×9-inch pan covered with aluminum foil for 35 minutes. Then remove the cover and bake 15 minutes more. Serve hot with mushroom gravy.
Note: You can, of course, also bake this recipe stuffed inside a turkey. It will fill an approximately 17-pound bird.
Umami Girl’s Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy
2 Tablespoons butter
4 garlic cloves, chopped
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps halved if large and thinly sliced
6 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a wide pan. (If making the stuffing, you can use the same pan from Step 2 without washing.) Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned in spots and substantially reduced in volume, 5 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning, for one minute.
2. Add the wine and stir for one minute, scraping up any bits of flour from the bottom of the pan. Then add the soy sauce and vegetable stock along with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to maintain a brisk simmer and cook until the gravy thickens slightly, 5 minutes or more.