My mom's stuffing is the best. I know you are going to try to tell me otherwise and I'm not trying to start a fight, but seriously, her's is hands down the winner. I pine for its comforting, sagey goodness, but as is my usual expat conundrum, it is once again not very likely I'll be able to make it home for Thanksgiving to enjoy it.
Having now spent three years living overseas, my tastebuds long for what a Skype viewing of the turkey coming out of the oven can simply not provide. So here is my Frenchified version, one that includes some of mom's approach and seasoning but also features some of the best of what fall brings into season in France: wild mushrooms, chestnuts and browned butter.
Oh, and for the sake of it, let's use brioche instead of plain old sandwich bread because, well, France!
2 loaves brioche bread, cut roughly into 1-inch squares
½ cup dried mushrooms, like porcini, loosely packed
1 cup boiling water
2 cups leeks, 1-cm dice
1 cup onions, small dice
1 cup celery, small dice
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
6 tablespoons plus 1½ cups salted butter, divided
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning chanterelles
1 teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning chanterelles
1 tablespoon dried sage
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
4 cups fresh chanterelle mushrooms, brushed clean (split larger mushrooms into three or four pieces, leaving smaller mushroom whole)
2 cups cooked chestnuts
Preheat oven to 350F.
Place bread cubes in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, pour boiling water over dried mushrooms and cover. Allow to steep for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove any dirt and keep broth aside until ready to use. Feel free to keep rehydrated mushrooms for a future recipe.
In a medium pot, sweat leeks, onions, celery and garlic in 4 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil until soft and onions are translucent. Try not to brown. Add the salt and pepper, dried sage and fresh parsley and cook 30 seconds more until fragrant. Remove from heat and pour over the large bowl containing the bread cubes.
Working in batches, brown chanterelles in 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium-sized frying pan. Season lightly with salt and pepper at the end of each batch. Add cooked mushrooms to the large bowl.
In a small pot, melt 1½ cups of butter and cook over medium, heat stirring often. As the butter melts it will begin to foam and gradually this foam will turn a light brown colour. It should have a very nutty aroma. Add the chestnuts at the end and cook for 30 seconds, careful not to burn them. Add browned butter and chestnuts to the stuffing mix.
Once the mixture has cooled enough to handle, add the mushroom stock and toss and squeeze the stuffing mixture together, using your hands to make sure the bread cubes are well coated. Tip the entire mix into a baking dish and allow to sit and marinate for 30 to 60 minutes. Bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake uncovered for another 5 to 10 minutes so the top gets a little crispy. Serve immediately.