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Savory Cornbread Stuffing with Fennel, Leeks and MushroomsThis stuffing is savory, loaded with vegetables and herbs.  You can add some sausage to this, if you wish, but it’s darn good without.  You won’t miss the meat at all.  Cornbread Stuffing or Dressing is not part of my Thanksgiving heritage…we were an Bread-and-Herb-Dressing family, sometimes with some oysters thrown in.  But, from time to time, it’s good to step outside of one’s culinary heritage and have a bit of an adventure.  So I played and I must say, this turned out surprisingly delicious, even by The Goddess’s extraordinarily high standards.

Toasted Cornbread Cubes for Savory Cornbread Stuffing with Fennel, Leeks and MushroomsI think it’s very important, no matter what type of bread you use as a base, if does make a difference if you toast it.  So toast the cubes and then let them dry a bit, too.

As the title indicates, this dressing features cornbread, fennel, leeks and mushrooms.  But I added some sun-dried tomato strips, corn kernels, diced water chestnuts, less traditional herbs, diced fresh orange rind and some pistachios, just because they are so damned delicious.

Savory Cornbread Stuffing with Fennel, Leeks and MushroomsI sautéed the fennel, the leeks and mushrooms.  But, I left the corn kernels raw.  I wanted them to retain some of their texture; they did.  The water chestnuts and pistachios added some very good crunch.

Savory Cornbread Stuffing with Fennel, Leeks and MushroomsI baked this in a skillet, but use an oven-proof baking dish, if you wish.

Savory Cornbread Stuffing with Fennel, Leeks and Mushrooms

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Moderately Easy
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  • 8 cups dried, toasted cornbread cubes from Cornbread for Stuffing recipe
  • 1 can water chestnuts, drained and diced
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil-optional)
  • 1 cup corn kernels, cut from 1 ear of corn
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced fresh fennel bulb (include some of the fern-y top)
  • 1 cup diced celery, about 2-3 ribs (optional-I used coarsely diced leaves)
  • 1 cups sliced leeks
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup quartered cremini mushrooms (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, very coarsely chopped (or whole pistachio kernels)
  • 2-3 teaspoons very finely chopped fresh orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil or 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/3 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 cups warm broth, enough to just moisten the stuffing
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2-3/4 cup shredded or coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Melted butter, to drizzle over the stuffing

Place the cornbread cubes in a large bowl.  Add the sun-dried tomato bits, water chestnuts and corn kernels; set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the butter and olive oil.  When hot, add the fennel and celery, if using.  Sauté until slightly translucent for about 3 minutes.  Add the leeks, garlic and mushrooms; continue to cook until the vegetables are softened.  They can brown, but don’t need to.  Pour the vegetables into the bowl with the cornbread.  Toss in the herbs and salt and pepper.  Toss the mess together.  Begin drizzling the broth over; gently toss to mix, adding more broth as needed.  The mixture should be just moist, but not soggy.  Combine the beaten eggs and heavy cream.  Pour that over the mixture; restir.  Pour into a well-buttered 9X13-inch baking dish.  Drizzle with melted butter.  Make ahead tip:  You can make the cornbread several days ahead and the stuffing a day ahead.

About 1 1/2 hours before serving, remove the dish from the fridge and let set for about 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Cover the dish with foil.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and return to the oven.   Bake an additional 35-45 minutes, or until deep golden and the top is nice and crispy.  If you want the top to be really, really crispy, slide it under the broiler, but watch it closely.

Remove from the oven.  Serve immediately, or cool slightly and serve at very warm room temperature.  You can make this the day ahead and rewarm it in a 325°F oven.

Savory Cornbread Stuffing with Fennel, Leeks and Mushrooms Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2016.  All rights reserved.

I have made this using dried fruit (cranberries, apricots, dates and pears), diced apples, leeks, fennel, nuts, water chestnuts, parsley, and thyme.  With that combo, I use the pecans and I use lemon zest, instead of the orange zest.  I liked that version, but this one appealed to my buds, today.

The consistency of this is soft, but the top is nicely crisped.  Fennel and orange have an affinity for each other.  The orange is subtle in this and that’s just the way I wanted it.  There’s good crunch from the chestnuts and pistachios.  The texture has a nice soft quality, but there’s still some nice texture, if you don’t over-mix the bread and you crisp the top under the broil, if necessary.  Savory Cornbread Stuffing with Fennel, Leeks and MushroomsThis dressing is wonderful with turkey, but is equally good with chicken or pork.