Prep Time:    2 hours
Cooking Time:    75 minutes
Serves:    8-10

This stuffing is rich and delicious. It does take time to make, but you will be rewarded for  your work. The texture is very similar to bread pudding. Use a food processor or blender to chop the vegetables to save time. The stuffing can be made ahead of time (24 hours) and refrigerated un-baked. Bring to room temperature, about an hour, before baking.

This dish is made in three parts:
•    Toasting the bread crumbs
•    Cooking the vegetables
•    Making the custard mixture

1 lb loaf of either French or peasant or Italian bread, cut in ½” dice and toasted to “dry”
1 C Olive oil (or enough to coat bread crumbs)
6 T butter, divided
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ – 2lbs any variety of fresh mushrooms, including stems, cut into small pieces
4  finely chopped, medium shallots or 4 large green onion (white and green parts
2 large, finely chopped, celery ribs
1 medium , chopped, onion
1T minced fresh thyme, or 1 1/2 t dried thyme, divided
1C good dry white wine
5 C chicken stock, homemade or canned, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼C hot pepper sauce (optional)
2C heavy cream or half and half cream, brought to room temperature
½C fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
3 large eggs, beaten

Bread Crumbs -To toast breadcrumbs turn oven on to 350 degrees. Cut the bread into bite size cubes and place in a large bowl. Lightly stir bread crumbs with enough olive oil to coat.  Pour bread crumbs onto a cookie sheet in a single layer and bake for 10 minutes until golden brown. Half way through toasting  flip bread crumbs over so it toasts evenly on both sides. You may have to toast the bread in a few batches. Do not overcrowd the cookie sheet. Keep an eye on the bread while it is toasting to ensure it  does not burn. The bread will burn very quickly. Set aside bread crumbs while you cook the vegetable and make the custard base.

Cook the Vegetables – Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt 5 T of butter. Add garlic and sauté until lightly brown.  Increase the heat to medium-high and add mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms until they are lightly browned and the water from the mushrooms has evaporated. Stir in shallots, celery, onion, and half of the thyme. Continue to cook over medium high heat until all the vegetables are slightly softened. Stir in the wine and simmer until almost evaporated. Reduce the heat to medium low.  Add 2 C of chicken stock and simmer for about 13 minutes, until the liquid reduces and thickens. Season to taste with salt, ground black pepper and hot pepper sauce. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
Custard Mixture – Mix together remaining 3 C chicken stock and remaining thyme. Stir in cream, or half and half, and parsley. Stir in the beaten eggs and mix well. Add the toasted bread and mix until bread crumbs are coated. Let sit for about 15 minutes so the bread crumbs will absorb the savory custard mixture.

Bake – If cooking right away, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spoon the stuffing into a buttered 9”×13″ glass or ceramic baking dish. Dot the top with 1 T butter. Cover with aluminum foil.  Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake about 30 minutes longer, or until the top is golden and crisp and the stuffing is firm. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
If cooking later, refrigerate. When it is time to bake the stuffing, be sure to remove it from the refrigerator with enough time for the dish to come to room temperature (about one hour) before baking.


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