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stuffing
This cornbread stuffing will warm any holiday. STEVEN DESALVO/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

By STEVEN DESALVO
For Montclair Local

In Recipe of the Month food writer Steven DeSalvo shares a recipe Montclairians might enjoy making. DeSalvo has a degree in hospitality business management from the University of Delaware and has worked extensively in restaurants and hotels. If there is something you want to know how to make, or if you’ve eaten a dish at a local restaurant that you are dying to make at home, drop us a note at culture@montclairlocal.news.

The upcoming holiday season looks nothing like what we expected this time last year. Friends and families are preparing to have much smaller celebrations, households won’t be traveling great distances, and rather than gathering around a table or fireplace, a lot of folks will be joining each other virtually. Last year very few of us knew what Zoom was. 

I find that in times like this it is important to adapt and overcome. What other choice do we have? 

The stuffing recipe that I want to feature for the holidays has a lot of significance for me. It is a classic within my family that we have been making for at least 10 years. This way even when we are apart we can be together. 

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Even if you don’t use this stuffing recipe, be sure to use one that means a lot to you. It can help provide a sense of closeness when we need it most.

The holiday classic stuffing I chose is our cornbread, chestnut and sausage stuffing. I love this recipe because we don’t limit it to just Thanksgiving. It makes a perfect side for any festive dinner.

Naturally it wouldn’t be a true family recipe if I didn’t take some artistic liberties and make some of my own adjustments. I promise it is absurdly delicious, the stuffing pairs with any holiday food, and it might be even better cold!

As always please feel free to experiment with different ingredients to adjust this recipe to your liking. That is the best part about something that is baked in a casserole dish. More often than not you do not need to follow recipes word for word, which is my favorite kind of cooking. 

This recipe makes six servings as a side dish, but it is easily scalable.

INGREDIENTS

12 ounces cornbread (left out uncovered for at least 8 hours, overnight ideal)

3 oz. seeded semolina bread (left out uncovered for at least 8 hours, overnight ideal)

1 lb. pork sausage, meat removed from its casing and broken into half-inch pieces (if you don’t eat pork you can substitute chicken sausage or seasoned ground beef, lamb or venison)

2 small yellow onions, finely diced

½ fennel bulb, with fronds attached. Finely dice the root and pick the fronds for garnish.

Salt and pepper

3½ oz. oyster mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

5 oz. roasted shelled chestnuts, finely chopped

1 tsp. soy sauce

1 pint lager beer

1 cup mushroom broth

Fresh sage, minced

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the cornbread and semolina bread into roughly half-inch cubes, set them aside.
  3. Get a dry sauté pan really hot, add sausage meat piece by piece, with plenty of space separating each piece. Brown the sausage on all sides, remove from the pan and set aside. Leave the sausage fat in the pan. Depending on the size of the pan you may need to do multiple batches.
  4. Add the sliced onion and diced fennel. Season with salt and pepper, cook until the onion is translucent.
  5. Add the oyster mushrooms. Be sure to give them plenty of room so they don’t steam. Taste for seasoning after the mushrooms are fully cooked, approximately 5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the chopped chestnuts; after about 30 seconds add the soy sauce, followed almost immediately by the beer.
  7. Add the sausage back into the pan.
  8. Cook the beer down for about 3-4 minutes.
  9. Add the mushroom broth and bring to a simmer. Once it comes back to a simmer remove from heat.
  10. In a large bowl stir together the cornbread, bread, the mixture from the pan and the minced sage.
  11. Pour the mixture into a deep baking dish that will allow the mixture to be about 2 inches thick.
  12. Bake for 45 minutes, until the top is browned and crispy. I suggest letting it rest for about 30 minutes before serving.
  13. Enjoy!