brioche dressing with butternut squash, cremini mushrooms & kale

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The Thanksgiving holiday brings family and food (and stress) together. Family cooks have one chance to prepare their traditional Thanksgiving dishes, and attempt to serve them all piping hot at the same time. With the abundance of farm-fresh produce available at the Collingswood Farmers’ Market, why not practice for the big meal in advance?

This vegetarian dressing is savory, sweet and slightly earthy. Beginning with brioche from Dulce Artisanal Pastry, I added Savoie Organic Farm’s butternut squash, celery, garlic and kale, Flaim Farms yellow onions and herbs, and Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms cremini mushrooms. This recipe is a delicious departure from my usual simple stuffing.

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brioche dressing with butternut squash, cremini mushrooms & kale

yield: 6-8 servings as a side dish

1 loaf brioche, cut or torn into ¾-inch cubes and toasted
1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled, cubed and roasted
1 tablespoon olive oil (I use Lucini Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
4-6 sage leaves, whole
¾ cup flat leaf parsley, well washed and finely chopped
¼ cup fresh thyme and sage, well washed and finely chopped
6 stalks common curly or dino kale, well washed and roughly chopped
6-10 small cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup celery, finely diced
2 cups yellow onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
2 large whole eggs, room temperature, shell removed and lightly beaten
4 cups vegetable stock, make ahead or store-bought (recipe below)
salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare all of your ingredients before assembling. You will need a 13x9 casserole dish or large dutch oven for baking. Remember to lightly season your ingredients with salt and pepper along the way for layers of flavor.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Toast your bread: Cut the brioche into 3/4-inch cubes. Spread evenly on a sheet pan and bake in a 350-degree oven for 5-10 minutes. (You want to dry out the bread and make croutons.) Allow to cool.

Roast the squash: Prepare your squash while the bread is toasting. Peel the squash and scoop out the interior seeds. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Very lightly coat in olive oil and toss with salt/pepper and 4-6 sage leaves. Spread evenly on a sheet pan and bake in a 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes. You want to get some brown color on the squash but do not want it to become mushy. Allow to cool.

Wash and prepare the kale and herbs. Set aside.

Cut/prepare and keep separate: mushrooms, celery, onions, garlic. In a dutch oven or large heavy bottomed sauce pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Cook the sliced mushrooms over medium heat until browned with good caramelization (color). Remove from dutch oven and set aside on a plate to cool. Add and melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Cook the celery, onions and garlic clove for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. You do not want to brown the vegetables, just enough to soften them up/become fragrant. Remove the dutch oven from heat and set aside to cool (leave the vegetables in the dutch oven). Remove and discard the garlic clove, it has done its job.

Once celery/onion are cool, you will add everything to the dutch oven gradually. Add the roasted squash, mushrooms, kale, chopped herbs, half or so of the toasted brioche, and salt/pepper to taste. Add the eggs and vegetable stock. This is easily mixed/gently folded by hand so that the bread and vegetables do not get smashed. Add the remaining brioche and continue mixing with your hands until just mixed. The dressing should look moist from the stock, but not drenched or floating in stock. If using the 13x9 dish, scoop your finished mixture into it now.

Cover the dutch oven (or place foil over the 13x9) and bake for 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven. Uncover and continue to bake for 25-30 minutes (or longer) until the topping is well browned and set in the middle. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving. The dressing may be reheated the next day and will last for 3 days. You may prepare the dressing 1 day ahead, and bake the next day.

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my rustic vegetable stock

2 yellow onions, skin on, halved and cut into quarters
1 bunch carrots, skin on and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 bunch celery, prepare same as carrots
1 bulb fennel, quartered, optional
1 bunch parsley, stems only/leaves removed
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, whole
1 bay leave

You will need a 12-quart (or larger) stock pot.

First, you must roast the vegetables for caramelization (color and flavor).

Line a large sheet pan with parchment. Place the onions, carrots, celery and fennel. Roast in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until vegetables are dark golden brown (not burnt).

Add vegetables to stock pot. Cover with cold water and bring to boil. (The water should reach within 2-3 inches of the top of the stock pot.)

Once boiling, add parsley stems, peppercorns and bay leave. Do not stir, ever. Lower temperature and keep at a low simmer for 2 hours.

Strain the liquid, discard the vegetables and cool. You may freeze or use immediately. (If you want a deeper flavor, make another vegetable stock using this stock.)

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