Frenchified Fall Stuffing
One of my favorite things to do in France is to take an American dish and try to substitute French products. Fall is a great time of year for this, especially as we’re eating Thanksgiving-type foods because the market is full of fresh produce that just screams to be turned into comfort food.
One thing I love to make at this time of year is stuffing. Stuffing is one of those foods that can be both everyday and fancy, when done right. I tend to aim for the fancier side of things, but usually end up in the middle. I think it’s because I typically only make it on Thanksgiving, and when I do, I’m in a big hurry because I’m making like five different dishes simultaneously. I’ve learned that taking your time with this dish can yield a far better result than just slap-dashing things together and crossing your fingers (aka my previous technique).
The result is far more liquidy than typical stuffing, but it’s also far more rich and creamy. This isn’t just stick to your guts food, it’s also warming you up from head to toe food. A few things that really made the difference:
- Using leeks instead of regular onions. Leeks are like the uber-onion. They’re sturdy and can stand up to a lot long, slow cooking, but they also don’t lose their flavor.
- Using a large, crusty French boule. They’re just so delicious.
- Toasting a little fresh cracked pepper and mustard seed made this intensely savory, as did a hint of Worcestershire sauce.
- Slowly adding the broth, laddle by laddle, and stirring until I reached the right consistency. That’s what made this so creamy, in fact.
Here are some pics of the progress. If you give this a try, let me know! Now eat up!
- 1 crusty French boule, sliced thin and then cubed
- 2 leeks, washed and sliced thinly (I recommend using most of the green tops as well as the white bottoms; just cut off any part that looks funky or dried out)
- 4 celery stalks, diced
- 4 carrots, diced
- 1/2 fennel bulb, sliced thing
- 4 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon duck fat
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dried savory
- 1 tablespoon whole mustard seed
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon rosemary
- 5-10 dashes of Worcestershire sauce (to taste)
- 2 pinches sea salt
- Preheat oven to 425 F (210 C).
- Put vegetable stock in large pot and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer.
- Lightly oil a separate stock pot and place over medium-low heat. Add leeks and sauté until they start to soften. Stir frequently to avoid any pieces sticking.
- Stir in carrots and celery. Cooks until they start to soften.
- Stir in fennel and two pinches of sea salt. Continue to cook on low heat, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Don’t worry if the veggies start to brown, though, as that’s where a lot of flavor comes in!
- Using a mortar and pestle, roughly grind up peppercorns and mustard seed.
- Heat a small frying pan on medium. Once hot, place ground pepper and mustard into pan (no oil–the dry pan will toast them). Raise heat to high, hold the pan slightly over the flame or burner, and gently move the pan back and forth to keep the spices from staying in one spot for too long. You’ll know they’re done when they become highly fragrant and slightly browned, but keep a close eye on them as they can burn very quickly.
- Stir toasted spices into vegetable mixture along with savory and rosemary. Mix well.
- Stir in duck fat.
- Continue to cook on low until ingredients are fairly soft, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking. The mixture should become somewhat liquidy.
- Place just enough bread cubes in large stock pot to cover the vegetables. Stir them in until they are soft from absorbing the liquid.
- Stir in more bread cubes until all of the liquid in the stock pot has been absorbed. You should have used about half your loaf by this point.
- Add in about 2 ladle’s worth of vegetable stock and stir, slowly breaking down the bread.
- Continue to ladle in stock little by little, stirring and cooking down, until you’ve added all your stock.
- Stir in a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce.
- When most of the liquid has been absorbed and cooked down, remove from stove and place in oven, uncovered.
- Cook for approximately 45 minutes, until a golden brown crust forms.
- Remove from oven and cool for 20 minutes before serving.
- Large stock pot
- 2 quart pot
- Small frying pan
- Mortar & pestle