Wild Mushroom Focaccia Stuffing
This spectacularly delicious side is guaranteed to garner praise. Though synonymous with Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s so good you may just find yourself making it other times of the year.
Stuffing is indisputably an essential side that needs to show up at most Thanksgiving or Christmas meals. If you’ve yet to finalize your Thanksgiving menu, may I recommend this wild mushroom focaccia stuffing? It is a deeply savoury stuffing filled with buttery sautéed leeks, garlic, celery, lots of earthy mushrooms, salty pecorino cheese, and plenty of herbs. This stuffing is baked in a baking dish, under foil for the first 20 minutes, then without for the remaining cooking time. It emerges from the oven with a custardy soft interior and a crunchy golden on top. Hearty and insanely flavourful, it is the only stuffing I can say I truly crave around the holidays.
Stuffing vs Dressing
Stuffing, or dressing, is a classic savoury side dish composed of chunks of bread mixed with herbs and other ingredients and typically served with turkey. For most of us, safety concerns have long changed the tradition of cooking the stuffing inside the turkey, opting instead to cook it in a separate dish. Technically, when the stuffing is not cooked inside the turkey, it should be called dressing. But the term stuffing is more familiar to me and more widely accepted, whether it’s cooked inside the turkey or not. For the sake of simplicity, we are calling it stuffing in this recipe.
Best Bread For Stuffing
Typically stale sourdough, white, or rye cubed bread is used for stuffing. Cornbread is also a very popular bread for stuffing and is quite delicious. I have made this mushroom-based stuffing with many different breads but my absolute favourite is with this homemade focaccia. Focaccia is best eaten the day you make it as it becomes very stale and hard within a day. This makes it the perfect bread to use for stuffing. Furthermore, the olive oil and rosemary seasoned focaccia add more intense flavour to the stuffing.
You really can use any hearty, rustic bread to make stuffing, but bear in mind the better the bread, the better the stuffing will be. If all you have is very soft bread, such as brioche or challah, be sure to dry it out on the counter, and then in the oven until it is very crispy and hard.
TIP: Dry the bread cubes. I prep my bread cubes a few days ahead of time and let them dry out on the counter. This way they still maintain their shape/bulk when you add the eggs, parmesan, and stock. If you don’t have time to let the bread cubes dry out a few days ahead of time, I will preheat mine in my Sofia Professional range at 375°F, spread the cubed bread on a large rimmed baking sheet, and bake until the bread is dry, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, and voila!
Ingredients for Wild Mushroom Focaccia Stuffing
This wild mushroom focaccia stuffing takes inspiration from the stuffed mushroom appetizers that are always a hit at parties. If you love those little stuffed mushroom caps, you will love this stuffing as a side.
- Focaccia – I recently posted a recipe for homemade focaccia that would be absolutely delicious in this wild mushroom stuffing. If you don’t have time to make it, buy good quality focaccia from a bakery or deli. In Ontario, Ace Bakery makes a great Rosemary focaccia sold at almost all well-stocked supermarkets. Alternatively, you can use any rustic bread such as sourdough, rye, or French baguette.
- Wild Mushrooms – I absolutely love mushrooms which is why this is my favourite stuffing ever. I use a mix of cremini, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms whenever I can but cremini only would also work fine.
- Leeks – The leeks here add a lot of flavour as well as heft to the dish. You can also use 2 shallots, or 1 large onion if you prefer.
- Garlic – Mushrooms and garlic enjoy a special relationship. I can’t imagine one without the other.
- Butter – Sautéing the mushrooms in butter makes them very creamy and flavourful. Feel free to use olive oil, if you prefer.
- Celery – To enhance the savouriness of this dish.
- Herbs – Woody herbs such as thyme and sage go particularly well with earthy mushrooms. You can also use rosemary and parsley if you wish.
- White wine – I use a full cup here to deglaze the pan which also adds great flavour. You can omit the wine and replace it with any broth if you wish.
- Broth – A homemade broth would be ideal here. You can use chicken, turkey, mushroom, or vegetable broth with equal success.
- Egg – This will help bind all the ingredients and help keep the stuffing moist.
- Pecorino Cheese – Though pecorino might sound strange in this recipe, mushrooms partner surprisingly well with salty cheese (think a mushroom risotto). Feel free to use parmesan if that is easier for you.
Can Stuffing Be Made Ahead?
Yes – and this may just be the best thing about stuffing! The entire casserole can be prepared up to the point of baking the day before and refrigerated or frozen and then thawed and baked according to the directions, and this might just be the best thing about stuffing!
Make one day ahead: If making a day ahead, prepare and assemble the casserole but don’t add the egg and broth mixture until ready to bake the next day. Otherwise, the bread mixture will become too sticky and soggy. Just be sure to toss it well with the egg and broth mixture before you bake it.
Make ahead and freeze: It is best to freeze the stuffing unbaked. Assemble the stuffing entirely in the baking pan, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and foil, then transfer it to the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. and cook the stuffing directly from the freezer, still covered, for 1 hour. Increase the temperature to 400°F and bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes until golden crispy on the top.
For mushroom haters – I believe this mushroom stuffing would make converts out of anyone who thinks they loath mushrooms. If you can’t chance it, leave them out! You can replace the mushrooms with fennel or simply add more leeks and celery to bulk up the mixture. The stuffing will still be delicious. You could also replace the mushrooms with a mild Italian sausage; remove the casings and cook until crumbled and brown.
Gluten-Free – use cornbread! I haven’t tried it but I see no reason for it to not be just as delicious. Or if you have a favourite gluten-free bread, give it a go!
Vegan – Use olive oil in place of the butter. Stick to vegetable or mushroom broth and omit the egg. Omit the cheese or use your favourite vegan parmesan!
Wild Mushroom Focaccia Stuffing Recipe
This wild mushroom focaccia stuffing takes inspiration from the stuffed mushroom appetizers that are always a hit at parties. If you love those little stuffed mushroom caps, you will love this stuffing as a side. Best of all you can make it days ahead.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 55 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 10 mins
- 10-12 cups Focaccia, cut into 1-inch cubes or any country-style bread (*preferably day old and dry - or see notes to dry it)
- 4 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil, divided plus more for greasing pan
- 1 pound mixed mushrooms such as cremini, shiitake, oyster, or white
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 large leeks, white and pale green parts only chopped
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 large garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon chopped sage
- 1 cup dry white wine or use 1/2 cup broth
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups chicken, mushroom, turkey, or vegetable broth or a mix
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
- Generously grease a 9x13-inch baking dish and preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter is foamy, add the mushrooms. Stir to coat and let them cook without touching them (!!!) for at least 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and repeat until golden on all sides. Remove the mushrooms to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
- In the same skillet over medium-low heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the leeks and celery, salt, and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes until softened. Stir in the garlic, thyme, and sage and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine (or 1/2 cup broth) and let it cook down for about 3-4 minutes.
- Place the bread cubes in the bowl with mushrooms. Add the warm vegetable mixture and toss to combine.
- Whisk the egg, broth, and cheese in a medium bowl. Add egg mixture to stuffing and toss to coat.
- If the stuffing appears a bit dry, add a splash more broth. Pour into the prepared baking dish and dot with diced pieces of the remaining tablespoon of butter. Cover tightly with buttered foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden, about 20 minutes.