This recipe is incredibly flavorful and savory. It's perfect for a cold winter's night or a holiday celebration. The ingredients are a break from what I think of as traditional US holiday stuffing--carrots, celery, onion, and stuffing mix seasoned with sage. This version incorporates vegan Italian sausage, spinach, fennel, and sourdough bread cubes. It’s deeply flavorful and savory.
As bread starts to get too stale to eat, I cut it into cubes, put it in a Ziploc bag, and throw it in the freezer. When it's time to make stuffing, I have bread cubes ready to go, and I didn't waste any bread! I am a big fan of sourdough bread, so my bag of odds and ends bread tends to heavily skew in that direction. I also use the frozen bread cubes to make bread crumbs. When a recipe calls for bread crumbs, I throw a few cubes in a food processor and call it a day. It’s a good way to have less waste, and have bread cubes (or crumbs!) at the ready.
For this particular recipe, I bought a brand new loaf of sourdough bread, and used a bread knife to cut it into cubes for the stuffing. They don't need to be bite size. My bread cubes tend to be on the larger side, but I think it gives the dish a "rustic" feel. Whether you use fresh bread cut into cubes or use frozen bread cubes collected over time, this makes a stuffing that is superior to using stuffing mix. It’s moist, flavorful, and absolutely delicious.
Spinach and Fennel Sourdough Stuffing
6 cups sourdough bread cubes (see note above)
1 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup vegan Italian sausage, crumbled (I used Field Roast Italian Sausage)
5 Tbsp vegan butter
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 sprig of fresh thyme OR ½ tsp dried thyme
2 ½ cups broth (fake chicken or vegetable)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 10 ounce bag of frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
2 Tbsp flax seed meal
½ cup water
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Grease an 8" X 11" pan, and set aside. In a large skillet, add red onions, crumbled Italian sausage and 2 Tbsp non-dairy butter and sauté over medium-low heat for ~5 minutes. Add fennel bulb and celery, and sauté for 3 more minutes. Add broth, thyme, and 3 Tbsp non-dairy butter. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
2. While the broth mixture is simmering, mix the bread cubes, spinach, parsley and flax seed meal in a large mixing bowl. When the broth is done simmering, remove the thyme sprig (if you used fresh thyme), and stir in the lemon juice. Pour the broth mixture over the bread cubes mixture. Taste, and adjust seasonings (maybe some black pepper?).
3. Spoon the mixture into the greased 8" X 11" pan. Drizzle a ½ cup water over the top of the mix. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake at 400 F for 40 minutes. Remove the foil, and bake for 5-7 minutes more. Remove from oven, and serve.