Wild Mushroom Stuffing

The Pacific Northwest has a cornucopia of mushrooms: morels and porcini in the spring, chanterelles and black trumpets in the fall and winter, and fresh shiitakes all year round. Earthy mushrooms bring a new dimension ot stuffing.

Wild Mushroom Stuffing
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

12 ounces artisanal sourdough bread (about 1 medium loaf)
1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 ounces fresh mushrooms, such as crimini or chanterelles, wiped clean
3 tablespoons pale dry sherry
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 large celery ribs, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/4 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces semihard cheese (preferably Flagship), shredded (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup of Turkey Stock, Chicken Stock, or store bought low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

Preheat the oven to 325°F

Cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes and spread them on two baking sheets. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the cubes are dry and light brown. Set aside to cool.

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the dried shiitakes and stir to submerge them. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let the mushrooms steep for 30 minutes. Strain the broth into a measuring cup. You will need 1 1/2 cups of the broth for the stuffing; reserve aside. Cut off and discard the stems from the shiitakes. Thinly slice the caps and reserve.

While the mushrooms are steeping, heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the fresh mushrooms and let them cook without stirring for 2 to 3 minutes, or until some of the mushrooms are beginning to brown. Stir the mushrooms and cook until the liquid has evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the sherry and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Return the skillet to the stove over medium-low heat and melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in it. Add the onion, celery, garlic, thyme, sage, and marjoram. Cook until the onion mixture begins to soften but not brown, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Increase the oven heat to 375°F and butter an 8-inch baking dish.

To assemble, use your hands to toss the bread with cooked mushrooms, shiitakes, onion mixture, salt, pepper, and half of the cheese in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the 1 1/2 cups mushroom broth with the stock. Drizzle half the liquid over the bread mixture while lightly tossing. Let sit for 3 to 5 minutes for the bread to absorb the liquid. Continue to gently toss the bread mixture, adding enough liquid to make the bread moist but not soggy (you might not use all of the liquid).

Pour the bread mixture into the baking dish and pat it down. Sprinkle the stuffing with the remaining cheese and cover it with a piece of lightly buttered aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes and then uncover and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the top layer is just beginning to brown. Serve warm.

Make ahead tip: The cooked stuffing will keep up to 3 days ahead in the refrigerator 
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