Recipe: Mushroom Stuffing for Game Birds

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It’s Thanksgiving, which means many of us will be eating stuffing, probably for the only time this year. This is odd, isn’t it? Think for a moment; isn’t stuffing one of your favorite things on the holiday table? It sure is for me. So why do we ignore this fantastic side dish for the other 364 days of the year? It need not be so.
 
Stuffing should be much more of a mainstream winter dish, whether there’s a bird involved or not. My favorite stuffings are those with mushrooms, some sort of nut, and often a bit of meat, too—in this case, chanterelles, sausage, and pine nuts. These ingredients all work well together and form the backbone of this riff off a classic stuffing. 
 
Chanterelles can be tough to find right now unless you are on the West Coast, but any nice mushrooms will work. I like to use a classic breakfast sausage here, usually with venison or wild boar. The pine nuts add a lot, so try to get them. But if you can’t find pine nuts, my favorite substitutes are, in order: macadamia nuts, almonds, pecans, and walnuts. 
 
Obviously this makes a great Thanksgiving side dish, but I urge you to give it a go with your next roast pheasant or quail. You might find yourself craving stuffing all winter long. 
 
Ingredients
 
½ pound breakfast sausage, loose or in patties
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound chanterelles or other fresh mushrooms
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons dried thyme
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts or other nuts
4 cups bread croutons
2 to 3 cups pheasant, chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup parsley
Salt
 
Method
 
  • Soak the bread croutons in 1 cup of stock.
  • Chop the chanterelles (or other mushrooms) into medium-sized pieces; leave the small ones whole.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat for a minute or two. Add the loose sausage and brown it well, breaking it up as it cooks. Once it’s browned, place it in a bowl for later.
  • Add the chanterelles and sauté them, shaking and stirring them constantly, until they give up their water. When most of the mushrooms’ water has cooked away, add the butter, celery, and onion and toss to combine. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are translucent. Sprinkle them liberally with salt.
  • Return the sausage to the pan and add the garlic, thyme and pine nuts. Cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Pour the contents of the sauté pan into a large bowl and mix with the bread croutons and the parsley. Fill a casserole with the stuffing and add enough stock to make the mixture quite moist, about 1 cup. Cover the casserole and bake 30 minutes. Take the cover off and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the top browns
A member of both Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Hank Shaw is a hunter, cookbook author, and award-winning writer. His website is Hunter Angler Gardener Cook (www.honest-food.net). He lives near Sacramento, Calif.