Artisan Bread Dressing

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You can’t have Turkey without dressing. I think it’s a law or something. However, there is no law that dressing has to be boring. In U.S. v. Bell, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution allows variations beyond Wonder Bread, celery, onion and Bell’s seasoning. This year’s Thanksgiving Dinner had some strong flavor profiles so I wanted a rich, hearty dressing.

The bulk of dressing is bread so I wanted a hearty artisan bread. I was thinking of an ancient grain bread that Wegman’s makes, but, alas, they have not yet expanded into North Carolina where I was cooking dinner with my daughter at her house. I did, however, find some Omega-3 Seed bread with whole wheat and flax, sunflower and sesame seeds from Ninth Street Bakery in Durham, NC that worked great.

One of the key ingredients across the menu was roasted butternut squash, so it went into the dressing as well. To add to the richness, I added nice earthy porcini mushrooms. Never throw away the water in which you rehydrate dried mushrooms. If discarded, you are throwing away flavor. Carefully, filter out any sand and use the liquid in the recipe.

Since the dressing was by obligation accompanying a turkey, I wanted to use some of the same spices used on the bird. This year’s I was cooking my Mediterranean Turkey with za’atar. So I used za’atar in the dressing, as well. Za’atar is a Middle Eastern blend of herbs, sesame and salt. The blend varies from region to region, but is widely used. One of the main ingredients is Sumac. No, no, not the poison stuff we know in the Northeastern US. Sumac spice is the dried, ground fruit of the Elm-Leaved Sumach or Tanner’s Sumach shrub. The za’atar I used is thyme based. Za’atar can be purchased in any Mediterranean Grocery or the international section of most chain groceries.

Normally for Thanksgiving recipes, I would use homemade turkey stock; however, my stock was at home and, in what has always been a mystery to me, you can’t seem to find turkey stock at the normal grocery. I can buy it at Wegman’s, but it always sells out rapidly. This year, I had to substitute store-bought low sodium chicken stock.

I made the dressing the day before Thanksgiving and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. On Turkey-day, I took it out of the frig. an hour prior to cooking to bring it to room temperature.

Even with store-bought stock of a different fowl, the flavors really worked well together and, most importantly, we were in full compliance with the Turkey Accompaniment Act of 1621.


Roasted Butternut Squash:
1 Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
Olive Oil Spray
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon, ground
1/4 tsp. Cumin, ground

Artisan Bread Dressing:
1 1/2 Loaf of Artisan Bread, cubed
Olive Oil Spray
2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
6 Green Onions (Scallions), chopped including the green parts
4 cloves Garlic, minsed
1 oz. Dried Porcini Mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped (filter and reserve the water)
2 cup Roasted Butternut Squash
4 Tbsp. Za’atar
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Poultry Stock, as needed


Roasted Butternut Squash:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Cut squash into 3/4 inch cubes.
3) Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and place squash in a single layer on the pan.
4) Spray bread cubes lightly with Olive Oil on all sides and sprinkle lightly with Cinnamon and Cumin.
5) Bake until lightly browned and cooked through, but still firm, about 30 minutes, turning 1/2 way through.

Artisan Bread Dressing:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Cut bread into 3/4-1 inch cubes.
3) Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and place bread cubes in a single layer on the pan.
4) Bake until bread is dried, about 10 minutes.
5) Remove from oven and put dried bread into a large bowl.
6) In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat.
7) Add Green Onions and sauté until soft, about 10 minutes.
8) Add Garlic and sauté an additional minute.
9) Remove Onions and Garlic and add to bowl with bread.
10) Add mushrooms to skillet and sauté until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from skillet and add to bowl with bread.
11) Add squash, za’atar, salt and pepper to bowl with bread.
12) Starting with the mushroom rehydration liquid and moving to the poultry stock when it is gone, add liquid to the bread and mix until moist. The dressing should hold its shape when gently squeezed without being mushy.
13) Spray the bottom and all sides of a 13″ x 9″ cake pan with an Olive Oil spray and move dressing to the pan.
14) Bake until cooked through and brown on top, about 30 minutes.