Ever since I have begun attending Thanksgiving Dinner at Julia's house, I have yearly enjoyed seriously delicious vegetarian Thanksgiving food. Her clover leaf rolls and her pecan and pumpkin pies have achieved epic status—that's to say that if the Odyssey were written today, it would probably include an incident during which Odysseus, bewitched by Julia's cooking, tarries overlong. Julia=Circe is what I am saying; Penelope can totally wait while Odysseus finishes another warm, soft roll with butter.
Actually, butter is the key to much of her cooking, and if you're vegan or fat-free or gluten-free or low sodium, avert your eyes! this post is so not for you. Julia does this amazing thing with the special European salted butter she buys: she puts it in a butter bell upside down with water, and the butter miraculously stays warm and fresh and easily spreadable and also somehow tastes better. This sort of butter goes well with clover leaf rolls. Butter is amazing; in my opinion margarine can just scram. Of course you want to make sure your butter wasn't churned from the udder-juice of maltreated cows.
But I digress.
Julia, like many an American faithful to the cooking traditions of our foremothers, usually makes a vegetarian-unfriendly stuffing inside the turkey. Every diner agrees this is the tastiest kind of stuffing. Then there is always extra stuffing that can't fit inside the turkey and there are various ways to deal with this stuffing: pour turkey juice over it, serve dry as is, or find other, increasingly creative solutions that inevitably can't hold a candle to the stuffing inside the turkey. Julia, however, really wanted me to have a delicious vegetarian stuffing. "Don't worry, Julia," I reassured her, "I don't even really like stuffing." And this had been true. The one inside the turkey I usually find mushy and the one outside bland.
Julia ignored me and make two little pans of vegetarian stuffing. Well, it was a nice thought, so of course I had to eat some, and Goodness Gracious!!! It was hands-down the best stuffing, meat or not, I had ever experienced. It was the Incarnation of Deliciousness. It was the Vegetarian Stuffing that beats to a pulp every Turkey Stuffing in the world. I begged Julia for the recipe and now I will share it with you, just when you had completely forgotten about Thanksgiving. But I should warn you that this is not a simple recipe, and butter pretty much drenches all the ingredients, so just resign yourself and say good-bye to your arteries for the evening.
Julia's Vegetarian Stuffing
4-5 Cups cubes of homemade Hungarian potato bread
4-5 Cups cubes of homemade Buttermilk Crackling cornbread from the Joy of Cooking (made with half stone-ground cornmeal and half fine cornmeal)
2/3 Cups chopped parsley, a combination of flat (Italian) and curly
1 and 3/4 Cups chopped celery
2 and 1/2 Cups sliced mushrooms
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1/4 lb. butter plus maybe more
salt and pepper
a little sweet Hungarian paprika from Szeged
some hot water
- Toast 8 to 9 Cups cubes of bread and cornbread in an over at 250 degrees Fahrenheit until crispy and dried out. Place in a large bowl.
- Sauté the onions in 1/3 stick of butter. When the onions are soft, add celery.
- Sauté them together.
- Add the onion-celery sauté to the bread cubes.
- Sauté the mushrooms in another 1/3 stick of butter.
- Add the mushrooms to the bread cubes.
- Add parsley, salt and pepper, and paprika to the bread cubes.
- Add just enough hot water to moisten the mixture, tossing and mixing the whole time.
- Thickly butter muffin tins, tiny bread tins, or two bread loaf pans.
- Preheat the overn to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add the mixture to the tins and dot with pats of butter on top.
- Cook for about 30 minutes.
- Serve hot.