Every Thanksgiving, there are always high expectations for the stuffing.  Everybody has a favorite type, and I certainly didn’t want to disappoint anybody this year.  I was also seriously indecisive with whether I wanted to go savory or fruity, so I made two separate varieties.  I ended up mixing them both together on my plate, and in the future I vow to make this combo recipe.  It’s the best of both worlds!

Savory Fig Cornbread Stuffing
Yield: 6 to 8 side dish servings
Time:  2 hours total

5 cups cornbread, cut into ½-inch cubes  (see cornbread recipe here)
4 cups French bread, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
6 celery stalks, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 onions, chopped
3 tbsp butter 32 to 48 oz baby bella or crimini mushrooms
½ tsp coarse sea salt
3 shallots, diced
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced into bite-sized chunks
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup dried figs, sliced
¼ cup dried cherries (could substitute dried cranberries if you prefer)
¼ cup fresh parsley, leaves finely chopped (stems discarded)
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried garlic powder
½ tsp pepper
32 oz chicken broth
2 tbsp EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

1.  Preheat the oven to 475˚F.

2.  Wash the mushrooms thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.  If you have time to spare, allow the mushrooms to sit for about 15 minutes to let some of the moisture evaporate.  Slice in half or quarters, depending on their size (you’ll want bite-sized pieces).  Toss in a bowl with 4 tbsp EVOO and coarse sea salt.  Place on one or two roasting pans so the mushrooms are in a single layer.  Roast at 475˚F for 20-25 minutes, until deep brown in color.  Set aside.

3.  Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions are caramelized.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

4.  Place the diced celery in the skillet.  Add ¼ cup of chicken broth and cook over medium heat until the celery is tender, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

5.  Melt the remaining 1 tbsp butter in the skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots and apples.  Stir occasionally while cooking for 5 minutes.  Once the apples begin to soften, add the brown sugar.  Continue cooking over medium heat for another 3 minutes, stirring to incorporate the melted sugar.

6.  In a large skillet drizzled with EVOO, cook the sausage over medium heat until it browns, about 15 minutes.  Break it up into small pieces while it’s cooking.  (If it doesn’t crumble into small enough pieces, chop into pieces once cooled.)

7.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the roasted mushrooms, garlic and onions, celery (with any remaining liquid there may be), apples and shallots, and cooked crumbled sausage.  Add in the dried fruit and all herbs (parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, garlic powder, and pepper).  Toss to combine.  Mix in the cubed cornbread and French bread until all ingredients are well incorporated.  Transfer to a greased 9×13” baking dish.  Pour in remaining chicken broth, and gently mix.  Bake at 375˚F for about 30 minutes, until golden brown on top.