Challah, Walnut, and Tart Cherry Stuffing

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  8 servings
Prep Time:  35 minutes Cook Time:  1 hour 40 minutes

Challah, Walnut, and Tart Cherry Stuffing

Savory, sweet, and crunchy, this stuffing is worthy of a special occasion but easy enough for any meal.

Ingredients

2 pounds challah, cut into 1½-inch pieces (about 10 to 11 cups)

¼ cup toasted walnut oil

2 large sweet onions, minced (about 3 cups)

6 cloves garlic, peeled and grated, any green centers discarded

6 carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch rounds

6 parsnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch rounds

1 large head fennel, trimmed cut into ½-inch pieces (see Kitchen Tips)

Leaves of 12 fresh fresh thyme sprigs, finely minced (see Kitchen Tips)

25 to 30 fresh sage leaves, finely minced

2½ teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1 cup low-sodium turkey, duck, chicken or veal demi-glace

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1½ cups candied walnuts

1½ cup dried pitted tart cherries

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a deep 13- by 9-inch casserole dish with nonstick vegetable oil spray.
  2. Spread the challah cubes out on 2 rimmed baking sheets, spacing them in a single layer on each sheet, and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned, stirring them halfway through the baking time.
  3. Heat the oil in a saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring frequently for 7 to 8 minutes, until softened and translucent. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally for 25 to 30 minutes, until softened and browned. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside, reserving the saucepan.
  4. Return the pan to the heat and add the carrots, fennel, and parsnips and cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, until the fennel has softened. Remove from the heat and add the vegetables to the onions and garlic.
  5. Add the toasted challah, thyme, sage, salt, and pepper to the vegetable mixture and mix to combine. Add demi-glace and mix to incorporate. Add the eggs, cherries, and walnuts, mixing again to incorporate.
  6. Loosely pack the mixture into the prepared casserole dish and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until browned on top and cooked through.

Kitchen Tips

  1. To prepare fennel, place it on its side on a work surface; you will see the core at its base.  Cut out the core by making two angled cuts on either side of it with a sharp knife, to form a triangle  shape. Remove and discard the core. Peel off any discolored, shriveled or hard outer layers and discard them. Cut off the feathery fronds; you can discard them or reserve them for garnish or for use in a dressing or other seasoning. You will be left with the fennel bulb and its “fingers.” Slice or chop as the recipe indicates. Note that some cooks discard the “fingers” as well; for a chopped salad, stuffing, or a soup, they are fine.
  2. To remove the leaves from a sprig of fresh thyme, hold the sprig (or a few) at the top with one hand, and with the other hand, grasp the stem with your thumb and forefinger and gently slide your fingers down the stem. The leaves will be pushed against the direction they grow in, and will come off easily.

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