Adrianna Adarme is a recipe blogger and content producer living in Los Angeles. She writes the blog A Cozy Kitchen, where she shares comforting, easy, everyday recipes from her kitchen.
Thanksgiving always makes me feel like I’m a contestant on a cooking show where I’m being challenged to cook ten dishes (a gigantic turkey included) in under five hours with one stove and too little of everything. This holiday is all about what I like to think of as “time-tetris”: scheduling everything correctly so it all falls into place like perfect little food blocks. They bake up in about 20 minutes, and when they exit, they’re ready for their spotlight on the Thanksgiving table.
People will “ooo” and “ahh” at how you cute-ified something usually served in a casserole dish, and they’ll say “yum” to the fun combination of flavors. These stuffing muffins are a teeny bit spicy (thanks to the Italian sausage), and a little sweet (hey pears!) with a nice kick of anise flavor. Oh and if it’s, like, maybe 5 days before Thanksgiving and you want to give these a practice run, you won’t be sorry. They’re pretty perfect with a side of scrambled eggs and a cup of coffee. Yeah, I’m talking Thanksgiving stuffing for breakfast. That’s what I did, and it was glorious.
Italian Sausage-Fennel and Pear Stuffing Muffins
Yields 12 Stuffing Muffins
7 1/2 cups (about 1 loaf) of white bread, cut into 1/2-inch x 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage, removed from casing
1/2 cup yellow onion (about 1/2 yellow onion), diced
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 leak, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 1/2 firm pears (Bosc or Bartlett), diced
5 large fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (about 3 sprigs)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt* (See note below about salt)
1 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
2 large eggs, beaten
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
2. Thoroughly grease the insides of your muffin tins set aside.
3. In a single layer, place the bread cubes on two sheet pans and bake for 10 minutes, or until barely toasted. Remove and set aside.
4. In a large sauté pan, cook the Italian sausage over medium-high heat, being sure to break it up into crumbles. Stir the sausage regularly and cook for 5 minutes, or until thoroughly cooked. Transfer the sausage to a small bowl. Lower the heat to medium and heat three tablespoons of olive oil in the pan. Once the oil is hot, add the diced onion, diced fennel, sliced celery and sliced leek; cook until all is softened and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the pears, sage and thyme, and cook just until the herbs become fragrant, about 1 minute.
5. Turn off the heat and add the toasted bread, cooked Italian sausage and chicken broth to the vegetable mixture and toss. Do a taste test. Add the pepper and salt accordingly. I used a low-sodium chicken stock and was happy with 1 1/2 teaspoons of fine-grain sea salt. This may vary depending on the chicken broth you’re using. Add the beaten eggs and gently toss, being sure it’s evenly incorporated.
6. Gather a heaping tablespoon of mainly bread cubes and transfer them to the bottom of one of the wells in muffin tin. (You want the stuffing muffins’ foundations to be mostly bread.) Press down to compact it and transfer a few more tablespoons of stuffing, creating a mound. Press the mixture down to make a rounded shape and repeat the process until you have all 12 muffin tin wells full.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Allow to cool slightly in the muffin tins for 5 minutes. To remove, take a butter knife and go around each of the stuffing muffins’ outer edges. Using your knife, gently lift them up out of the muffin tins. Serve warm.