Sourdough Bread, Fennel and Sweet Sausage Stuffing
1 1-lb. loaf sourdough bread, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes (about 16 C.)
1 3/4 lb. sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
5 to 6 T. butter
2 1/2 fennel bulbs, chopped
1 1/4 lb. onions, chopped
1 T. fennel seeds
1 1/4 lb. firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. dried marjoram
2 tsp. dried rubbed sage
3/4 C. dry white wine
3/4 C. (about) canned low-salt chicken broth
Chopped fennel fronds (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread bread on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Bake until just golden, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Transfer to very large bowl. Cook Italian sausage in large pot over medium-high heat until browned, breaking up pieces with back of fork, about 12 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to small bowl. Melt 4 T. butter in same large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped fennel, onions and fennel seeds. Sauté until fennel and onions are tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add pears, bell peppers and herbs. Sauté until pears and peppers are just tender, about 10 minutes. Add wine and boil until most liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. (Toasted bread cubes, sausage and fennel mixture can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately. Store bread at room temperature; refrigerate sausage and fennel mixture.) Add sausage and fennel mixture to bread cubes. Season stuffing to taste with salt and pepper.
To bake stuffing in turkey:
Loosely fill main turkey cavity with stuffing. Add enough broth to remaining stuffing to moisten lightly (about 1/4 to 1/2 C., depending on amount of remaining stuffing). Generously butter glass or ceramic baking dish. Spoon remaining stuffing into dish and dot remaining stuffing with 1 T. butter before baking in dish. Cover with buttered foil, buttered side down. Bake stuffing in dish alongside turkey until heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover stuffing. Bake until top is just crisp and golden, about 15 minutes.
To bake all of stuffing in baking dish:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 13x9x2-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish. Add enough broth to stuffing to moisten (about 3/4 C. to 1 1/2 C..) Transfer stuffing to prepared dish and dot stuffing with 2 T. butter before baking. Cover with buttered foil, buttered side down; bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is crisp and golden, about 20 minutes longer. Top with fennel fronds, if desired, and serve.