5:01 PM EST, November 6, 2012
Alisha Hanlin, 27, is owner and chef for Pressed Flour, a baked goods business in Shepherdstown, W.Va.
She got her start in cooking when she was young. Her mother invited her to work with her in the kitchen.
"I did small tasks around the kitchen at home," she said. "I picked up a lot more from my mother in cooking with her as a child than I realized until I was in the professional kitchen and I was applying this knowledge that I had gotten from her."
Hanlin was until recently the pastry chef for LJ's and the Kat Lounge, a high-end restaurant in Hagerstown. The dishes at LJ's can be very fancy, but Hanlin encourages people try cooking for themselves and their families.
"People become intimidated. On the one hand, they think, ‘Well, I can do that.' And on the other hand, you can get really overwhelmed and intimidated," she said. "I hate that, because I would like for everyone to be able to enjoy cooking at home."
This is a seasonal recipe suitable for serving at a holiday dinner.
Mushroom thyme stuffing
1 loaf challah bread, 3/4-inch cubed and oven-toasted, about 11 cups (see cook's note)
2 to 4 ounces cooking oil
1 1/2 cups sweet onion, small-medium dice
1 1/4 cups celery, small-medium dice
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups cremini mushroom, small-medium dice
1/4 cup sherry
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped fine
2 heaping tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry Parmesan or asiago cheese, shredded (see cook's note)
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup cream
4 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut bread into 3/4-inch cubes and toast in the oven, stirring often, until edges begin to brown and bread begins to dry out. Set aside.
Coat a pan with oil and set stovetop heat to medium. Add onion and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft and just developing color. Stir often.
Add garlic and mushroom, and continue cooking until garlic has mellowed and mushrooms are soft.
Turn stovetop heat up to high, and while stirring constantly, add sherry. After evaporating most of the liquid, remove from heat. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and combine with thyme, parsley, 1/2 cup of the cheese, and bread. Stir well, and set aside.
Beat together eggs, stock, and cream until well combined. Pour over bread mixture, turning it over as you go, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Line a 9-inch-by-11-inch baking pan with parchment paper and non-stick cooking spray (or butter and flour). Pour in stuffing and press into pan. Top with butter cut into small pieces and 2 tablespoons shredded cheese.
Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and continue baking for another 30 to 45 minutes. At the end of your baking time, turn the oven to 450 and bake for five minutes. The changes in oven temperature allow stuffing to bake slowly like a savory bread pudding made with custard while producing a dry and crisp top layer.
Serves 12 to 16.
Cook's notes: Alisha Hanlin uses challah bread from Safron Bakery, east of Hagerstown. Other hard cheese may be used in place of Parmesan or asiago, as desired.
— Courtesy of Alisha Hanlin
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