My mom is confused.

“Chickens used to come with giblets,” she says. “You can’t find giblets anymore.”

She knows whereof she speaks. My mother grew up on a farm in Pleasant Hill, Mo.

Now, today’s cool kids in the restaurant world want you to think that nose-to-tail eating is very of-the-moment. But my mother was raised on beef tongue, scrambled eggs and brains, and giblet gravy. Life on a family-owned farm in a post-Depression, small Missouri town meant dinner was whatever the animal offered. “Trendy” had nothing to do with it.

I grew up with giblets — poultry’s edible offal. I hated them with a passion.

Then I hit adulthood and got a whiff of my mother-in-law’s chicken livers. Suddenly, I was an offal aficionado. One of my favorite Thanksgiving treats is to simmer turkey giblets early in the morning, then sneak bites of liver, gizzard and heart throughout the day. My husband and eldest gag when they catch me; my youngest fights me for the choicest pieces.

A few weeks ago I bought a Bell & Evans chicken and was delighted to find a parchment-wrapped package of giblets in the bird’s cavity. I simmered the pieces with celery, onion, sage and bay leaves, finely chopped them, then folded them into a mixture of black, brown and wild rice.

Everyone raved. (Even the husband and eldest.)

So today, I thawed a chicken with the idea of roasting it whole with a giblet-studded sourdough stuffing. But when I reached into the cavity …

… Nothing.

I checked the package. It screamed: “Organic chicken! No giblets!”

Has my grocer not heard? Nose-to-tail eating is a trend! We’re supposed to embrace an animal’s innards! (And I really wanted to fold tender simmered giblets into a sourdough dressing.)

Oh, well. I made this instead:


Dressing studded with meaty porcini mushrooms, leeks and celery. The mushrooms mimicked the meatiness I aspired to, and no one looked askance when I told them the “secret” ingredient.

Pseudo-giblet stuffing. I think Mom would be proud.

Porcini Dressing

This is a vegetarian side dish — something you couldn’t say about my original idea. You may need a tad more liquid, depending on the dryness of your bread. If so, supplement with vegetable broth (chicken broth for animal eaters), water or a splash of cream.

  • 4-5 cups torn sourdough bread pieces
  • 1 leek, halved and sliced into quarter-inch pieces
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib plus leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 sage leaves, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 4-inch fennel stalk, plus fronds, minced
  • 1/2- to 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Place the bread pieces on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake until dry but not colored, about 10 minutes. Cool.

Place the leek slices in a bowl of water to remove dirt and sand. Remove and dry.

Glaze a large saute pan with olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the leek, onion and celery to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and saute until tender.

Add the sage, garlic, rosemary and fennel. Saute for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat and cool.

Place the porcini in the boiling water. Allow to steep for 15-20 minutes, or until the porcini are very tender.

Remove the porcini from the liquid and finely chop. Add them to the leek mixture.

Place the bread pieces in a large bowl. Add the leek mixture and stir well.

Add the eggs and the porcini soaking liquid. Stir well, then season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings if you like.

Place the dressing in a greased, 9-inch casserole dish. Cover with foil. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.