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Holidays, Main Dishes, Pork, Side Dishes, Stuffing Stuff, Thanksgiving

Chestnut Stuffing

by Nick

There’s always a lot of anticipation about side dishes on Thanksgiving. In fact, unless the turkey is just perfectly prepared (a rare thing), I find that the sides really make the meal.

And for me, there’s nothing like a good plate of stuffing. It’s the perfect side in so many ways. Since I usually brine or deep fry my turkey, I never actually stuff the bird with the stuffing. Instead, I always bake it separately.

My friend worked out a recipe last year that I continue to use and still say is one of the best I’ve ever tried. This year though, I decided to add some roasted chestnuts to it.

Chestnut Stuffing

Very hard to beat this.

I posted on chestnuts in ravioli form a few weeks ago and there are some more detailed photos on how to prepare them in that post. You can also buy them jarred. Here’s the thing about the chestnuts in this version of the stuffing though: they are subtle.

Like almost invisible.

There are so many competing flavors going on (which trust me is a good thing) that the chestnuts get a bit lost. They do add some nice texture to the dish, but if you want a really big chestnut flavor to shine, you might consider doubling the chestnuts in the below recipe and eliminating the sausage.

After much test-tasting I decided that the sausage is what masked the chestnut flavors.

Yield
13x9 Pan. Serves 6-8.
Prep Time
Total Time
Print Recipe

Chestnut Stuffing

Ingredients

  • Breading:
  • 1/2 loaf white bread, cubed
  • 1/2 loaf wheat bread, cubed
  • Note: You can totally just use one or the other, but I like the mixing.
  • Sausage Base:
  • 1 pound pork sausage. Spicy is good, but not essential
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • Aromatics:
  • 1 Cup celery, chopped (about 3 stalks)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh sage, minced
  • 2 Teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 Teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  • Other Flavorings:
  • 1 Golden delicious apple, cored, peeled, and cubed
  • 1 pound roasted chestnuts (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 Cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 Cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 Cups turkey or chicken stock (this varies depending on your breading. More on this later)
  • 1/3 Cup melted butter
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

1) Cube bread up into relatively large pieces and toast it in a 300 degree oven until it’s super-crispy and dry for about 20-30 minutes. Give it a quick stir halfway through just to make sure it’s cooking/drying evenly.

2) Cut an X on all of chestnuts and roast them (you can do it at the same time you are toasting your bread) for about 20 minutes or until the shell peels back nicely on each chestnut.

3) When they are roasted, halve each nut and then handle each half basically like a clove of garlic. Gently smash it with the side of a knife, the chestnut will pop right out. Do that for each one.

4) Take the casings off sausage and cook over medium-high heat in a large skillet. If sausage is on the leaner side, you might need to add a tablespoon or two of oil just to help it out.

5) After it cooks for a few minutes and starts to brown, add diced onion to the pan.

6) When the sausage is completely cooked and the onion is translucent, add celery and cook for just a few more minutes.

7) Toss all of this stuff in a bowl with your roasted chestnuts. Add other aromatics (herbs) and flavor ingredients to the sausage mixture and then toss that all together with your bread mixture.

8) Stir it together well to make sure the bread soaks up as much moisture as possible from the sausage and onion.

9) Add stock and butter in 1/2 cup batches and stir well after each batch (approximately 2.5 Cups of stock). Add a big pinch of salt and pepper.

10) Pour stuffing mixture in a 9 x 13 pan.

11) Bake at 350 degrees with foil cover for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.


Prepping ingredients

The chestnuts are definitely the hardest part of this recipe. As for the other stuff, cube your bread up into relatively large pieces and toast it in a 300 degree oven until it’s super-crispy and dry. You don’t want it burned, but it should be crunchy like a crouton.

This should take about 20-30 minutes. Give it a quick stir halfway through just to make sure it’s cooking/drying evenly.

Toasted bread

A white and wheat bread mix is good.

Then you can prep the stuff for your sausage mixture. This includes your sausage and onions. While you are at it you can chop up the aromatics also.

Sausage and Veggies

Sausage is optional I guess.

For the chestnuts, cut an X on all of them and roast them (you can do it at the same time you are toasting your bread) for about 20 minutes or until the shell peels back nicely on each chestnut.

This is a picture pre-roast. For more details on the chestnuts, check out the ravioli recipe.

Chestnuts

Chestnuts roasting on a metal sheet...

When they are roasted, I halve each nut and then handle each half basically like a clove of garlic. Gently smash it with the side of a knife, the chestnut will pop right out. Do that for each one and you’ll have a big bowl of wonderful.

Chestnuts deshelled

A good amount of chestnuts.

Cooking the sausage

Take the casings off your sausage and get it started cooking over medium-high heat in a large skillet. If your sausage is on the leaner side, you might need to add a tablespoon or two of oil just to help it out.

After it cooks for a few minutes and starts to brown, add your diced onion to the pan.

When the sausage is completely cooked and the onion is translucent, add your celery to the party and cook for just a few more minutes.

Toss all of this stuff in a bowl with your roasted chestnuts!

Pork Mixture

Just four ingredients, but a lot of flavor.

Bringing it all together

Add your other aromatics (herbs) and flavor ingredients to the sausage mixture and then toss that all together with your bread mixture.

Stir it together well to make sure the bread soaks up as much moisture as possible from the sausage and onion.

Then add your stock and butter to the party.

Add your stock in 1/2 cup batches and stir well after each batch. You want each bread cube to be well soaked, but there shouldn’t be any liquid left at the bottom of the pan. I probably used about 2.5 Cups of stock for my version and then mix in the melted butter last.

Also, add a big pinch of salt and pepper to the party. There’s no harm in giving this a taste at this point although it will be kind of room temperature. You are basically just tasting for salt and pepper levels.

Just remember, if it’s good now, it’ll be great later.

Herbs and fruit

Warning: This will smell amazing.

Baking the stuffing

Pour your stuffing mixture in a 9X13 pan. You can really pack it in.

Stuffing ready to bake.

Ready for the oven.

Bake this at 350 degrees for a total of an hour. Bake it covered with foil for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 30 minutes.

And the trick to baking it is to make sure you give it a good stir every 15 minutes. This will prevent the bottom from getting too soggy and make sure everything cooks really evenly. I forgot to give mine a stir on one version that I made (I’ve made this twice in the past two weeks) and it was a noticeable difference.

Also, you may need to bake it for longer than an hour. Adding 15 minutes isn’t the end of the world. The end product should be moist, but not soggy and have some browned chunks throughout.

Eating the stuffing.

Betsy and I ate more of this than I can admit in public.

The above picture was actually of the version that I forgot to stir throughout the baking and you can see how some parts are super-crispy and some are a bit more soggy. But guess what, it was still delicious! It’s the best stuffing I’ve ever had, this just wasn’t the best version of the best stuffing I’ve ever had. Ya follow me?

So, in review:

- If you are going to be making a stuffing outside of the bird, this is one of the best I’ve ever had in my life (I’ve never actually stuffed it in the bird although I’m sure you could).

- If you want a real chestnut flavor, I’d axe the sausage and increase the chestnuts in the above recipe.

- If you don’t care about chestnuts, just leave them out. The stuffing is great without them. (Sorry chestnuts, but it’s true.)

- Stir the stuffing while baking to ensure amazingness.