Saturday, November 7, 2015

Chestnut Dressing ~ A Perfect Holiday Side

A perfect turkey side-dish and certainly classic, is chestnut dressing or stuffing. I make it several times every year  and always with my Thanksgiving turkey. But it goes well with any roasted bird and is great in a crown roast of pork. But as noted in my roasted turkey recipe, I do not recommend stuffing the turkey to ensure even roasting.

Chestnuts headed into the Dressing
I'm making it here with Italian sausage, which I do recommend. But if you are feeding vegetarians you can skip it, or easily make a batch of both as the sausage is added just before turning it into the baking dish(es). And I purchase chestnuts already roasted and shelled and ready to use. 

This brand is always good.
I also recommend you use at least one loaf of good crusty bread. Two days prior to cooking, I cube and lightly toast the bread (250F degrees for 45 minutes), and then set aside to continue drying. Dry bread better absorbs the sauce. For a large crowd you may also want to have a bag of stuffing croutons to mix into the bread.

In the photo above I show one large loaf of french bread, although Focaccia bread is also a great option for stuffing. I recommend selecting whatever bread looks good in the bakery and has a nice firm crisp crust.

1 loaf French or Focaccia bread
1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1 small carrot, grated
1/2 cup butter
1 cup chicken/turkey stock

1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
12 ounces dried bread croutons
5-6 ounces fresh whole prepared chestnuts

Prepare the loaf of bread as noted above so that you have fresh, dry bread cubes ready for use. Then chop the vegetables.

If using the sausage, which I do recommend, brown it in a large heavy sauce pot. Remove the meat and keep the drippings for the next step.

If you have not used sausage, heat the butter in a large sauce pan until melted and add the onion. If you did use the sausage, add the chopped onion to the sausage drippings. Cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the celery and carrot and stir to combine. Add the turkey stock (and the butter if you have not yet used it) and heat until simmering. Cook the vegetables for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add the milk and remaining seasoning and warm over medium heat until just hot, about 10 more minutes. Do not scald or boil the milk mixture. While the milk warms, cut each chestnut in half.

Place the bread and half of the croutons in a large mixing bowl. Gently turn in the wet mixture. until combined. Over mixing will break up the bread and you do want some shapes to remain. Add as much of the remaining croutons as necessary to make the dressing to your desired consistency. My husband doesn't like it too wet, and yet others prefer a very dense dressing. So here you will have to use your best judgement.

Now add in the optional sausage and the chestnuts and gently combine so as not to break up the chestnuts.  Turn into a prepared baking dish (I spray mine with food release) and the dish is ready for baking. You can refrigerate for 24 hours if necessary. When ready, bake in a 350F degree oven for 30-60 minutes covered with foil for the first half of baking. Remove the cover for the latter have to make a nice crust on the top. If you refrigerated the dressing you will need the full 60 minute baking time.

Julian's Dressing Ready for the Oven
As I noted earlier, this dressing makes a great side dish for most every kind of foul, including turkey, duck and chicken.

Julian's Roasted Duck with Chestnut Stuffing

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