This year I'm branching out from my standard bread, onion, celery, and apple dressing to a chestnut pear (for the vegetarians) and a chantrelle mushroom Italian sausage (for the omnivores). I can wing the latter, but I wanted to give the former a test drive before the real dinner.
I discovered the key is having a good chestnut peeler on hand (this one easily bribed with a glass of iced peppermint tea).
The dressing is good, and I will use the recipe—with a few modifications from the original, of course. I use chiabatta bread instead of white and tear it into small pieces and let sit for a few days, turning occasionally so it dries out evenly. I used homemade chicken stock that I always have in good supply, but for Thanksgiving I'll use vegetable stock since there will be a vegetarian present. I'll buy the stock since I won't have time to make it immediately beforehand and I don't think vegetable stock holds it flavor well in the freezer. And I'll kick up the flavor a bit with some fennel added to the celery and onion.
CHESTNUT PEAR DRESSING
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ribs of celery, small dice
2 medium onions, small dice
1 head fennel, small dice
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
1 teaspoon fresh sage, minced
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 to 2 pound chestnuts (I prefer Italian)
chiabatta bread, torn into small pieces to total about 8 cups
1 1/4 chicken or vegetable stock
4 unripe pears, Bosc or Anjou, diced
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare chestnuts: Using a sharp paring knife (or a chestnut knife if you're lucky enough to have one) score each chestnut with an X. Place chestnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. The flesh should be tender and golden, and the skins should peel off fairly easily. Chop nuts coarsely. This can be done several days in advance and the chestnuts stored covered in the refrigerator.
Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Combine herbs, chestnuts, and bread in a large bowl.
In a skillet, melt butter. Add celery, onion, and fennel; cook, stirring until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add to bread mixture in bowl. Add stock, 1/4 cup at a time until bread becomes moist. Add pear. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Combine well and transfer into a Dutch oven. Bake covered for about 1 1/2 hours. Remove lid and continue to cook until top browns slightly.
What's your favorite dressing recipe? Do you always make the same kind or do you mix it up?
Coming up soon: table linens, centerpieces, candleholders . . . the fun keeps coming.