Thursday, November 20, 2008

Back to Thanksgiving:
Chesnut pear dressing

I call it dressing instead of stuffing because I cook mine out of the bird. The bird cooks faster this way, and I can stuff the cavity with herbs instead. I cook the dressing in a cast iron Dutch oven in another oven. This also means the amount of dressing I make is not limited to the size of the cavity, which never seems large enough. It also means I can make two kinds of dressing. Yippee!!

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 rest is easy.

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.


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.


Mom on the Run said...

They just had an article about the difference between stuffing and dressing in the newspaper today, and they came to the conclusion that it is normally called dressing in the South and pockets of the Midwest, and stuffing most everywhere else.

We always called it dressing, and my mom stuffed it in the bird. I've never put it in the bird, ick, it grosses me out!

So...anyway, carry on. Thought you might find that nugget of useless information interesting.

Anonymous said...

Hey my mom and I decided when you come down for christmas u have to make dinner for all of us. o ya and dessert. Everything u make looks so good. But no fish. Nick and I dont like any kind of sea food. And my mom wants u to check out her face book she is so proud of how many friends she has now.
C u soon!

tommie said...

i am glad I am not the only one doing a recon on the things I want to make for Thanksgiving dinner...I call it stuffing. Totally born and raised in the south!

carolyn said...

Yum...I want to come over for the omnivore's delight!!

Purple Flowers said...

Your daughter has such a cute face. I like the fact that she helps you in the kitchen. You are making memories with her.

Purple Flowers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adozeneggs said...

Sounds good. I love stuffing.
I'm limited to dessert this year as I'm not hosting, but I'll be making 3 desserts!

Tanya said...

Sounds absolutely delicious...I love both pears and chestnuts!

Unfortunately, I spend Thanksgiving alone so cant really justify making a huge pan of dressing for myself!

I do visit my parents for 10 days in December every year, and our favorite dressing that Ive made for years is an a 3-bread (corn, wheat, sourdough) with sage, apple, onion and sausage. Its a modified Silver Palate recipe.

Growing up, we spent holidays at my paternal grandparents house just outside DC and had both stuffing (inside the bird, classic bread, celery and onion) and dressing (outside, usually oyster).

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Politician's Wife said...

i absolutely hate stuffing, but would like very much to try yours. I think i will try and make a small portion and see if the senator will join me in re-introducing our taste buds to this dish... i like your style! I'm learning a lot... keep it comin'!

More, More, More said...

May I please be invited to your house for dinner one night?

Belle in Bloom said...

They both sound wonderful. I make regular "dressing" and oyster "dressing". I really love the oyster dressing. yum.

Have a great weekend!

Jen Yu said...

Oh boy oh boy. I love chestnuts. I am far too lazy to do anything other than the standard stuffing my mom made when I was a kid. Maybe if I didn't have to cook some damn bird I would play more with the stuffing? Looks yum.

Angelina said...

Hmmm, I wonder what it takes to get an invitation to your house for Thanksgiving dinner?

You know, I once took the gizzards out of a bird, but I have never stuffed anything INTO one.