Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chestnut Stuffing

Okay, I admit that one of the reasons I suggested nuts as the theme for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner (or, rather, last year’s at this point…) is because I wanted to make this stuffing again. I’ve made it a couple times before and enjoyed it. If you’ve never tasted chestnuts, the flavor is milder than most nuts, and the texture is softer and more crumbly.

I admit, however, that preparing the chestnuts is a pain. You can buy peeled chestnuts in jars, which would be much easier, but they’re also considerably more expensive. So I started with the raw, unpeeled nuts.

The directions say to drain the nuts after simmering. However, from experience, I have learned that it’s better to leave them in the water until you peel them. In other words, remove them from the pan one at a time, make two gashes at right angles in the pointed end, extend these cuts around, and pull back the peel. Just inside the peel is this fibrous stuff that may or may not stick to the nutmeat. I eventually decided that it’s not worth it to go to a lot of trouble trying to get that all off if it doesn’t come off easily. And yes, this all is hard on the fingers…because of all that, and for reasons of balance (i.e. I feel the nut level in this dish is a little high), you might want to reduce the amount of nuts a little.

This was the first time I’ve tried making dried bread cubes, and it turned out to be easy. I bought a loaf of cheap sandwich bread, cut 7 slices into cubes, spread them on a cookie sheet, and set it in my oven (it’s a gas oven with a pilot light, so it’s always warm even when turned off). Within a day they had dried out.

The recipe as written calls for celery, but I don’t care for the stuff so I left it out.

If you’re looking for this in your BH&G cookbook, it’s listed as a variant of Bread Stuffing; I’ve rewritten the recipe slightly to make it easier to follow. The cookbook says that the basic recipe without the nuts makes about 3 cups, or enough to stuff a 4-5 lb chicken, and that you should double the recipe for a 10 lb turkey. But the nuts add quite a bit of volume (as would the celery if you used it). We didn’t actually stuff the turkey with this, so I can’t say whether a single recipe of this is enough for a turkey.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper!

Chestnut Stuffing
(source: Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book)

3 cups (1 pound) fresh chestnuts in shells

3 tbsp chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

6 tablespoons butter

4 cups dry bread cubes (about 7 slices cut in ½-inch cubes)

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

½ tsp poultry seasoning

½ tsp ground sage

¼ cup turkey or chicken broth

Put the chestnuts in a pan and cover chestnuts with water; simmer 15 minutes. Drain. Make gash in shells with sharp knife; peel off while warm. Chop nuts.

Cook onion and celery in butter. Combine with bread, seasonings, and chopped nuts. Toss with broth.

Recycle: broth cans, if any; spice jars

Compost: chestnut shells, vegetable trimmings

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