I'm pretty sure numerous wars have been fought at the dinner table over which type of stuffing (or dressing) reins supreme and with so many varieties to choose from, it really isn't any surprise that my family frequently finds itself debating their various merits. Personally, I've always been a fan of my grandmother's mushy breadcrumb dressing, but mine never tastes quite as good as hers, so I decided it was time to start the painful process of coming up with my own recipe. I've spent years cycling through various styles—sausage stuffing, cornbread dressing, variations on bread stuffing—I've tried them all (well, except oyster stuffing since it would cause me to stop breathing forever... stupid shellfish allergy.) It took me roughly 6 years of rejecting recipes before I finally discovered chestnut dressing and I haven't tried another recipe since.
What I love is that this recipe has a fairly simple ingredient list made up of things I typically keep in the pantry, plus it's flexible and can be dressed up to suite a variety of tastes. I've added additional things like fennel, pancetta, or fresh herbs—just to change things up a bit, but it's perfectly tasty just as it's written. It's been served alongside deep-fried turkey, honey-roasted ham, and most recently whole roast duck. It's always the first thing to disappear from the table, so if you want to have leftovers you'll need to make a double batch.
makes 6 - 8 servings
1lb loaf stale sourdough bread, torn into chunks
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 - 3 stalks celery, diced
1 small shallot, finely diced
1 stick salted butter
1/2 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
13 ounce package peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a large skillet add onion, celery, shallots, and butter. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, or until the celery is tender. Add poultry seasoning, bread, and chicken stock, then mix until all of the liquid is incorporated. Add additional stock as necessary if you still have dry bread or want your stuffing to be more moist.
- Chop or crumble the chestnuts, add salt and pepper to taste, then mix everything together. Transfer the finished stuffing to a baking dish. Bake uncovered for 20 - 30 minutes or until the stuffing is slightly brown on top.
You'll want to lay your bread out several days before making this recipe so it will have time to dry out. I put mine on a cookie sheet, then let it sit in the oven for at least two days. If I need to use the oven I toss it on the counter while I'm cooking and put it back in the oven once it has cooled off. If you decide to make stuffing at the last minute you can always bake your bread for 20 - 30 minutes, then let it cool off before you tear it into chunks.
The amount of chicken stock you'll need can vary, so make sure to have extra on hand. If your stuffing comes out of the oven a little dry you can always add a little bit of extra stock to moisten it up a bit. Just remember not to add cool or room temperature liquid to a hot ceramic or glass baking dish as it can cause thermal shock. This will break your dish and render your stuffing inedible (because no one wants to accidentally munch on glass shards.)
Chestnuts can be hard to come by, if you can't find them at your local supermarket talk to someone in customer service and most times they'll be happy to order them for you. Otherwise, check out your local asian market, many of them carry chestnuts year around.