Sausage, Apple, and Chestnut Stuffing
When it finally grows cold enough for a blazing fire in the hearth, I crave roasted chestnuts. They are essential to my Thanksgiving feast, and this year they will star in the stuffing- a sourdough bread mixture that is studded with toasty, slightly sweet chestnuts, tart apples, and spicy sausage. I created this recipe for my Thanksgiving book, and it also appears in the new Williams-Sonoma Cooking at Home.
Although chestnuts can be found in grocery stores and Italian markets, I ordered fresh Italian Marroni chestnuts, directly from Correia Farms
, a family chestnut orchard in the Sacramento valley. They will arrive on Monday, and I look forward to sampling them and reporting to you. They can be kept for several months in the refrigerator, and so we will be able to enjoy them throughout the holidays.
Fresh chestnuts require some work to prepare, but their great flavor and tender texture justifies the effort. The most difficult part of the procedure is cutting a cross in the rounded side of the very tough shell. Correia sells a special chestnut cutting knife that simplifies the procedure. Once the nuts are scored, place them cut side up in a shallow pan. Roast at 350°F until the shells peel back at the X, about 30 minutes. Wrap the hot chestnuts in a kitchen towel and squeeze gently to loosen the shells. Then peel off the outer shells and the thin inner skin while the nuts are still hot.
I will cook extra chestnuts to nibble on while I prepare the stuffing. However, if you are willing to pass up the aroma of roasting chestnuts, cooked and peeled chestnuts can be found at Trader Joe’s and many grocery stores.
Sausage, Apple, and Chestnut Stuffing
You can substitute 2 cups (about 10 ounces) vacuum-packed chestnuts, which have already been peeled, for the fresh chestnuts.
Makes about 12 cups
1 pound sourdough or white coarse country bread, crusts removed and cut into ½ -inch cubes
¾ pound bulk pork sausage
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 large celery stalks, chopped
2 large tart apples such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
¾ cup low salt chicken broth, preferably organic
1 pound chestnuts, roasted and peeled (see tip below) or 2 cups (about 10 ounces) vacuum-packed chestnuts, coarsely chopped
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Coarse kosher salt and ground pepper
2 eggs, beaten
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer in a large rimmed baking pan. Bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, 12 minutes. Transfer the bread cubes to a large bowl.
In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, cook the sausage meat, crumbling with a fork, until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the bread. Add the butter to the pan and reduce the heat to medium. When the butter has melted, add the onion and celery and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the apples and thyme and sauté for 1½ minutes to blend well. Add to the bread. Add the broth to the pan. Bring to a boil, and deglaze the pan, stirring to dislodge any browned bits from the pan bottom. Add to the bread. Mix in the chestnuts and parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Finally, mix in the eggs.
To bake the stuffing in a dish, preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish and spoon the stuffing into it; cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until the top is crisp, about 30 minutes longer.
To bake the stuffing in a turkey, loosely fill the cavities with the stuffing and truss, increase the roasting time for the turkey by 30 minutes.
To roast and peel fresh chestnuts: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Use a sharp knife to score an X in the shell on the rounded side of each chestnut. Place in a single layer in a baking pan. Roast until the shells peel back at the X, about 30 minutes. Wrap the hot chestnuts in a kitchen towel and squeeze gently to loosen the shells. Then peel off the outer shells and the thin inner skin while the nuts are still hot.
Photo by Allan Rosenberg