This year’s Thanksgiving was weird all around. One of my sons spent the day at his girlfriend’s house, my husband had the flu, and I could only contribute a little to the cooking. We all agreed to move our feast to Friday.
But even then the kitchen was shorthanded. The younger generation looked to be enjoying bustling around cranking out favorite recipes while I watched from nearby. My youngest had spent the previous night reading the dissertation on pie crusts in Joy of Cooking and made his first ones, which looked pretty darned good.
I could have just relaxed and enjoyed the scene, and that would have been for the best. Yet as the dinner hour approached and the pies were bare crusts, the chestnuts for the stuffing were only just shelled, and it was apparent that our one guest would be a sous chef rather than getting to sit around and relax, I started to stress, which didn’t help.
I can’t say I completely pivoted into grateful mode, but a snack helped. And once we finally all sat down I enjoyed talking to my son’s girlfriend. I heard about her childhood baking and the care package of recipes and baking equipment that her Norwegian grandma gave her at age ten. She is the keeper of her grandma’s recipes now. She was able to make the Thanksgiving ones for her family, including her grandpa, this year.
The pie never got done that day but the chestnut bread stuffing turned out fine without my help, so it’s ready to share here on Fit and Fed. I used to fuss with it every year until I got what I wanted, but for the last couple of years I’ve worked on standardizing the recipe for this blog. That paid off in spades when I couldn’t cook this year.
My mom always made stuffing from boxed cubes, with the happy addition of fresh chestnuts. I’ve updated by using real bread. I use Essential Baking Company’s artisan Rosemary Diamante, made with durum flour that makes a chewy loaf. If I weren’t using a rosemary bread I’d add chopped fresh rosemary to the recipe. I cut the loaves into cubes and leave them out overnight on baking sheets, making the recipe with the dried cubes the next day.
Preparing the bread is much easier than roasting and peeling the chestnuts, though this year our fresh chestnuts were the best ones we’ve ever had. There wasn’t one bad chestnut and the shells came off of most of them very easily. Sometimes I find and buy pre-peeled, pre-cooked chestnuts. The quality varies but is never as good as the fresh ones.
Thanks to my husband for the photography this time, it’s a nice change of pace from my own. And thanks to my son’s girlfriend for providing dessert. She made it from her grandma’s recipe with three ingredients plus a fourth critical one: a lot of love.
- 2 loaves (2#) Rosemary Diamante bread
- 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 3.5 cup (14 oz.) roughly chopped onions, sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cups (1#) trimmed celery (from one large head of celery, close to 2# untrimmed), chopped, sautéed in 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1# roasted, peeled, chopped chestnuts (yield from 2#4 oz. fresh chestnuts was 1#10 oz. due to some bad chestnuts)
- ¼ tsp. salt
- several grinds of black pepper over each baking dish
- ⅓ cup minced sage leaves
- 1½ Tbsp. thyme leaves stripped from their main stalk, or 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 2 large eggs
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- (Two 9x13 baking pans)
- Cut bread into cubes and place on two large cookie sheets. Leave out overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Chop onions and celery.
- For the thyme, if I am using fresh thyme, I run the main (tough) stalk between my fingers to strip off the side stems and the thyme leaves.
- Sauté onions for 5-10 minutes in 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil.
- Add celery and an additional 1 Tbsp. olive oil and sauté for 5-10 minutes.
- Place cubed bread in a very large mixing bowl.
- Add onions, celery, chestnuts, herbs and spices to the bread.
- Break eggs one by one into a dish, beat with a fork.
- Add stock to eggs, whisk, add the mixture into the stuffing.
- If you don't have a large enough mixing bowl you can combine everything in the baking dishes.
- Cover dishes with aluminum foil.
- Bake covered for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 20 minutes.