Prep 1 hr
Cook 1 hr 30 mins
This "stuffing" is inspired by a Julia Child recipe for stuffing a goose. However, it works very well with turkey. The traditional bread/grain component is replaced by chestnuts, which add a mild nutty flavor to the otherwise hearty dish. The primary goal was to create a gluten-free, coeliac-friendly recipe. The result was so good that this recipe has earned a permanent place on our holiday menu pick-list! Ideas: 1) make only the Chestnut Purée, substituting a hearty vegetable stock for the beef stock, and serve as a vegetarian side dish. 2) Or, use this stuffing in place of traditional meat/bread-crumb mixture in stuffed peppers. 3) Better yet, scoop out summer squash into boats, incorporate some of the squash in the stuffing, bake with shredded cheese. Notes: preparing chestnuts is labor intensive. Plan accordingly. I found that the small (acorn size) otherwise inferior looking chestnuts peel much easier than the beautiful large (almost shallot size) chestnuts. YMMV.
- 1 1⁄2 lbs chestnuts or 4 cups canned chestnuts, rinsed
- 2 stalks celery
- 4 parsley sprigs
- 1 small bay leaf
- 1⁄8 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 piece cheesecloth (optional)
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 cup water
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 1⁄2 cups onions, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1⁄2 cup port wine or 1⁄2 cup cognac or 1⁄2 cup madeira wine
- 3⁄4 lb ground pork
- 3⁄4 lb ground veal
- 3⁄4 lb low-sodium bacon
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
- 1⁄8 teaspoon pepper
- 1⁄8 teaspoon allspice
- 1⁄2 teaspoon thyme
- Chestnut Purée: If using fresh chestnuts, peel them as follows: with a very sharp knife, carefully cut each shell from top to bottom along one side. For large chestnuts, remove a 1/8 inch strip by making a second parallel cut. Place the chestnuts in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to boiling. Boil for one minute. Remove from saucepan from heat, but do not drain. Take a couple chestnuts at a time, and peel the shells and the inner skin. They are butter colored when properly peeled. For large chestnuts it may be difficult/impossible to remove the inner skin -- just scrub them to get a reasonable amount off.
- Place the chestnuts in a saucepan, along with celery stalks and herbs. If using dried herbs wrap them in cheesecloth to form an herb bouquet.
- Pour in the beef stock, and enough water to cover the chestnuts by about an inch. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. At this point you can skip below and begin preparing the Meat Stuffing portion of this recipe.
- Drain immediately, reserving the chestnut cooking liquid.
- Remove the celery, and herbs/herb bouquet.
- Place the chestnuts in a food processor. Run for several seconds until coarsely ground. Add the heavy cream and run for several seconds until evenly mixed.
- The mixture should be spreadable but retain a crunchy texture. If too dry, carefully add the reserved cooking liquid one tablespoon at a time. You don't want baby-food texture, so don't over do it.
- Adjust salt and pepper to taste. A little sugar if needed. Cover and set aside.
- Meat Stuffing: slowly cook the finely chopped onions with the butter in a large skillet until tender, but not browned. Probably 8 minutes or so.
- Transfer onions to a large mixing bowl. There should be a little butter left in the skillet -- add more if needed.
- Pour the wine or cognac into the warm skillet. Boil down to about half the volume. Transfer to mixing bowl. Scrap out any bubbly sugar too. Note: even a bourbon liqueur should work well -- you want something with plenty of sugar and a decent flavor, not necessarily a high price.
- Add all the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl, and beat thoroughly. Don't use your hands -- the goal is mixed not mushed.
- (Optional: the Meat Stuffing and the completed Chestnut Purée can be separately refrigerated at this point. I'd say a day in advance would be safe.).
- Assembly: the original recipe had everything assembled and cooked inside a goose. I prefer cooking stuffing in a separate pan. Adjust the following steps as suits your preference.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Grease a shallow casserole or gratin. Starting with the Meat Stuffing, layer the ingredients in the casserole. I found that meat-chestnut-meat-chestnut-meat worked well. Specifically, my ratios went something like 40% of the meat, half the purée, 40% of the meat, the remaining half of the purée, the remaining 20% of the meat as a crumble-topping.
- (Pro tip: here's an easy way to estimate the 40-40-20% ratio. Evenly distribute the meat in the skillet -- no big hills or valleys. Now, imagine the skillet is the face of a clock. The portion between "noon" and 25 minutes past the hour is about 40% of the material. Likewise, the portion between 25 minutes past the hour and 10 minutes before the hour is the next 40%. The final portion between 10 minutes before the hour and noon is the last 20%.).
- Brown the casserole in the hot oven for 20 to 25 minutes. The top should be brown, and any exposed bacon should be approaching crumbly.
- Alternately, if the Chestnut Purée and Meat Stuffing ingredients were refrigerated prior to final assembly, start with a 350 oven. Assemble as above, Heat the casserole for 20 minutes. Advance the oven to 450, and brown for 10-15 minutes, checking frequently.