Thursday, November 16, 2006

Chestnut, Cranberry & Pear Stuffing: Countdown to T-Day!

When trying to come up with the title of this recipe for my absolute favorite stuffing, I could not determine which of the main ingredients was most important, so I just put them all in alphabetical order. I was first attracted to the original version of this recipe for the chestnuts, which are a unique textural addition to a lot of dishes. Then I prepared it and loved the sweetness coaxed out of the pears in baking. I have never had a particular fondness for dried cranberries (Sorry, Ocean Spray, I mean, “Craisins.”), but the bursts of sweet-tart flavor are absolutely perfect when you take a bite of this addictive stuffing.

Technically, this should really be called a “dressing,” since I do not stuff it into anything aside from my mouth. Calling it, dressing, makes me feel like a Southern belle (no offense to my Southern friends, I love Gone With the Wind), so I am just going to stick with “stuffing,” misnomer, or not. All the ingredients from the pears to the chunks of whole wheat bread are cut into fairly large pieces, about ½ to ¾ inch, because I like to see and taste all the individual components with their distinctive textures.

I like to think that this is stuffing for those of us who aren’t exactly “stuffing people.” With whole wheat bread and not much fat, this is a really nutritious side dish, so don’t even think about following the typical T-Day diet advice and measuring out a dainty half cup portion. You don’t have to peel the pears, you can use fresh or dried thyme and feel free to bake on whatever temp your oven happens to be at for your other dishes. I like this stuffing so much, I’m afraid I sound a little evangelical about it. Just one last thing: it tastes amazing left over.

Chestnut, Cranberry & Pear Stuffing
Originally adapted from Redbook magazine. Serves 6

Soft supermarket whole wheat from the bread aisle works well in this recipe; I don't remove the crusts. I have used different varieties of pears here, and they are all delicious. This stuffing can be used to fill a turkey as well! You'll have some left over, so bake it separately.

11 slices whole wheat bread, cut into ¾ inch pieces
1 tblsp. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped or a 3/4 cup chopped scallions
1 c. sliced celery
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
12 oz cooked, peeled chestnuts, broken into chunks
½ c. dried cranberries
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 semi-firm pears, cored and cut into ½ inch pieces
¼ c. red wine, white wine or chicken broth
salt and pepper
1 c. chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the bread pieces into a large bowl. In a skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and celery, season with salt and pepper and cook until soft and lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add chestnuts, cranberries and thyme and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring gently. Add the pears and wine, season again with salt and pepper and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes to allow the wine to reduce a bit.

Add the contents of the skillet to the bowl of bread and toss to combine. Pour the broth over the stuffing and toss again. Coat a 2 qt. baking dish with nonstick spray and add the stuffing. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for an additional 5-10 minutes until the stuffing is lightly browned and slightly crisp on top.


Maureen said...

I am loving your pre-Thanksgiving menu. All of it looks delicious, particularly the "stuffing". Do you think it would be good with a cup or so of cooked wild rice added? I usually do a wild rice stuffing, and mom would be disappointed if she didn't see some MN wild rice in some form at the dinner table. :)

Rachel said...

This looks great!

Kalyn said...

Another one for my list! This looks just awesome.

peabody said...

Looks wonderful.

Tim said...

Just quietly I would say that it would be delicious used as a 'stuffing' for stuffing into something before it is roasted! Eitherway it sounds good to me.

Ivonne said...


Thanks so much for sharing your favourite Thanksgiving Day recipes! In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in October so I always feeel like I get to celebrate two Thanksgiving Days!

This stuffing (dressing) is perfect!

Julie said...

Maureen: I think a cup of rice would work really well. I would just cut down on the bread by about 2 slices and add maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cup of chicken broth.

Thanks, Rachel, Kalyn and Peabody. I've really been enjoying your list Kalyn!

Tim: Funny, but you're right, it probably would be.

Sounds like a good deal to me, Ivonne!

Dan, Country, Kaitlyn & Ashlyn said...

I found this recipe while searching online, looks like a delicious one! I have a question, if I pre-make it the night before and refrigerate in casserole dish (not baked), will that be okay? I just won't have time thursday morning to make it, I just want to have it done, then bake it in the oven when ready. thanks so much!

Dan, Country, Kaitlyn & Ashlyn said...

this stuffing was such a hit at thanksgiving!! thanks so much for the recipe - definitely a keeper for us every year.