Thanksgiving is never complete without stuffing or dressing. They are essentially the same thing, except stuffing is cooked inside the turkey while dressing is made in a casserole and baked in an oven. Most of us probably eat dressing, but call it stuffing. Either way, all the best stuffings are delicious and work to bind the rest of the meal together. My family employs a tri-stuffing philosophy when it comes to Thanksgiving. A traditional bread stuffing, a wild rice and sausage stuffing that is outrageous, and this; my cornbread, chestnut, and apple stuffing. It came out of a want to create a stuffing recipe based on cornbread, which always seemed like it would be the perfect based for a Thanksgiving dish. The recipe is inspired by one from Food&Wine magazine that called for Challah bread and broached the idea of using nuts as well.
2 pounds day old cornbread
2 cups cooked chestnuts
1 stick unsalted butter
5 celery ribs
1/2 cup celery leaves
1 onion (large, or 2 medium)
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
2 Fuji apples*
2 tablespoons thyme
1 tablespoon sage
3 eggs (large)
3 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425°. If using fresh chestnuts, score each of them with a parring knife by cutting a little x into the top of each one. Then roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until the skins split open and the inner portion turns golden brown. Remove from the oven, peel and allow them to cool.
- Reduce the oven to 375°. Break the cornbread into large cubes and chunks and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Be careful not to break it up too much or you’ll just have a lot of cornbread crumbs. Let cool, then transfer to a very large bowl and add the chestnuts. Break the chestnuts in half before adding them to the bowl.
- Turn the oven to 400°.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Chop the celery, leaves, parsley, and onion and place them in the skillet. The onion and celery should be a rough chop, the parsley and leaves a relatively fine dice. Cook until softened, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and add to the cornbread mixture.
- Peel and chop the apples into a half inch cube. Chop the thyme and sage finely and add to the bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs with 2 cups of the stock and season with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of cornbread, chestnuts and apple; stir well. Add another 1/2 of stock as needed; the stuffing should be moist but not mushy.
- Butter 2 large, shallow glass baking dishes and spread the stuffing in them. Bake the stuffing for 20 minutes, or until heated through and crisp on top.
This dish can be made the night before. Simply complete steps 1-4 and place the mixture in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, add in the apples and herbs and complete the rest of the instructions. Retaining the apples and the herbs will give the stuffing a fresh flavor even when made in advance. Also, while the particular sizes of the ingredients as they are chopped are not that importnaat, you do want them all to be relatively uniform so that they can all easily be picked up with a fork or large spoon. I tend to err on the side of larger chunks just to give the dish extra texture. Plus, the large pieces tend to hold up better against the chicken stock.
* Most any apple can be substituted in place of Fuji. Fuji apples were chosen because they have an especially sweet flavor that goes nicely with the cornbread.
Image credit: delish.com