Cherry, Chestnut and Pancetta Stuffing

This year I spent Thanksgiving at a friend’s house. I’d been traveling all month, it seemed, and just couldn’t stomach yet another trip to the airport. So I stayed in NYC, which, if you aren’t from here, is an awesome place to be on any Holiday weekend. The city literally empties as people leave town for more restful locales. For this year’s feast, I was on stuffing duty.

 People are extremely picky about their stuffing. Everyone knows exactly how they like it and there are as many different types out there as there are opinions. I, at least for Thanksgiving, tend towards traditional bread stuffing, with a savory and a sweet component. I usually default to mushrooms, but this year I wanted to do something different and opted for this cherry, chestnut and pancetta stuffing.

Is there a more Thanksgiving-y flavor out there than sage? No? Right answer.

Chestnuts are really weird, right? They have a weird texture and they kind of look like tiny wet brains. But they’re delicious! And in this recipe they add a much-needed savory sweetness and toothsome texture. I used sour cherries, but I would highly suggest that you use dried sweet cherries instead; the sour ones were a tad too tart. I think my favorite part of this stuffing was the addition of eggs to the broth, which make the finished product resemble a savory bread pudding. I love bread pudding in any and all of it’s forms. Particularly those with pig, chestnuts and cherries in it.

Cherry, Chestnut and Pancetta Stuffing

Adapted from Gourmet. Serves 12.

You should always use home-made stock if you can. Did I? Hell no :)

1 (1 1/2-lb) sourdough loaf, crust removed, cut into 3/4″ dice (~18 cups)
1 lb coarsely chopped pancetta slices
1 stick (1/2 c) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
3 c chopped celery (5 to 6 ribs)
4 c chopped onions (2 large)
2 T chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
3 (8 oz) jars peeled cooked whole chestnuts, halved (4 c)
2 c dried sweet cherries
5 c turkey stock
4 lg eggs, lightly beaten

  • Heat oven to 400°F
  • Spread bread cubes in two large baking pans and toast, stirring a few times, ~15 minutes or until golden and dry. Transfer to a large bowl
  • In a large pan over medium heat, cook the pancetta until golden
  • Add the butter and heat until melted, then add the celery and onions and saute until crisp-tender
  • Add the sage, salt, and pepper and cook one minute more
  • Add the pancetta mixture, cherries and chestnuts to the bread cubes
  • Whisk together the stock and the eggs and pour over bread, mixing gently until well combined and absorbed
  • Transfer to a 4 qt shallow baking dish
  • Cover with buttered foil and bake 30 min. Remove foil and bake an additional 10-15 min, until the top is golden brown
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