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Chestnut and Cranberry Dressing

A delicious dressing that can be made vegetarian-style, if you're looking for versatile side dishes for Thanksgiving.

Chestnuts give the dressing a creamy, nutty flavor, and dried cranberries add a touch of sweetness.

This recipe comes from the Williams-Sonoma catalog, circa 2001 or so. I've modified the recipe slightly to create the vegetarian option, and I've also omitted a chopped carrot that was originally cooked with the onion and celery, because I didn't like the way the carrot competed with the cranberries.

You can make the bread cubes a few days ahead of time. Use a hearty, artisanal bread, like a country-style boule . Trim the bottom crust off the loaf, then slice it into 1/2-inch pieces, spread them on a baking sheet, and let sit out until dry and stale. Then put them in a plastic bag until you're ready to make the dressing. If you don't make the cubes ahead, then simply toast them in a low oven (about 250 degrees) until they're dry, about 30 minutes.

To make the dressing vegetarian-style, use vegetable stock and omit the pork sausage. I make the dressing with chicken stock, but I prefer it without sausage, so I usually leave it out.

If you can't find chestnuts at your regular grocery store, try a specialty food store, or Cost Plus World Market.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 to 50 minutes
Yield: 10 to 12 servings

3 cups low-sodium chicken stock, or vegetable stock
1 cup dried cranberries
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 pound bulk pork sausage, optional
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-pound loaf country-style bread, bottom crust trimmed off, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces (discard any pieces that are mostly crust) and toasted (or set out in advance; see note, above)
15-oz. jar peeled, roasted chestnuts, quartered
2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2 1/2- to 3-quart baking dish. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the stock until steam begins to rise, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add cranberries; set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a bowl. (If using the sausage, cook it in the same pan, stirring to crumble, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add to the vegetables.)

In a large bowl, stir egg while slowly pouring in the stock and cranberries. Add bread and stir well. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until stock is absorbed, about 8 minutes. Add vegetables, chestnuts, sage, thyme, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and stir to mix well. Transfer to prepared baking dish. Bake until browned and crispy on top, about 45 minutes.



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