Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chestnut Stuffing

This is my version of my paternal grandfather's Chestnut Stuffing. It's meant for stuffing the turkey for Thanksgiving (18 pounds of turkey, in fact, which is why I halved the recipe and why you'll see the smaller recipe here), but I love it on its own. I've updated the ingredients a bit and wrote out in more detail the sequence in which I think things should happen. The original recipe is written on a small index card and is very short-hand. For example, the original recipe called for two pounds of chestnuts, to be shelled and prepared, page 780. The other day, on a whim, I looked in the oldest published cookbook I have, which happens to be the cookbook that my father recieved from his parents when he went off to college, and the page did correspond to preparing chestnuts. Check out the Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook, original copyright in 1948. Fortunately, the book has been recently republished, so we can all see what Americans used to eat in the 1950's and what techniques were recommended for the housewife. Anyway, I guarantee you that once you try this stuffing based on rice instead of bread and with the earthy flavors of chestnuts and mushrooms, you'll never want to eat another stuffing again!

This is the picture from our Thanksgiving dinner this year when my father made the recipe his way:

Chestnut Stuffing

Chestnut Stuffing
Inspired by my grandfather
Makes 8 servings, or stuffing for a small to medium turkey

1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
1 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
5 stalks celery, finely chopped
Same quantity chopped onion as the celery (about 1 medium)
1 1/2 cups cooked long-grain rice
1 pound chestnuts with shell or 8 ounces pre-peeled chestnuts (Trader Joe's is currently selling vacuum-sealed, peeled and steamed chestnuts)
2 tablespoons Bell's Seasoning (or more to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

If you bought chestnuts with the shells, peel and cook the chestnuts until they are chewy. I followed the advice in the Joy of Cooking for peeling the chestnuts, which involved scoring the chestnuts on the flat side with an X, bringing water to a boil in a pot and boiling the chestnuts for 5 minutes. Then, you turn off the heat, and leave the chestnuts in the hot water. Take only a few chestnuts at a time and peel away the top layer, as well as the finer, papery layers. If the peels resist, toss the chestnuts back in the water. Reboil the water if it cools before you are done. This takes patience. After peeling the chestnuts, be sure to boil them again in salted water or broth until they are chewy. If you bought the prepared chestnuts, making this stuffing is much simpler!

Fry out the sausage in a large pot or pan and pour off most of the grease. Add the celery, onions, and Bell's Seasoning and cook until they are clear. Add the rice and heat through. Add the mushrooms and chestnuts. Bring to a boil and simmer, adding water if the mixture starts to dry out. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked. Allow to cool if it will be used as a stuffing for turkey. Otherwise, dig in! I find that the stuffing tastes better the next day after it has time to sit and meld flavors. Hope you like it!

Bell's Seasoning

If you live in the Northeast, you probably have easy access to this seasoning, but back in the Wild West, it isn't stocked often. In fact, I've never seen it. My grandfather once wrote down a recipe for chestnut stuffing, and the seasoning he lists is Bell's Seasoning. Having grown up in South America and the Midwest, and having been born after my grandfather died, I think my family assumed it was just a brand of some old seasoning that no longer exists. My dad rightly assumed that this was a poultry seasoning, so he would always just make up his own combination of spices to do the chestnut stuffing. Well, as a librarian, I am a researcher by nature, and I had to at least check to see if I could find any information about it. To my surprise, the company still exists, and you can still buy the seasoning! Bell's Seasoning. In addition to the corporate site, I found mention of this seasoning on many forums, and it seems that folks consistently agree that Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving without this seasoning. I had to give it a try! Unfortunately, we can't buy it here (as far as I know), and I needed it soon for a company potluck. So, I found a simple recipe on a forum that seems accurate according to the corporate site (although, I'm not sure how the original tastes). All amounts call for dried herbs rather than fresh. Someday, I'll try out chestnut stuffing with a fresh version of this with similar proportions.

Homemade Bell's Seasoning

Bell's Seasoning
Makes 1/2 cup

4 1/2 tsp rosemary
4 tsp oregano
3 3/4 tsp sage
3 1/2 tsp ginger
3 tsp marjoram
2 3/4 tsp thyme
3/4 tsp black pepper

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pomegranate Ginger Muffins

It's now pomegranate season at my parents' house in Santa Barbara. My mother made a couple of batches while we were visiting for Thanksgiving, and I took a few pieces of fruit home with me to try this recipe for myself. I was surprised to find that I had already printed out the recipe about two years ago from RecipeZaar, and my mother found the same recipe on, published by Sunset magazine. See the recipe here. The bits of pomegranate surprise you with a sweet tartness in every bite, and the lemon peel adds to a very fragrant muffin batter. This is definitely going to be an annual affair as pomegranates come back into season. I like to eat these warm for breakfast with some plain yogurt.

Pomegranate Ginger Muffins

This Week's Menu

This is going to be a busy week for me! We're nearing the holidays, and we have a new director at work in my department starting this week, and I have a concert on Thursday, in which I will be a soloist. We're having a gathering for our director that will involve cookies and cider, and I'm supposed to bring a treat to the concert. My parents are also coming into town to watch me play, and Friday is my mother's birthday, so I'm taking her out for some high tea. Here's my plan for the week:

Treats for the director and the concert
(makes a very large batch of cookies, so it should last for both): Docinhos de goiabada (or goiaba cookies. Sorry, I can't share the recipe here since this is a family recipe that has been sworn to secrecy)

Lunch for the lunch group:

Burritos made with "refried beans with cinnamon and clove" from "The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper" (the recipe was given to me from a coworker whose partner is a chef and loves this recipe) and with roasted sweet potato, guacamole, micro greens, green onions, olives, and sour cream (inspired by Fran's Spicy Sweet Potato Burritos)

Sunday: Burritos (see above)
Monday: Fresh pasta from the farmer's market
Tuesday: Baked polenta with mushrooms, and marinated beans and spinach salad on the side
Wednesday: Coconut mung bean soup
Thursday: Another fresh pasta from the market
Friday: out for dinner with my parents

You'll notice that a couple of recipes either come from or are inspired by a blog I just found today that I think will become my new favorite blog, Fran's House of Ayurveda. This is the kind of blog I would have loved to create if I knew enough about Ayurvedic cooking, so I know I'm going to learn a lot! I've been looking for good Vata recipes (my dosha, or constitution, is Vata-Pitta), and I've also been looking for some good breakfast recipes. I'm always amazed at how difficult it is to find healthy and satisfying breakfast recipes since we all know that this is the first meal of the day and is quite important. I'm looking forward to it. Have a great week, everyone!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...