More Italian Thanksgiving: chestnuts, porcini and sausage stuffing

This is the Thanksgiving stuffing that convinced my mother-in-law Elisabeth I was worthy of her youngest and sweetest, after all. I don't have a picture of this dish, since last time I made it I was not blogging. In lieu, I thought you might enjoy this candid shot of my delightful mom-in-law outside her London flat with her new youngest and sweetest, my little Ernesto. Note that I do not actually stuff the turkey, but bake the dressing separately using a homemade turkey stock (recipe below) to impart it that due and expected Thanksgiving flavor.

Farcia ai porcini e castagne Porcini and chestnuts stuffing

for 10 to 12 people 1 large sweet yellow onionDSC01554 2 celery stalks 3 to 4 thyme sprigs olive oil salt grated zest of 1 lemon 1/2 cup dry porcini 2 pounds mixed wild mushrooms 2 sweet Italian sausage links 4 slices stale country bread 1/2 cup grated parmigiano + 1 handful 2 cups cooked and peeled chestnuts (see note) pepper to taste nutmeg to taste 1 stick butter + 3 tablespoons 1 quart turkey stock (see recipe below)

Slice the onion in thin half moons. Peel and slice the celery thinly. Pick the leaves off the thyme sprigs and mince.

In a sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil and soften the onion in it seasoned with a very generous pinch of salt.

Add the celery, thyme and lemon zest. Cover and braise slowly over low heat for about 30 minutes, adding liquid if necessary, until the onions are fully caramelized and a light golden brown.

In the meantime, soak the porcini in boiling water. Clean and slice the wild mushrooms.

Place the fresh mushrooms in a sauté pan with a very generous amount of salt. Cover and place over high heat. They will sweat lots of liquid, let them braise completely in it. It will take about 10 to 15 minutes.

In the meantime, drain the porcini and chop them roughly. Keep the soaking liquid and filter it through a fine sieve to eliminate any grit.

Remove the sausage from the casing and tear in small pieces with your hands. Cube and toast the stale bread.

Add the porcini to the wild mushroom with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, finish cooking adding the porcini soaking liquid if necessary. Deglaze with a bit of white wine and let all the liquid evaporate.

Crumble the chestnuts with your hands and place in a bowl. Add the caramelized onions, mushrooms, bread cubes, sausage, and grated parmigiano. Season to taste with pepper and nutmeg and adjust salt.

Melt the stick of butter rest and pour it and the stock over of the ingredients combined in the bowl. Toss well.

Grease a lasagna baking dish with one tablespoon of butter. Pour the stuffing in the dish and press it down lightly. Dust with the handful of grated parmigiano and dot with the last 2 tablespoons of butter.

Bake at 375˚F for about 40 minutes, until the sausage is fully cooked and slightly browned on top.

NOTES:

  • You can use fresh chestnuts if you have the time and patience to score, roast and peel them, while cursing yourself all the way through this endeavor. Or you can do as I do, and get precooked and peeled vacuum sealed chestnuts easily found in many markets.
  • Making the fresh turkey stock really does make a difference to the end result and it is so easy and fast, it is worth it. If you are, however, cinched for time, get a good chicken stock, prepacked or made fresh by your local butcher.

 

Brodo di tacchino Turkey stock

for 2 to 3 quarts of stock turkey neck turkey wingtips turkey gizzards (not the liver, keep that for the gravy) 1 carrot 1 celery stalk 1 yellow onion 5 to 6 cloves 2 bay leaves 2 lemon slices 4 peppercorns 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

Crack the bones of the neck and wingtips with a cleaver. Peel the carrot and snap it in two pieces. Wash and snap the celery stalk. Peel the onion and spike it with the cloves. Throw everything in a stock pot.

Add the rest of the ingredients and cover with cold water up to almost the brim of the pot.

Bring to a boil and turn down the heat. Simmer for about 2 hours, skimming the top often to ensure a clear stock.

Strain the stock through a fine sieve. Discard the vegetables, but keep the neck.

You can serve that tender, tasty bit to your mother in law with some salsa verde or homemade mayonnaise and make her just a little happier about how well her son married every year...