I have a confession. Stuffing eludes me. Every year I do the traditional dinner I thumb through magazines and cookbooks. I look for something to capture my imagination. The first one I ever did was an orange parsley stuffing… yeah, that was a total no go. Last year was a mixture of porcini, sausage, and artichoke hearts that only went into the roulades. Then this year, with success ofter success from Dandelion and Quince, I decided to go with her recipe for Celeriac Baked with Chestnuts and Sourdough.
This recipe not only captured my imagination but it celebrated the seasons but making use of celeriac and chestnuts which I had never used before. Finding the celeriac was easy enough. I had seen it popping up at the farmers market at the end of the season but finding the chestnuts proved much more difficult. It ended up the only place I could find them was Whole Foods. Depending on where you live this my sound like and obvious choice but out here in the midwest I almost never shop there.
Celeriac is a fun and easy to use root vegetable. It handles very well and can easily be diced or cut into whatever shape you’re needing. It may look like some bazaar thing but after you cut away the skin the root itself tastes and smells of the most intense celery.
The chestnuts proved to be an interesting ingredient. Not knowing anything about them other than the Christmas song I didn’t know what they looked like, tasted like, or how to prepare them. I was so clueless as to what they looked like that when I saw holiday mixed nuts in their shells being sold in bulk I ended up buying a couple pounds of them only later to realize that I bought hazelnuts and not chestnuts. I even bought a second nut cracker so my husband and I could shell the chestnuts together. If you know anything about chestnuts, laugh all you want. It was a learning experience. If you don’t know anything about them, welcome to my world. So the chestnut has this dark brown leathery skin. You have to score the skin down to the nut with a sharp knife making an “X” in the skin. (The larger the “X” you can make the better. Then you have to roast them in a 425ºF oven for 15 minutes or until the skins start to peel back from the nut. Then, the moment they are cool enough to handle you need to start peeling the skins off the nuts. What’s interesting is you end up with this bright yellow kind of soft nut. Something that breaks as easily as a piece of milk chocolate. The taste is sweet, creamy, and even can give you a faint hint of banana!
When reviewing this recipe I noticed two entries for the use of butter but only one place it was called out for in the recipe. I went to the authors website and emailed her asking about this. She replied explaining it was an error and how to adjust it. I learned long ago when recipe doesn’t make sense to see if the author has a website and contact them. Over the last few years I have gotten a lot of help working out the mistakes in recipes. It’s also a good reminder to always read the recipe before you make it to see if there is anything at doesn’t make sense. That way when you do go to make it there aren’t surprises.
I also knew that this recipe called for sourdough. I wanted to do a homemade bread and by the time I worked through my planning I didn’t have enough time to experiment with making my own sourdough starter as well as making the sourdough it’s self so instead I made two different types of breads with two different techniques. One was a traditional hearty white loaf and the other was a short fermentation and was a mix of wheat and white. One of the love worked beautifully and the other was problematic. Since it was going into stuffing I knew it didn’t matter all that much and still used them both.
I was so excited about these new flavors and the dish all together that I took the time to prep everything with great detail. As each flavor got added the excitement only grew. In total the recipe called for 1 ½ pounds of cubed bread and 6 cups of stock! If you have made stuffing I am guessing you know where this is going. (It ended up WAY too soggy.) Not know how it was going to turn out I charged ahead and got it all mixed together and baked it in my oven. The stuffing was in there for at least 45 minutes and it never seemed to get the golden brown color on top it was supposed to and when scooped it was VERY wet.
The overall flavors were interesting and good but to say I wasn’t disappointed would be inaccurate. After the meal was over I took notes as to what we all thought. What we liked about it and what we didn’t. Then I began looking at other stuffing recipes for liquid to bread ratios and most seemed to be half of what I used if not even less.
The next night when doing leftovers or I should say “Do-overs” I thought about trying to bake it again but didn’t want to just stick the whole pan in the oven. I wanted to good caramelization to the top and I wanted the stuffing to “come together”. That’s when I got the idea to chop up the stuffing and put it into ring molds. Then fry them in a pan with some oil and butter on the stove and then finish it off in the oven. This technique got me a much better product and one where I could at least enjoy the rest of the stuffing I had made.
I definitely want to make this stuffing again but next time tweak the liquid and the way it’s presented on the final plate.