I have posted many times about not liking holiday meals. Most of this is due to so much happening that no real attention is paid to any one dish to make it truly exceptional. Then you end up with bland, dry, or uninteresting dishes. This can be devastating as the cook because you plan the shopping, the prep, the cooking, the timing, and every last detail. However this year I was determined to start making headway into these iconic meals and work through their issues.
Thanksgiving was a bit of hit and miss for me this year but that only made me more determined to get Christmas dinner to be a winner. I’ll be posting more about the whole meal but the show stopper of the whole thing was the stuffing…dressing…filling? Whatever you call it I have never been a fan. Who wants soggy bread, with mushy vegetables, baked until it dries out the top and the bottom still is soupy? (Yes, I have experienced almost all of those effects at one time or another.)
When I picked the recipe I wanted to do for the Goose it had a recipe for the stuffing to make with it. I made my list and got everything I would need. Then yesterday I started to gather my ingredients. I should stop here and tell you that I kept getting more and more ingredients… turns out this recipe has 14 ingredients! Normally I would be worried that it’s just so over the top you won’t appreciate them but, WOW, this complex assortment made for a wonderful dish.
So here it is:
- 8 oz. Pancetta, cut into 1⁄4″ cubes (some stores will sell this diced, if not ask the deli counter to slice it nice and thick)
- 8 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and roughly chopped or sliced
- 240 grams Celeriac, small dice (that’s about ½ a large root)
- 1 large Yellow Onion, minced
- 1 lb. Chestnuts, roasted, peeled, and roughly chopped (make this easier on yourself and buy them peeled so all you have to do is chop them.)
- 5 ounces Country White Bread, cut into ½ inch cubes (homemade bread is fantastic for this. Just make it in advance, slice, and lay it out to stale the day before.)
- 492 grams Wild Rice, cooked (I did this in my Breville fast, slow, pro while I prepared all my other ingredients. This took 20 minutes on the PRESSURE/RICE setting. It was 6 ounces dry weight with 32 fl ounces of water.)
- 8 fl ounces Chicken Stock (if you want to use the stock that comes off cooking the goose that would work too as this recipe can be done while your goose is cooking.)
- 226 grams Unsalted Butter, melted, plus more for buttering casserole dish
- 30 grams Italian Flat-leaf Parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp. Fresh Thyme, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp. Fresh Sage, finely chopped
- 2 Granny Smith Apples, diced (any tart apples will do, you don’t have to peel them but you’ll need to remove the stem and core. A melon baller removed the core super easily.)
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Start with preparing all of your ingredients. Getting all of your chopping, dicing, mincing, and measuring out of the way will make this quicker to put together. Also have your large bowl ready for mixing the stuffing in.
Start with making the rice. I used a Minnesota Locally Cultivated Wild Rice that is grown and harvested by the native Americans from northern Minnesota. This particular rice has a significant history to these parts and was delicious. While the rice is cooking start with warming a large sauté pan over medium heat. I tend to use a pan with straight sides for this to better contain everything as it all goes in. I like the All-clad Stainless 3 qt. Steel Sauté Pan from Williams Sonoma. Using pans with non-stick coatings don’t allow for good caramelization and you have to be careful as to what utensils you use in the pan.
One the pan is warm add your diced pancetta. Keep an eye on the temperature as you render out the fat. It will sizzle a lot at the beginning but as more fat releases it will settle down. Just don’t allow it to burn or smoke. On my stove it took about 4 minutes to render out enough of the fat. Then add in your onion, celeriac, and Brussel sprouts. Sauté until they are lightly golden with some caramelization happening to them. This can take anywhere up to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the chestnuts, stirring well to fully incorporate.
In your large bowl add the bread (this isn’t going to look like a ton of bread but it is correct. Then add the cooked, drained rice. Next, add the sautéed mixture. Give that all a good stir. I like to stir several times through the process to make sure everything is well incorporated. Next add your stock and your melted butter (don’t substitute otherwise it might taste too greasy or flat. Good butter should offer a little hint of sweetness.)
Next it’s time to add in all those herbs! Toss in the parsley, thyme, and sage. Give it another good stir. Lastly, add you apples, stir again and then season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper and stir one last time.
If you want to stuff the bird do that first then put the rest in a well buttered casserole pan. Put in the oven with your bird for the last 45 minutes of cooking. I covered my casserole with foil for the first 30 minutes and uncovered it for the last 10-15 minutes.
In the end you have a dish full of flavor, texture, and complexity that is sure to be a hit. This, by far, is the best stuffing I have ever had and will definitely be a tradition going forward!