[personal profile] luis_mw
I had a great fondness for my mother's Chestnut Stuffing. So, some years ago, I obtained the recipe from her. Since then, I have experimented somewhat, varied it a little according to my own tastes, but the basic recipe remains the same. I added things like garlic and chilli, extra herbs, and, on occasions additional vegetables or even fruit. This year, I decided to use apricots. If I say so myself, it is rather tasty, and it is always a great disappointment, a few days after the main Xmas meal, when we use up the last of the leftovers.

Given that we might be wandering off in the direction of a cinema tomorrow, I decided to make the stuffing in advance. This works well, as it only needs a few minutes in the microwave to get it nice and hot for the table.

And, since I had the camera nearby after photographing the brining of the goose, I thought I would document the process of the stuffing. Since this is rather longer....
(note, it is down there somewhere, I have no idea why it is rendering with such a big gap)

Starting with the ingredients...

In case you can't see at this resolution...
Chestnuts, onion, bacon, ginger, garlic, ginger, chilli, herbs, butter, apricots & breadcrumbs (not in picture). The cider and whisky aren't ingredients, except in so far as keeping the cook happy.
I used packet chestnuts because it is so much easier than cooking those from scratch (which I have done). The bacon here is store-brand "basic" streaky. You could use smoked or unsmoked as you prefer. You could use lardons, and save yourself the fun of cutting it up. For my American readers, I wouldn't recommend using Oscar Meyer streaky - as, in my experience, it is very fatty and and shrivels up to nothing when cooked. Canadian bacon might be better. The bacon, onion and chestnuts are the base recipe - that's how I started out, using my mum's recipe. You could just stick with that, but...
Chilli, ginger & garlic - all optional, just to give a little bite and zing. Herbs - whichever ones you like. Here I have coriander (cilantro) and thyme. I would have had sage too, but forgot to get any. This year, I thought dried apricots might lend an interesting fruity element.
Some minutes, and a couple of mouthfuls of cider later, the ingredients are all ready. I used about a thumb's worth of the ginger, half an inch of the chilli and enough cloves of garlic to make a heaped spoonful. Feel free to adjust amounts (or ingredients) to suit your taste. Likewise with the herbs. The onion I chopped to quite fine dice. The chestnuts I chopped more coarsely - maybe a little bit bigger than chickpeas. Likewise with the apricot. The bacon I cut into half-inch wide strips across the rasher. The breadcrumbs (not shown), I made by blitzing the heel of a sliced loaf in the food processor. That's pretty much it, apart from the butter.
One word of advice - wash your hands after chopping the chilli and garlic. Definitely don't rub your eyes or touch any other sensitive body parts. I was good this time, but on previous occasions, I have forgotten this to my cost.
I melted a little butter in the pan and supplemented it with a splash of oil. There will be plenty of fat from the bacon (depending on what sort you have) later, but I wanted to get the onions started first. I cooked them gently until softened and starting to go translucent. Then I added the chilli, garlic and ginger and cooked for a few more minutes.
In goes the bacon. In this case, it needs quite a bit of poking around while stirring because I took the whole stack of rashers out of the packet and then sliced into strips straight across. So, they need a bit of poking around to separate the layers. Cook and stir for a few minutes to make sure all the bacon is cooked and the fat is nicely sweated out. You don't want it cooked crispy, just soft. Since this was cheap, store-brand "basic" bacon, there was quite a lot of water in there. You can let it cook off or scoop some out with a spoon (I hate it when I end up boiling bacon instead of frying it). It doesn't matter too much, because the chestnuts, and later, the breadcrumbs, will absorb a lot of it, so only scoop it out if everything looks too wet. If you used better quality bacon, you might need to throw in a cube of butter or too.

And in go the chopped chestnuts. These were already cooked (as they would have been had I roasted them myself from raw), so they don't need long. Just a couple of minutes to get warm and to start soaking up the juices in the pan. Stir them around for a bit, watch them get a little shiny and moist :)
After a few minutes, I threw in the apricots and the herbs. Again, these don't need too long to cook. Just enough time to warm through and absorb the flavours. The apricots I had were soft, dried ones. After chopping, they were somewhat sticky, so needed a fair bit of poking with the spoon to separate the bits.
And finally, the breadcrumbs. About a handful in this case. Just to keep things sticking together and to soak up any remaining juice. If the mix is quite wet, you may need a bit more. If it is too dry, throw in a couple of knobs of butter. I used fresh-made crumbs, which are quite moist. If you used packet dried ones, you may need more butter or less breadcrumbs. The mixture needs to be quite moist as it is going to be baked, but not too soggy. There shouldn't be any spare juice at the bottom of the pan.
Give it a few minutes to warm up the crumbs, and for all the juice to be mixed in, then empty it all into something that can go in the oven. Here, some rather nice stoneware I got at the Christmas market in Christchurch a few years ago for a very reasonable price. Greasing it first, or in my case, a squirt of spray oil, is a good idea.
Smooth it all down and make sure it is reasonably level, then stick it in the oven for 20 minutes at 160°C (320°F). I gave it a spray with the cooking oil to moisten the top so it wouldn't burn too much.
And, 20 minutes, and the rest of the can of cider later. Out it comes. Once it is cooled, it will go in the fridge until we need it on the day, when it will get nuked for a few minutes to get it nice and hot.

So, there you have it. One bowl of hopefully delicious chestnut stuffing, ready for the table on Saturday.
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