This wintry stuffing, adapted from Cook's Illustrated, is studded with sweet chestnuts, savory sausage, tart apples, and sherry-soaked prunes. Nutmeg and clove deliver a touch of warming spice, livened up with the herbal aroma of chopped sage. Serve it with turkey, duck, chicken, or, our personal favorite, a crisp-skinned, flavorful roast goose.
Why It Works
- Adding chicken stock and egg ensures the stuffing has a moist, tender, custard-like texture.
- Drying the bread in the oven is faster and more efficient than letting it go stale.
- Using a potato masher or stiff whisk to break up the sausage is far easier than trying to do it with a knife or spoon.
- Yield:Serves 6-8
- Active time: 25 minutes
- Total time:2 hours, plus overnight soaking
- 6 ounces (170g) pitted prunes, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup (120ml) Amontillado sherry
- 12 ounces (340g; about 1 loaf) high-quality white sandwich bread or soft Italian or French bread, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 4 tablespoons (55g) unsalted butter or 1/3 cup (70g) minced goose fat (see note)
- 12 ounces (340g) sweet Italian sausage
- 3 large onions, finely chopped
- 3 ribs celery, finely chopped
- 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch chunks
- 6 ounces (170g) cooked and peeled chestnuts, chopped (about 1 cup; 235ml)
- 1/2 cup (120ml) homemade chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) minced fresh sage
- Large pinch ground cloves
- Large pinch grated nutmeg
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
In a small container, combine prunes and sherry and soak at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight.
Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 275°F. Arrange bread in a single even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until completely dried, about 50 minutes total, stirring bread cubes several times during baking. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Increase oven heat to 325°F.
Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven, melt butter or render reserved goose fat over medium heat, 2-3 minutes. Add sausage and mash with stiff whisk or potato masher to break up into fine pieces (largest pieces should be no greater than 1/4 inch thick). Cook, stirring frequently, until only a few bits of pink remain, about 4 minutes. Add onions, celery, and apples and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chestnuts and prunes with their soaking liquid.
In a medium bowl, whisk together chicken stock, eggs, sage, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and pepper until homogeneous. Stirring constantly with wooden spoon, slowly pour egg mixture into sausage mixture. Add bread cubes and fold gently until evenly mixed.
Use part of stuffing to stuff bird if desired (not recommended if making goose, which will yield an extremely fatty, excessively rich stuffing) or transfer to a buttered 9- by 13-inch rectangular baking dish (or 10- by 14-inch oval dish), cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until an instant-read thermometer registers 150°F when inserted into center of dish, about 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown and crisp on top, about 15 minutes longer. Serve.