I don’t know what holidays are like in your house, but in mine there are staples and then there are new dishes that make their way to the table each year. This goes hand in hand with the crowd around the table – many familiar faces but new comers are always more than welcome.
A few years ago on a Saturday afternoon this recipe caught my eye and now it is considered a staple, new comers in the stuffing category no longer being welcome.
Ciabatta Stuffing with Pine Nuts and Pancetta
Unsalted Butter – 6 tablespoons
Pancetta – 8-12 oz. – Chop fine
Large Yellow Onions – 2 – Chop fine
Carrots – 2 – Peeled and chop fine
Celery Stalks – 3 – Peel back of rib and chop fine
Fresh Rosemary leaves – 2 tablespoons – Chop fine
Garlic cloves – 4 – Chop fine
Pine Nuts – 5-7 ounces
or Roasted peeled whole chestnuts – 2 (7.4 oz. jars) – Chopped coarsely
Fresh Italian parsley – about 1/4 of a cup chopped fine
Ciabatta bread – 1 loaf that is a day old – Cut into ¾ cubes
Parmesiano-Regianno – 2/3 cup – Freshly grated
Unsalted Chicken Stock – 1 1/2 cups with a little extra just in case
Salt & Pepper
Eggs – 2 – Beaten
You should fill the turkey cavity with stuffing right before you put it in the oven or you can put it in a baking dish with a lid. You can do both if you have too much stuffing for the turkey cavity. Don’t stuff the turkey and let it sit around long before you put it in the oven because bacteria will grow that can’t be cooked out. I prefer to do ours in a baking dish and serve nice and hot.
With about 2-3 tablespoons of butter sauté the Pancetta until crisp. Transfer pancetta with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, big enough to mix all the ingredients as they come together.
Add 3 tablespoons of butter to same pan, leaving the pancetta grease in the pag, and sauté onions, carrots, celery, rosemary and garlic. One tip….rosemary can kill a dish. Make sure you don’t go overboard with this fresh herb.
When the onions are translucent stir in pine nuts or chestnuts and parsley. Pine nuts work really well in this dish and are actually what I prefer to use, although, if you’re a chestnut fan you can certainly go for it.
Once your mixture is looking perfect pour it into the bowl with the cooked pancetta.
Now time to add the cut ciabatta. Pour the bread into your bowl and top with the grated Parmesiano-Regianno and gently roll it all together to coat.
Slowly pour the stock in a little at a time until it is moist. **Stuffing that will be cooked in the turkey will have juices added to it while they cook together so prepare the turkey stuffing a little more dry than the stuffing you would cook in a baking dish.** I like to actually get a large spoon and pour the stock over the back creating a splashing effect so that you aren’t soaking some pieces and others not getting hit. Make sure you don’t pour too much. You don’t want it overly soggy. It’s got to be just right. Beat your eggs in a bowl on the side and pour over your mixture. Stir carefully. The eggs will help to hold it all together and lock in those wonderful flavors. Now season with salt and pepper and it’s ready to bake. TIP: DON’T OVERKILL WITH SALT AND PEPPER. I remember one Thanksgiving we had stuffing that had entirely too much pepper and it totally killed it. As far as the salt goes, if you don’t use reduced sodium stock or unsalted butter be very careful. The pancetta is salty already so with everything else you don’t want sodium overload.
Start baking the stuffing cooked in a dish about 20 minutes before you expect to take the turkey out of the oven. The cover on the baking dish should be smeared with butter and stuffing baked for 30 minutes. Take the top off and bake for about 15 minutes or until the top is crisp. Don’t be afraid to reach in and grab a piece right out of the oven to make sure the texture is perfect. Lastly, enjoy and don’t look back! You’ll never make stuffing out of a bag or box again after trying this recipe!!! Happy Thanksgiving!