I think that sometimes we just need to reprogram our brains and direct all of our energy into something great and good for the soul, which in this case, is roasting and peeling chestnuts. The sweet tender nuts are the big reward for the work you put in. Over the top, roasted chestnut, sausage stuffing is a recipe that I bake every year during the holiday day season.
Kentucky and Deer Hunting:
Last summer, we were getting ready for our Kentucky deer hunt. Kentucky is known for trophy deer hunting and months before the opener, we were working hard and scouting to find the best location to hang our stands. Kentucky deer hunting is all about big farms, sweet corn, soybeans, and large parcels of timber with big old oak trees in the middle of Amish country.
While hanging the hunting stands, I found what I thought were Chestnuts. After arriving back at the camp, I received a Chestnut history from Mark, the owner of Ducks and Bucks Plus, in Hopkinsville KY. In 1904, one of the greatest natural disasters in US Forrest history struck. A devastating fungus was discovered on chestnut trees and within a few decades, the chestnut blight had killed over 4 billion chestnut trees on more than 200 million acres in eastern North America. Well, so the chestnuts I found were actually buckeye seeds.
So I found chestnuts imported from Italy at my local market and had to get 2 bags.
I love fire-roasted chestnuts, it reminds me of Switzerland where you can purchase them in season from street vendors.
Roasted Chestnut Stuffing:
Roasted chestnut sausage stuffing is one of my favorite stuffings. The roasted chestnuts add with their sweet, nutty, buttery, and meaty texture that amazing flavor. Adding sauteed sweet Italian sausage seasoned with fennel and other spices gives the stuffing that aromatic kick. Roasting chestnuts is a deeply rooted Italian tradition that goes back centuries and it may be safe to say that roasted chestnut stuffing is an American Italian Thanksgiving tradition. Interesting fact: the Pilgrims called stuffing “puddings in the belly” and typically added herbs, hardened egg yolks, grated bread, cream, raisins or currants, sugar, spices, and nuts. I know one thing, we all agree, the best part is the leftovers that last for days and days.
On Thanksgiving day soon or later there is the stuffing vs dressing conversation and what is the difference between the two.
The simple explanation is that the only difference between the two is the way they are cooked. Stuffing is cooked inside the bird and dressing is baked in a casserole dish. In the midwest it is called stuffing, the Southerners are calling it dressing. Regardless of which side you’re on, one thing we can all agree on is that the turkey day table isn’t complete without a great stuffing.
How to Roast Chestnuts:
First, light your charcoal grill. To prep, the chestnuts, use a sharp knife, making an incision about 1/8-inch deep through each chestnut shell, just into the flesh of the nut, and work your way almost around its circumference. Roast/grill until the shells begin to char and peel back where you cut them.
The cooking time is roughly 15 minutes but watch them carefully to prevent burning. Chestnuts should be turned or tossed around on the grill every 5 minutes so they cook evenly and the shells do not burn excessively. Remove the chestnuts from the grill, place them into a bowl and cover with a moist towel for 15 minutes. Allowing them to steam a bit will make them easier to peel. Simply pull on the shell and slip the chestnut out. Some will be easier to peel than others. Both the outer shell and the tough brown skin around the chestnuts should be peeled off.
Over the Top, Roasted Chestnut & Sausage Stuffing
- 1 loaf whole wheat bread
- 1.5 lb fresh chestnuts roasted, shelled and chopped
- 1 lb sweet Italian sausage removed from casing
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onion finely chopped
- 4 each celery stalks chopped
- 2 each garlic clove minced
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 tsp thyme chopped
- 2 tsp sage chopped
- 1/4 cup Flat-leaf parsley chopped
- 1 tsp black pepper ground
- 2 large eggs beaten
Prep the chestnuts
- To prep, the chestnuts, use a sharp knife, making an incision about 1/8-inch deep through each chestnut shell, just into the flesh of the nut, and work your way almost around its circumference.1.5 lb fresh chestnuts
Roast the chestnuts
- First, light your charcoal grill. Roast/grill until the shells begin to char and peel back where you cut them. The cooking time is roughly 15 minutes but watch them carefully to prevent burning.
Peel the chestnuts
- Remove the chestnuts from the grill, place them into a bowl and cover with a moist towel for 15 minutes. Allowing them to steam a bit will make them easier to peel. Simply pull on the shell and slip the chestnut out and chop.
Cube the bread
- Let cubed bread sit for about 5 hours to dry. In a bowl, combine chopped chestnuts and cubed bread. Preheat oven to 350 F.1 loaf whole wheat bread
Cook the sausage
- Heat a Dutch oven, add oil, sausage, and crumble with a fork. Stir occasionally until cooked. Add onions, celery, garlic, and cook until vegetables are soft. Add this mixture to the bread-chestnut mixture.1 lb sweet Italian sausage, 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 2 medium onion, 4 each celery stalks, 2 each garlic clove
- Add chicken stock, thyme, sage, parsley, and pepper to the bread-chestnut mixture. Stir in beaten eggs and mix well.3 cups chicken stock, 1 tsp thyme, 2 tsp sage, 1/4 cup Flat-leaf parsley, 2 large eggs, 1 tsp black pepper
Bake the stuffing
- Place stuffing in a buttered baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, remove foil and bake until golden brown for another 25 minutes.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate