I always make three stuffings at our Thanksgiving dinner: my Mom’s famous “filling” which is basically mushrooms, onions and celery mixed with barley shaped egg noodles and eggs PLUS the old, beloved Chestnut-Sausage recipe that, if I didn’t make, Ed and my kids would march out in protest, PLUS a new one which I change every year, just because, why not?
This year the new version will be this one with hazelnuts. My decision was based partly on Hurricane Sandy. I lost power for 6 days and had to discard a lot of food. But as I was cleaning out the freezer I discovered a perfectly good a container full of hazelnuts, so why not use them up?
When I make a stuffing with nuts in it I like the idea of adding fruit too. The sweet taste is a good balance for the savory, salty ingredients. Fruit also adds texture, which I think is very important in a good stuffing. This version has two kinds: chewy dried figs and crisp, tender fresh apple, both play against the crunch of the hazelnuts.
I make my stuffings a day or two ahead and cook them in a casserole dish, but you can actually use this one as a stuffing, right inside the bird (cut down on the stock in the recipe). I try to use a shallow dish, because we like stuffing crunchy and a shallow dish gives you more surface area to brown. For moister stuffing outside the bird, use a deep casserole.
BREAD STUFFING WITH FIGS AND HAZELNUTS
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large, tart apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 cup cut up dried figs
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts
8 cups 1/2-inch diced bread cubes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock*
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. Add the apple, figs and raisins and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Spoon the mixture into a large bowl. Add the nuts, bread cubes, parsley, rosemary and thyme and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Pour in the stock (*1 cup if you cook the stuffing inside the bird; 2 cups if you bake the stuffing separately or prefer a moister stuffing). Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Stuff the bird OR place the ingredients in a casserole. To cook outside of the bird: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover the casserole. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for another 15 minutes or until the top is browned and crispy.
Makes about 12 cups