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Chestnut Stuffing with Fennel

When Suzanne Goin was a child, making stuffing for the holidays was one of her first forays into cooking. "My mom always used store-bought crumbs, and it became my job to doctor them up," says Goin. "I'd just raid the spice cabinet and the first batches were a little crazy. But I figured out what I liked best." This chestnut-laced stuffing with pancetta and fennel is adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. The crispy olive oil-soaked bread cubes on top are especially delectable.

  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 12

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  • 1 1/2 pounds country bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 4 ounces pancetta, sliced 1/8 inch thick and diced
  • 1 small rosemary sprig
  • 1 dried chile de √°rbol or other dried red chile, stemmed and broken in half
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb, halved lengthwise and finely diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 1/4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • One 10-ounce vacuum-packed jar of chestnuts, very coarsely crumbled
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. On a baking sheet, toss the bread with 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Spread the bread in a single layer and toast in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring once, until golden brown. Let the croutons cool, then transfer to a bowl. Leave the oven on.
  2. In a small skillet, toast the fennel seeds over moderate heat until fragrant and lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a mortar or spice grinder; coarsely grind.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook over high heat, stirring, until crisp, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat to moderate, add the rosemary and chile and cook for 1 minute. Add the onion, fennel, fennel seeds and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly caramelized, about 8 minutes; discard the rosemary and chile. Stir in the lemon zest and add to the croutons.
  4. Set the skillet over high heat. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits. Boil until reduced to 1/3 cup, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Pour the hot stock mixture over the croutons and toss well.
  5. Wipe out the skillet. Add 3 tablespoons of the butter and the chestnuts and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the chestnuts to the stuffing, season with salt and pepper and let cool completely. Add the eggs and parsley and toss well.
  6. Transfer the stuffing to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and dot the stuffing with the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until crisp on top. Serve hot.

Make Ahead

Bake the stuffing, covered with foil, for 30 minutes then refrigerate overnight. Heat covered until cooked through, about 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for 20 minutes longer.

Contributed By Photo © John Kernick Published December 2005

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