Jonathan and I are in the kitchen of our house, our first home, making the stuffing to take to Thanksgiving Dinner at my parents' house tomorrow. At this exact moment, Jonathan is on his hands and knees on the kitchen floor using a dicing tool, pounding the thyme and rosemary into submission.
These are the lengths to which we're willing to go for our now famous Sausage, Corn Bread and Chestnut Stuffing (originally a William-Sonoma recipe). We've made the stuffing for both Thanksgiving and Christmas for the last two years. Our fifth batch is sure to be our best yet. After all, we've been finessing.
We know how to multi-task, whipping up corn bread and dicing herbs and washing mixing bowls between ingredients. We've added notes to the recipe to help us in future years (because we have no intention of ever learning another dish...).
Today we were both off work early, and we've been cleaning like crazy people. After all, guests are coming soon. And heaven forbid they see our house in its ordinary, slightly dusty, very cluttered state. Our downstairs is all but empty. (No real furniture... just bookshelves down here... couches and chairs are on the Life Agenda, but they appear somewhere after the flat-screen TV, the mattress set, the trip to Australia and the Eclipse Jet). The dining room table (where we rarely eat, but where we often sort the junk mail from the fashion mags and REI catalogs) is clean, and live flowers make a cheery centerpiece. The kitchen is sparkling.
As I cleaned, to get me into the mood of the season, I queued up Christmas music in iTunes. Bing, Dean, Judy and, of course, Johnny Mathis. No Christmas queue is complete without Johnny's voice, as smooth as a French Silk Pie from Baker Square.
I never thought the day would come that would see me crying because Johnny Mathis hits the high note in O, Holy Night . But it happened tonight. I'm such a softy. I love traditions! And being in my own home on the verge of the holiday season, smelling fresh corn bread baking and newly chopped sage, I can't help throwing my arms around my husband's neck and humming along.
We even danced together to Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas is You !
Just for fun (and for posterity, because Jon almost ruined my recipe card by streaming dew down its front at the grocery story earlier), I thought I would post the recipe for our stuffing here. Give it a try! Quite a bit of prep time, but absolutely worth it.
Sausage, Corn Bread and Chestnut Stuffing
-perfected by Audrey and Jonathan Camp
- 8 cups cubed Corn Bread (day old)
- 2 cups cubed White Bread (day old)
- 1.5 lbs. ground Italian Pork Sausage (casings removed)
- 1 tbs. Olive Oil
- 1 Yellow Onion (finely chopped)
- 1 Celery Stalk (finely chopped)
- 1 Cup prepared Chestnuts (quartered)
- 1/4 cup fresh Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (finely chopped)
- 3 cups low-sodium Chicken Stock
- Salt & Pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit
- Spread bread cubes out on baking sheet. Toast in oven until golden brown and dry to the touch (about 20 minutes). Set aside.
- Butter 2 qt. baking dish (the deeper the better).
- In fry pan over medium heat, brown the sausage, stirring/crumbling with a fork until cooked through (about 10 minutes). Transfer to large bowl.
-Return pan to medium heat. Add olive oil (or "olive owl" if you're reading my hand-written card and enjoying the typos, like me!) to accumulated fat in the pan. Add onion/celery and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent (about 5-7 minutes). Seaon with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl with the sausage.
- Combine above with all bread cubes, chestnuts, herbs and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Stir gently to combine (using your bare hands works best, and it's squishy fun!).
- Transfer stuffing to the buttered baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.
- Remove foil and continue baking until browned and crispy (about 15 more minutes).
- Serves 8-10
To prepare chestnuts on your own, slice fresh nuts in half (shells are thick and rubbery). On a plate holding about 1/4 inch of water, place halves face-down in the water. Microwave on low heat for 5 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes. Use butter knife to gently remove shells. (This is akin to Betty MacDonald attempting to make bread and being told to "stir rapidly." If you don't know what I'm talking about, just be prepared to work hard at shelling those blasted nuts! I recommend splurging on "prepared chestnuts" at William-Sonoma or some other market.)