Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Turkey Chestnut Stuffing
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Master Chef Walter Potenza, GoLocalWorcester Food Expert
2 loaves good-quality ciabatta bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 20 cups)
1 1/2 pounds fresh chestnuts (4 cups), scored with an X on the flat side
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 stick)
4 small white onions, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 3 cups)
10 ounces speck, julienne (smoked Italian prosciutto available at specialty stores)
4 cups of celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
5 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
1 tablespoon coarse salt
3 cups coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground pepper
Spread bread cubes in single layers on baking sheets. Let dry at room temperature, uncovered, overnight.
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add chestnuts; cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain; let cool slightly. Peel and quarter chestnuts; set aside. Peeled chestnuts can be refrigerated in an airtight container 2 to 3 days.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and celery; cook, stirring, until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add speck and sage; cook 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup stock; cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
Transfer onion mixture to a large bowl. Add remaining 4 1/2 cups stock, the chestnuts, bread, salt, and parsley; season with pepper. Toss to combine. If not stuffing turkey, transfer to a buttered 17-by-12-inch baking dish.
Cover; bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Uncover; bake until hot and golden brown, 30 minutes more.
Turkey cooking basic tips
Choosing the right size turkey
For a large party, you'll need a big bird -- say, 15 to 20 pounds; figure 1 1/2 pounds for each person. Smaller birds -- 12 pounds or less -- have a smaller meat-to-bone ratio, so allow 2 pounds per person. Remember that the larger the bird, the more likely you are to have leftovers for the next few days.
Defrosting Frozen Turkey
It is best to thaw turkey in the refrigerator, where it's too cold for harmful bacteria to grow. Use the bottom shelf, in case of drips. Place the turkey, breast side up, in its original wrapper, onto a rimmed baking sheet. Plan ahead and allow a full day for every 4 pounds of turkey being thawed.
Cleaning the Turkey
When you bring a fresh turkey home or thaw out a frozen one, remove the giblets and save them for gravy stock. Rinse the turkey under cool running water, and dry it inside and out with paper towels
Choosing a Pan
If you make turkey and other roasted meats frequently, you should consider investing in a sturdy stainless steel pan that will last a lifetime. Heavy stainless performs much better than lightweight aluminum, and distributes heat evenly. And it won't sag under the weight of a big roast. Look for a rectangular pan just big enough to fit your turkey, with medium-height sides (about 3 inches) and strong handles you can rely on. A pan with a nonstick surface will not allow foods and meat juices to brown and caramelize …
Stuffing cooked inside a turkey is more flavorful and moist, but you run the risk of exposure to bacteria. Instead, cook the stuffing in a separate buttered casserole dish at 350 degrees; cover it with aluminum foil, and baste it occasionally with turkey juices. It only needs an hour of cooking time. If you do stuff the bird, make sure to do it right before the turkey goes in the oven, not ahead of time.
If stuffing the turkey, do so just before roasting to prevent unwanted bacterial growth. Because the stuffing will expand as it bakes, fill the turkey's cavity loosely; this also allows the stuffing to cook more evenly and keeps it from becoming too dense. A 12- to 15-pound turkey needs about 10 cups of stuffing; a 15- to 20-pound bird can hold up to 12 cups. To test doneness before serving, insert an instant-read thermometer in the center of the stuffing to make sure it reaches 165 degrees.
What to Do with Leftovers
Leftovers can serve as the main ingredients for dishes you might not otherwise make. Sliced turkey can become the main ingredient in an open-faced sandwich, a turkey and green chile burrito, or a turkey-salad sandwich. Even the turkey bones can have a second life: Use them as the basis of a delicious turkey stock, which can be frozen for up to four months and used in any recipe calling for chicken stock. Happy day to all of you!
Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well." Check out the Chef's website and blog
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