We’re cooks who have endless patience for “process.” But when a recipe calls for 5 cups of peeled chestnuts, we know we’re in for some serious labor: scoring their skins with ×’s, roasting them, peeling them while they are still hot, then removing the fuzzy inner skins. Life is too short. We cut ourselves some slack and reach for jars of those nice already peeled French chestnuts—they’re delicious.
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and pancetta, and cook, stirring often, until the onions are tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Add the chestnuts and wine and cook until the chestnuts are tender, 30–40 minutes, covering the pan if it begins to look dry. Transfer to a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in the same unwashed skillet over medium high heat. Add the bread crumbs and sage, and cook, stirring from time to time, until lightly golden, 10–15 minutes. Transfer the bread crumbs to the bowl with the chestnuts. Add the sage and parsley and mix everything together. Use the back of a wooden spoon to break most of the chestnuts into large pieces. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Stir some chicken stock into the stuffing, mixing in just enough to moisten it without making it soggy or dense.
Spoon the stuffing into the turkey and roast it. Or, put the stuffing in a large buttered baking dish and bake in a preheated 325° oven, covered, for 45 minutes.
Canal House Cooks Every Day by Hamilton & Hirsheimer, Andrews McMeel 2012.
Darra Goldstein is editor in chief of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, an 888-page reference guide to all things sweet. "The book is really a compendium of human desires, a cultural history of desire for things that are sweet and what it has caused in the world, in both the realm of pleasure and also of pain," she says.