Flavor Equation Flavor Equation by Nik Sharma

I love the concept of stuffing; it’s a blank slate waiting to be painted in flavors that depict who you are. Green olives are my ode to California, while the chouriço, saffron, and vine­gar speak for the India I grew up in.


  • 1 lb [455 g] ciabatta or sourdough bread

  • 1/2 cup [110 g] unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

  • 20 strands saffron

  • Fine sea salt

  • 11 oz [310 g] chouriço

  • 1 leek (10 1/2 oz [300 g]), ends trimmed and thinly sliced

  • 1 medium yellow onion (9 1/4 oz [260 g]), thinly sliced

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 2 Granny Smith or other firm, tart baking apples (each about 7 oz [200 g]), cored and diced

  • 3 oz [85 g] dried tart cherries

  • 1/2 cup [60 g] walnut halves

  • 1/4 cup [60 ml] apple cider or malt vinegar

  • One 6 oz [170 g] can medium green olives, drained and halved

  • 3 cups [720 ml] low-sodium chicken stock

  • 2 large eggs, lightly whisked

  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro, for garnish

  • 2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish


Salty brined green olives provide a strong taste counterpoint to the bold flavors of the chouriço. To boost the flavor of your chouriço, see Chouriço Pao for tips.

Apples and cherries add a pop of sweetness and mild sourness.

Saffron is ground to a fine powder using a little salt as an abrasive. Grinding saffron extracts more color and flavor than would be achieved by using the strands directly. 

Drying the bread helps dehydrate it, aids the caramelization and Maillard reactions, and makes the bread behave like a sponge to absorb the liquid on soaking.

The stuffing is first cooked covered, to let the egg proteins change their shape, forming a protein meshwork that binds together the different ingredients and flavor molecules. It is then uncovered to finish cooking at a lower temperature, which helps create a crunchier top surface and reduces the risk of burning.

Preheat the oven to 200°F [93°C] and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut or tear the bread into ½ in [12 mm] cubes, spread them out in a single layer on the baking sheet, and dry in the oven, about 1 hour. Remove and let cool completely. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Increase the oven heat to 350°F [177°C]. Grease a 9 by 13 by 2 in [23 by 33 by 5 cm] ceramic or glass bak­ing dish with a little butter.

Grind half of the saffron to a fine powder with a little salt and set aside. Remove and discard the casing from the chouriço and break the sausage into small bits. Heat a medium sauce­pan over low heat and sauté until the sausage starts to brown, 8 to 10 min­utes. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Increase the heat, add the leek and onion, and sauté until they start to turn translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the whole and ground saffron strands.

Add the apples, cherries, and walnuts and sauté until the cherries get plump, 1 minute. Add the vinegar and remove from the heat. Gently fold in the olives, followed by the dried bread. Season with salt. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk 1 cup [240 ml] of the stock with the eggs, then whisk in the remaining stock. Pour the liquid over the bread mixture in the baking dish and fold in gently to distribute. At this stage, you can let the baking dish sit for 30 minutes before baking, or cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to bake the stuffing, discard the plastic wrap. If chilled, leave the baking dish out on the kitchen counter to warm to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Cover the baking dish snugly with a sheet of aluminum foil to form a tight seal and bake for 40 minutes. Lower the heat to 300°F [149°C], remove the foil, and continue to bake, uncovered, until the top is golden brown and crispy and the liquid has completely evaporated, 20 to 30 minutes. A skewer or knife inserted into the center should come out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Garnish with the cilantro and parsley and serve warm.

Reprinted from The Flavor Equation by Nik Sharma with permission by Chronicle Books, 2020