The big day is just a few sleeps away and if you’re like me, your shopping list for your feast is about a mile long by now. And though the thought of fighting the crowds at the grocery stores seems a bit daunting, I actually love being out and about this time of year, listening to the happy buzz of people all making plans with family and friends. For us, Christmas will be spent up in Whistler this year where we’re hosting a large number of guests for dinner with a 23 lb turkey taking centre stage – and what’s a turkey without the stuffing?! This is one of my favourite dressings: salty pancetta mixed with the smoky sweetness of canned chestnuts, it’s about as traditional…and delicious!…as it gets! I usually cook my stuffing inside the bird, but for those of you that like to cook a batch by itself, I’ve given instructions for that as well below.
Makes approx. 20 cups
- 1 (1 1/2 lb) sourdough loaf, cut into 1/3-inch dice (18 cups)
- 1 lb coarsely chopped pancetta slices (about 3 cups)
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
- 3 cups chopped celery
- 4 cups chopped onions
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 24 oz jarred /canned peeled cooked whole chestnuts, halved
- 2 cups pitted prunes, quartered
- 2 cups turkey stock ,warm
Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 400°F.
Scatter bread in a single layer in 2 large shallow baking pans (17 by 12 inches) and toast, stirring once or twice and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until golden and dry, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a very large bowl.
Cook pancetta in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Add butter and heat until melted, then add celery and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 12 minutes. Stir in sage, salt, and pepper and cook 1 minute. Add pancetta mixture along with chestnuts and prunes to bowl containing bread. Whisk together stock and eggs, then stir into bread mixture until combined well. Transfer to turkey or to baking dish (stuffing will mound above dish).
If cooking outside of the turkey, bake loosely covered with a buttered sheet of foil (buttered side down) 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake until top is browned, 10 to 15 minutes more.