I’ve been growing herbs for almost 30 years. For a self-taught “gourmet”, it’s thrilling for me to go into my backyard and pick lush flat leaf parsley, flavorful chives, fragrant rosemary and thyme. With our recent freezing temps and heavy snowfall, I was certain that I wouldn’t be harvesting herbs for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. Then we had a thaw and under the weather damaged herbs, I was able to find an ample supply – hooray!
Fresh-Picked Herb Compound Butter
Start with 2 sticks of very soft butter (I use salted butter), add 1 generous tablespoon each of chopped flat-leaf parsley, thyme & rosemary, 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic chives and 1-2 teaspoons of cracked black pepper. Stir together with a dinner fork. Cover and store in a cool (not cold place) until ready for use.
As we speak, it’s the Monday before Thanksgiving and I just prepared mine. Making ahead allows the herbs to really flavor the butter. While there are many uses for compound butters, I’ll use this one after gently loosening the skin of the turkey breast then taking gobs of it, massaging and slathering it between the skin and the turkey. As it roasts in the oven, the herb butter self-bastes the turkey. Enjoy!
I know, I know. It’s stuffing if it goes inside the turkey and dressing if not. Whatever you call it, mine is seriously without equal. Here you see the ingredients of what goes into it. It’s just Spence and I on Thanksgiving and what looks like overkill on the quantity that I make, I call smart. At least half of what I make I freeze – unbaked in air-tight freezer bags and some in large size muffin tins (once frozen popping them into freezer bags as well). I make rotisserie and baked chicken throughout the year and this makes the best side dish, lovely to have on hand – simply thaw and bake!
This recipe is flexible. I’m going to list the ingredients and you can make as much or as little as you need:
Cubed leftover bread (I always have a lot in the freezer) I use a mixture some artisan, bakery & grocery store “regular” bread – even cubing up leftover cornbread if I have it on hand. Place all cubed bread on a sheet pan in the oven overnight with the oven light on to let it dry out. (turn oven on lowest setting for 30-60 minutes the day of assembly if it’s still too soft)
Additionally I use both the Pepperidge Farm seasoned Classic Stuffing & Country Style cubed stuffing
1 lb cooked sage breakfast sausage, use your spatula to crumble it while it’s browning, drain off any grease and blot with a paper towel
Apples – I generally use two kinds and don’t peel them, just chop into bite size chunks
Lightly saute chopped onion and celery (about 6-8 minutes), in several tablespoons of butter, add some poultry seasoning during the saute. I use equal quantities of onion and celery.
Chestnuts – I roast my own (check my blog for how-to roast chestnuts, link is below) if you want substitute toasted pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts. (But the chestnuts are what make this special in my humble opinion)
Fresh herbs – flat leaf parsley, thyme, rosemary – adds both a pop of color but also lots of flavor, chop them. I use a mezzaluna (pictured above).
Lots of chicken stock – have more on hand than you think you’ll need, trust me on this.
I assemble this using two very large mixing bowls and put half of the ingredients (except chicken stock) into each, little by little – and adding chicken stock and poultry seasoning along the way, stirring and then building more ingredients, seasoning and stock (you get it) until the prep station is cleared.
I fill a large oval baker and refrigerate this overnight – really packing it in (and fill a second one to refrigerate and bake later with leftovers. Freeze the rest). I take the oval baker (or casserole dish) out of the fridge on Thanksgiving morning to take the chill off. It will have absorbed a lot of stock overnight so drizzle an ample amount over the top. Bake this at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, uncovered, until it’s browning a bit and there’s some crunch happening on top. If you’re making this and have your oven set at another temp when this goes in it’s not a problem – just watch the top and feel for the crunch.
As promised, here’s the link on how-to roast chestnuts:
The ritual of roasting chestnuts for my annual Thanksgiving Day stuffing is a labor of love. And as with any labor, there is pain. But the payoff in flavor and texture make it all worthwhile. So for those who might want to try this, I’ve created a pictorial “recipe” for roasting chestnuts – no roaring fire required.
1. Purchase chestnuts. I always get two bags since one of the first years Spence and I did this we lost half of one bag that were bad nuts – moldy, dried up, unusable. Once roasted and chopped, any surplus can be frozen for months in a ziploc bag.
2. Score each nut using a small, very sharp knife in the pattern of a large X.
3. Set your oven at 450 degrees. Lay the chestnuts in a single layer on a pan. Set your timer for 15-20 minutes. Remove them from the oven and wrap them in a towel lined pan or bowl (I use two dishtowels) and cover for one hour to steam them.
4. Get two bowls, one for shells and one for the peeled nuts. And start peeling – yes with your fingers (and that small knife – in case you need help). Make sure and check the nuts over to remove any hard membranes. Your thumbs will be sore at the end of this, no sense in sugar coating it. But these little beauties are so worth it! When you’re ready to build your stuffing, just give these a coarse chop!
Want to know how to make my famous Chestnut Stuffing?
Couldn’t have said it better! 🍀😸