If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, consider making our celebrated stuffing to accompany your turkey. This stuffing has been around since the 1960s, at which time we smoked whole birds outside of The Fort in a large smokehouse. A holiday favorite, the recipe for our stuffing features the delicious flavor of pine nuts, which are called piñones (peen-YO-nays), or piñons if they are from New Mexico or Colorado. The seeds of pine trees, the small, elongated nuts are found nestled inside large cones. For centuries, they have been gathered in the wintertime in the Rocky Mountain region, first by Americans Indians, and then by settlers in the mountains. After the first snowfall, it’s easy to follow the tracks of ground squirrels to their burrows, where several gallons of nuts can be dug up and toted away. Just be sure to leave plenty for the squirrels so that they don’t starve—and live to lead us to their burrows next year.
Grocery List – Piñon-Nut Stuffing
½ pound chestnuts – fresh roasted, peeled and chopped, or dry roasted from a jar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups stale bread cubes
2/3 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons dry sherry
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup chopped green chiles, canned or fresh
2 shallots, peeled and minced
2 stalks celery, diced
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
¼ cup whole cilantro leaves
2 to 3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
2 pinches fresh thyme leaf or 1 pinch dry
½ cup toasted pine nuts
Grocery List – Turkey
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-pound) turkey
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dry rosemary
To roast the chestnuts, cut an “X” on the flat side of each nut. Place the nuts in a dry cast-iron skillet and toast over medium-high heat, shaking the pan often, until the shells start browning and the edges of the “X” begin to pull away from the nut. Parts of them will be quite dark, and they will smell wonderful! Chestnuts peel more easily when they’re warm. Use a sharp paring knife to peel back both the outer shell and the inner membrane. The inner membrane can be quite stubborn, but the result justifies the effort.
For the stuffing: Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium-low heat, and cook the garlic until golden. Add the bread cubes, and stir constantly over medium heat, until golden. Remove the bread with a slotted spoon, and set aside. In the same pan, combine the chicken broth, sherry, cream, chiles, shallots, celery, parsley, cilantro, pepper, rosemary, salt and thyme. Simmer for two minutes, over medium heat, to release the flavors. Add the bread cube mixture, chestnuts and pine nuts. Mix well, cover and bring to room temperature before using to stuff the bird.
To prepare the turkey: Melt the butter and stir in the salt and pepper. Rub the turkey with the butter mixture inside and out. Use the remaining butter to make the basting sauce. Combine the butter with the wine and 1/3 of the rosemary in a small saucepan. Boil for two minutes on high heat, then remove from the heat and use to baste the turkey every 15 minutes, while roasting.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Fill both cavities of the bird with the stuffing. Sew up with a trussing cord and bind the wings and drumsticks tight alongside the bird’s body. Cover the wings and drumsticks with aluminum foil for the first hour to prevent overcooking. Sprinkle the remaining rosemary over the bird. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
Place the turkey on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Do not add water. Cover the turkey with a loose tent of aluminum foil, and roast for 15 minutes per pound plus one hour for the stuffing.
Remove the foil 30 minutes before roasting is done. Test for doneness with a reliable meat thermometer; this is the only way to be sure it is done. The final temperature for safety and doneness is 180°F in the thigh and at least 165°F in the breast and stuffing. The juices should run clear, not pink. Test the temperature early and often – an overcooked turkey is dry, tough, and pasty in texture.
Note: You may make the stuffing a day ahead of time and refrigerate it overnight, but warm it slightly before you stuff the bird. Bringing the stuffing to room temperature before filling the bird is necessary to allow the stuffing to cook all the way through. Be sure to remove all the stuffing from the carcass after dining and store in a separate bowl.