The Tuesday after Thanksgiving, a bathroom remodel project was started in my house. Between the trips to hardware store after hardware store and the technology issues I’ve been experiencing, I have not had time to finish posts that I’ve been working on. So here we are just over two weeks after Thanksgiving and I am posting two posts I thought would be posted each of the Saturdays immediately following Thanksgiving. What is that Steinbeck said about the best-laid plans of mice and men?
After spending Thanksgiving Day with two of my sisters, I also cooked a smaller turkey at home on the Monday after Thanksgiving (work on bathroom renovations interfered with my turkey being cooked over the weekend) and my mother’s to die for sausage stuffing.
Mom’s stuffing was so good as girls, my sisters and I would fight over the last serving in the dish even though Mom made sure there was an ample potful on the stove. Now we fight over who can make Mom’s stuffing the best; until this year I encouraged the battle by telling my sisters that I wasn’t sure which one of them made it as good as Mom. I needed to taste each of them side by side in order to make that determination. As the official taste tester, the two that live closest to me send me containers of their stuffing for me to evaluate. Since most years we go to my other half’s family dinner on Thanksgiving, I developed a healthy competition between my sisters that provided me with containers of Mom’s stuffing to enjoy when we returned home. If you have competitive siblings, this tactic also works for pumpkin pie.
Mom’s Sausage Chestnut Stuffing: Six generations of my family have enjoyed this stuffing since my great grandparents came to America from Italy and began celebrating American Thanksgiving with an Italian twist. My sisters and I call it Mom’s stuffing but since my mother’s mother and her mother before her made this stuffing passing it down between the generations, its name is not completely accurate. My mom, however, made it better than her mom, my nana, so the name remains.
Since normally I spend Thanksgiving not at home, I’ve actually made mom’s stuffing only once in my adult life, I called my older and sometimes wiser sister to ask her how to make it she gave me these basic instructions:
- Make mashed potatoes, drier than usual mashed potatoes.
- Brown together a small package of ground beef and two packages of Jimmy Dean’s pork sausage. (I recall my mom using ground pork as well and if I had to guess I bet my great-grandmother used all ground sausage instead of Jimmy Dean’s pork sausage).
- Sauté onions, celery, and mushrooms in same pan as you browned the meat in; using the grease from the meat.
- Add two packages of pre-roasted chestnuts (she even told me I could get them at our local Market Basket – 2 packages for $5.00.
- Mix together and season with sage and Bell’s seasoning.
I was a little nervous my sister’s instructions lacked amounts in most places – how many pounds of potatoes should I mash for instance. I think I annoyed her when I asked her whether it was a pound of ground beef as her reply was, “Just buy a small package of ground beef; I don’t know how many pounds are in it.”
I did not let that deter me from making a valiant effort at making my mom’s stuffing. And, I am happy to report I will be entering the stuffing competition right alongside my sisters in 2015.
Mash potatoes to a stiffer/drier consistency than you normally would make mashed potatoes. I cooked about 3 lbs. of potatoes and used about 2 lbs. in my stuffing mixture.
Brown a one-pound package of ground beef.
Mix the pork and beef together as you brown them. Season with sage and Bell’s seasoning.
Once the meats are browned put aside in a bowl.
Clean 6 -9 stalks of celery; I prefer more celery than less.
Slice celery and set aside.
Peel three medium onions.
Chop onions and set aside.
I took a short cut and used pre-sliced mushrooms; they were actually cheaper at my market.
I chopped the mushrooms into smaller pieces and used about half the package; two of these small bowls filled with mushrooms.
Place the mushrooms, celery and onions into the same pan the meat was browned in; I added olive oil as my ground beef was lean and did not leave a lot of grease in my pan.
Sauté until vegetables are soft but not mushy. Season with sage and Bell’s seasoning.
Use two bags of chestnuts.
I was disappointed to discover after I purchased and opened these that this particular brand of chestnuts is imported from China. I am not sure how this slipped past me in the grocery store. I always try to buy an American made version of a product if one is available before buying a Chinese product. I personally feel like I have no right complaining about manufacturing jobs going overseas if I don’t purchase American made products whenever possible. And, I refuse to buy any food products made in China. Next time I make this stuffing, I will probably go back to mom’s method of roasting chestnuts in a 350 degree oven; her method was more festive and more expensive. If I roasted the chestnuts myself I would have purchased 2-3 pounds of chestnuts; when roasting chestnuts in the oven or in a fireplace you need to have extra for snacking. At $5.99 per pound this is a more expensive alternative but I prefer not having my food processed in a Chinese manufacturing plant.
Break or dice the chestnuts into bite sized pieces.
Mix the sausage and ground beef, mashed potatoes, sautéed vegetables, and chestnuts together until thoroughly mixed.
My final result served in one of my mom’s holiday serving bowls.
The next day, I enjoyed our traditional post-Thanksgiving sandwich, turkey, mayonnaise, cranberry sauce, mom’s chestnut stuffing layered thick in a stick of Italian bread. Heaven. My camera battery was dead and I was not waiting to eat my sandwich until it charged. It was delicious and brought me right back to my Mom’s kitchen when I was a little girl.