Friday, November 28, 2008
I like going home again. As few and far between as these visits have become, they are always fairly necessary in maintaining stasis on my sanity. Food isn't the only reason, of course, but it's up there as one of the best. For as many years as I've made the southward trek to have Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin Nick's home, I've been known to indulge in three or four portions too many of our family's patented chestnut stuffing. When I was very much younger, my theakoula would sit around the kitchen table with a few other family members and steam, prick, and peel all the chestnuts by hand on Thanksgiving morning. I remember very well their whispering, their rustling and the scent of nuts, still warm and cracking--their voices as palpable and sticky sweet as the odor, just as rich and full of promise. I'd find myself wandering over on purpose, seeking aimless errands that would take me into the kitchen, just so that I could be around them while they worked.
For some reason it had never occurred to me to ask for the recipe before. I had a reliable resource of it on a yearly basis, plus enough take-home leftovers to kill an ox. Recently, though, I have begun to realize that chestnut stuffing is a dish I'd like to eventually be able to bring to my own table. And I'd like to have spent enough time with it to get it absolutely right, maybe even add a few of my own twists and turns to the mix. So between glazing pears, mashing potatoes, sweating feverishly, and slicing carrots--I leaned over and sneakily asked my cousin Maria if she would be so kind as to relay the recipe to me.
These are exactly, word-for-word, the instructions that she passed down to me. The original recipe calls for both beef and liver, but Maria and Nick have long been making their version vegetarian. (Necessary in order to accommodate the variety in diets bound to be encountered in any gathering numbering above twenty.) Remember: this is a recipe intended for many, you might want to cut it down a bit if you're cooking for less than forty.
You Will Need:
1 lb. black raisins
1 lb. pine nuts
5 stalks celery
2 sticks butter
3 lbs. chestnuts (to prepare-boil for ten minutes, prick shell with knife, and peel)
1 bunch parsley
40-45 oz. vegetable broth
2 cups cooked rice
1. Saute onions in butter. Add celery, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.
2. Add pine nuts, chestnuts, raisins, and rice.
3. Add broth.
4. Bake in oven at 375 degrees covered with foil for 30-35 minutes.
And don't forget dessert: