At Thanksgiving, my cousin mentioned making my aunt's Cuban stuffing. It is a bread stuffing which also has nuts and chestnuts in it. I was intrigued, especially given how much he said he enjoyed it, so when we decided to roast a turkey last week, I asked my aunt for the recipe (and have her permission to post it here). I had only ever had my mother's cornbread stuffing until a couple of years ago, and only found out in university that instant stuffing exists. Last autumn I started playing around with another stuffing of my own, my Orange Fenugreek Stuffing, so I was excited to try this other new one. Also, there is my minor love affair with chestnuts to take into account. So anyway, I tried it and loved it! Here it is!
1 onion, chopped
1/3 c butter
1/2 head of garlic, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
500 g whole chestnuts, peeled (given the season, I used frozen)
1/4 walnuts, chopped (or other nuts)
250 - 500g bacon, chopped
1 loaf of bread, cubed
1/2 c raisins, chopped
1 - 1 1/2 c milk
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
A splash of white wine
1) In a heavy skillet, melt the butter and sauté the onions over low heat until soft. Add garlic and celery.
2) Place bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and add just enough milk to coat the bread. Set aside.
3) Add bacon, raisins, walnuts to the onions and garlic and stir. Add a splash of wine to deglaze the pan as necessary. Continue to cook over low heat.
4) Allow to cook for a few minutes, then add the chestnuts and stir. Cook for a few more minutes. Add spices and oregano.
5) Add the onions, bacon, chestnut mix to the bread and mix well. Deglaze the pan again with a little wine and add these juices to the bread mix. Stir.
6) Either stuff the turkey with the mix, or in an oven proof dish cook at 180°C for 35-40 minutes until the top is a little browned and the chestnuts are cooked.
I really enjoyed this stuffing! My aunt's recipe called for Sazon, but being in Switzerland, that was not available so I replaced and substituted as best I could, but there was probably still a flavour missing. I also switched to bacon from ham as that is what I had on hand. The quantities were a bit of guess work. She says that in Cuba there is a saying. You add a little of this and a little of that until your ancestors say "enough, dear". That is what I tried to do, but matters are a little complicated when you haven't had the thing you are trying to get to before. I would recommend parboiling the chestnuts before adding to the stuffing. I didn't do that here, and they took longer to cook than anything else.
It probably wasn't the same as hers, and at some point I'd love to get the chance to make it with her, but in the mean time, this will do. I was also quite pleased and reassured when my husband walked into the kitchen and declared that it smelled like Cuban food, so I must have done something right. It was tasty on its own the first night as a side for the turkey, heated up well for leftovers, and went very well on top of my Turkey Pot Pie. I highly recommend this.