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A buttery, brioche stuffing

  • PHOTO COURTESY NEW YORK TIMES

This buttery brioche dressing with roasted chestnuts proves how much better stuffing turns out when it’s baked inside a casserole dish instead of a bird.

Stuffing made from eggy brioche and roasted chestnuts is a Thanksgiving classic. This one, seasoned with celery, onion and sage, and a little diced fennel for sweetness and depth, sticks relatively close to tradition.

Use it to stuff a turkey, if you like, but it’s even better baked separately in a shallow casserole dish, so the top can get nice and crisp. When you spread out in an even layer and expose it directly to the heat, it gets a gorgeously crisp top and a piping hot, delicate center.

If you’d like to bake it ahead, you can do so up to 6 hours in advance. Just before serving, reheat it in a 350-degree oven.

Brioche chestnut stuffing

Ingredients:

• 1 (14to 16-ounce) brioche loaf, torn into 1-inch pieces

• 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), plus more for the pan

• 1 large onion, diced

• 2 large celery ribs, thinly sliced

• 1/2 cup diced fennel (about 1/2 small fennel bulb)

• 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed

• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

• 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped

• 5 ounces roasted, peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped

• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

• 2 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock

• 2 large eggs

• 1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Directions:

Arrange brioche pieces in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.

Let them dry out overnight, or place them in a 200-degree oven for an hour or two.

(They’ll be ready when they feel stale to the touch but haven’t taken on any color.)

Heat oven to 375 degrees, and butter a shallow, 2-quart casserole or gratin dish. On a pot on the stove or in the microwave, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Put bread in the prepared baking dish and toss with melted butter. Bake until golden and toasted, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool, then transfer toast to a large bowl. (Don’t wash the baking dish; you’ll use it again for the stuffing.)

In a 12-inch skillet, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Stir in onion, celery, fennel and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook until soft and just starting to brown, about 12 minutes. Stir in thyme and sage, and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and transfer to bowl with brioche. Gently fold in chestnuts and pepper and let cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups stock, eggs, parsley and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Fold gently into bread mixture, then scrape it all back into prepared baking dish. Drizzle on remaining 1 cup stock until the mixture is moist; you may not need all the stock.

Cover dish with foil and bake until lightly springy, about 25 minutes.

Remove foil and continue to bake until golden brown, another 20-30 minutes.

Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus drying, serves 8-10.

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