Tuscan Bread Stuffing with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese and Dried Cherries

First, a cautionary, heads up kind of word: If your turkey is frozen, you’re going to want to go ahead and start thawing that thing. I usually start to thaw a frozen turkey by placing it in the refrigerator on Sunday, or definitely by Monday before Thanksgiving. So, if you have a frozen turkey, get on your J.O.B., and liberate it from it icy confines, and move it to the slightly warmer pastures of the fridge.  Or else you might find yourself having to take more drastic measures on Thursday.

This first recipe that I will share with you is my absolute favorite recipe of the whole meal, but that’s because I love Tuscan bread so much. By Tuscan bread, I mean those big round Italian boules of crusty bread, that have a very dense, chewy texture, with big air holes. Some kind of peasant/country bread will be a reasonable facsimile, if you don’t have a great bakery in your area. But please don’t try this with Wonder Bread, or Bunny Bread (for those of you who live down south). It really won’t be the same.

I usually buy the bread on Tuesday, and do the vegetable chopping on Wednesday, and assemble the whole shebang on Thursday after lunch. (We eat our big meal @6:00ish) It goes in the oven after the turkey comes out, and bakes, with the rolls, while the turkey’s resting.

Now, as to the promised recipe. I found the original recipe on epicurious.com, but it was a Bon Appétit recipe originally. I have changed several of the ingredients to some things we like better,  and now, this one’s my own version of:

 Tuscan Bread Stuffing with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, and Dried Cherries


Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings
Ingredients
1/2 cup dried tart cherries

1 (1-pound) loaf crusty Tuscan-style white bread
1/4 cup olive oil
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 large garlic clove, minced

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
4 oz. sliced prosciutto

 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/2 cup toasted husked hazelnuts, coarsely chopped (or any nut your family likes)
1 3/4 cups low-salt chicken broth or turkey stock, heated
4 ounces chilled fresh goat cheese, crumbled into 1/2-inch pieces

Preparation
Preheat oven to 375°F. Place cherries in bowl; cover with boiling water. Let stand until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain.
Cut bread with crust into 1-inch cubes (10 cups loosely packed). Place in large bowl. Add oil, thyme, and garlic; toss. Spread out on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until golden and slightly crunchy, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Return to same large bowl.
Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add next 3 ingredients. sauté until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Mix in parsley, prosciutto and cherries.

DO AHEAD: Bread cubes and vegetable mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately. Store bread at room temperature. Chill vegetables.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Stir vegetables and nuts into bread cubes. Add hot broth, tossing to coat. Mix in cheese. Transfer to dish. Cover with buttered foil, buttered side down. Bake until heated through, about 25 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is brown, about 25 minutes longer, and serve.

I could eat nothing but this at Thanksgiving, and be completely happy, and my friend Kristi, who has been my guest for the past two Thanksgivings, concurs.

If you have any questions or comments, I’ll be happy to answer them in the comments section.
Now, go stuff yourself!!! (and don’t take that the wrong way, either!)


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