saffron, pistachios, dried cherries

Persian Jeweled Stuffing for Thanksgiving

By Catherine Dehdashti

Author of Roseheart

This American dish benefits greatly from the saffron, pistachios, and dried cherries common in Persian jeweled rice. If you’d like to add more jewels, consider golden raisins, dried currants, barberries, apricots, slivered almonds, and orange zest. 
It’s not for those who want a fast and simple stuffing, but for those who yearn for the stuffing the most of the whole Thanksgiving spread. 

Preparation notes: 

  • Bakery bread, such as sourdough or Italian, should be bought earlier in week so it is not too fresh. Ask bakery to cube the bread, or at least to slice it so it is easier to cube. I get two big loaves of striato, but only use about a quarter of the second loaf.
  • The bacon is optional, but it include it if you can. It goes great with all of the other flavors.
  • It takes some time to prepare, so make it when sharing the responsibilities for a family dinner. You can also prepare it up to before the point of the broth and egg pour-over and refrigerate until ready to continue.

Ingredients

1/4 tsp. saffron threads
1 cup hard apple cider, room temperature

6 oz. quality bacon (Theilan Meats, Nueske’s, your butcher, etc.)
10 cups bakery bread (see note above), cubed, left out on counter for several hours  
1 cup salted butter (two sticks)  
1 large yellow onion, or two medium-small, diced
8 oz. shiitake mushrooms  
5 ribs of celery, diced small  
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. salt (reduce by half if using the bacon)
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper, or more to taste
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup shelled pistachios, chopped  
1 bunch parsley, chopped, stems included
1 bunch fresh sage leaves, or 2-3 tsp. dried sage  
2 cups turkey or chicken broth, plus extra if needed
1 egg

Serves 8-10.

Cooking instructions

  1. Pour hard apple cider into a glass and add saffron threads. Swirl and let this infuse for 30 minutes before starting next steps.
  2. Cook bacon on baking sheet (large size because you will reuse the baking sheet for all your bread crumbs) on middle rack in oven at  375°F until crisp. Drain on paper towels, then chop and set aside.
  3. Wipe out all of the surface grease from the bacon pan with paper towels, but do not wash pan. Toss bread cubes around on bacon pan and bake in the 375°F oven for 5-10 minutes, until slightly toasted and infused with bacon aroma. Remove and set aside.
  4. Lower oven to 350°F. 
  5. Heat half of the butter (1 stick) in a large Dutch oven on the stove over medium-high. 
  6. Add onion, mushrooms, celery, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are softened but not yet browned, about 5 minutes. Add cherries, pistachios, parsley and sage and cook, tossing occasionally, about 2 minutes. 
  7. Add saffron-infused cider and stir for 10 minutes. Turn heat down to medium or medium-low if mixture begins to stick to bottom of Dutch oven.
  8. Add bread cubes and bacon, toss lightly and let sit 2 minutes. 
  9. Whisk broth and egg together, pour over entire mixture, and lightly toss again. 
  10. Lightly butter the baking dish with 1 Tbsp. of your remaining stick of butter. Transfer stuffing to baking dish. Dot surface with pieces of remaining butter and cover with foil.
  11. Bake stuffing 25 minutes. Remove foil and, if it seems dry, drizzle up to 1 more cup of stock over it evenly. Continue to bake 20 minutes more until surface is golden and crispy but not too dark .
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