Published November 10, 2010 - Last Updated January 22, 2021
There’s a nip in the air, even here in sunny Los Angeles, reminding me that Thanksgiving is right around the corner– a time of year that makes me very, very happy. Thanksgiving is my very favorite non-Jewish holiday, so I was tickled to learn that it may have been inspired by the Jewish holiday Sukkot. It’s not the roasted turkey or the NFL football or the pumpkin pie that makes me love this holiday… although I must admit, that stuff is great! I was actually born on Thanksgiving, and the arrival of the holiday reminds me how thankful I am to be alive. I always look forward to our cozy meal with family and friends. We gather to remind ourselves how grateful we are for our many blessings. What could be better than that?
Some Jews do not observe Thanksgiving, as they abstain from celebrating all non-Jewish holidays. However, most American Jews do celebrate Thanksgiving because it is a non-religious holiday that is more about being American than being religious. In our family, T-Day is actually our second biggest family gathering (our largest celebration is Passover). We believe that anything good and positive is cause for celebration, which means we embrace many holidays that are not traditionally Jewish. In keeping with the way our family celebrates, over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting some kosher ideas for the Thanksgiving table. I’ll start today with my Challah Chestnut Stuffing.
In an effort to create a culturally blended approach to Thanksgiving, I created this kosher stuffing from challah. Using challah as a base for the stuffing was an easy choice; it’s naturally absorbent, making it well suited to stuffing. For extra savory flavor, my mind immediately went to schmaltz. The combination of eggy challah bread crumbs, schmaltz-seared vegetables, fresh herbs and subtly sweet chestnuts make this stuffing truly unique.
I really recommend cooking this dish with schmaltz, it adds a ton of flavor to the stuffing. If you’re avoiding meat, the stuffing can be made pareve/vegetarian style. Simply substitute margarine for schmaltz (I recommend organic Earth Balance) and use your favorite vegetable broth. Of course, if you’re not worried about keeping kosher, feel free to use butter!
A Note About Chestnuts: I love the slightly sweet flavor and meaty texture of chestnuts, but they can be tough to track down, particularly the pre-peeled variety. You can roast the chestnuts in shell and peel them yourself. I’ve roasted chestnuts before, and I have to say the process of peeling them is difficult and time-consuming. I really recommend the peeled and roasted variety (Gefen’s are kosher, pre-peeled and roasted and are available here). If this all sounds too daunting, you can leave out the chestnuts… the stuffing will taste fine without them.
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Thanks for stopping by! I am fascinated by the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the foods of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s food can inspire us in the kitchen today. Read more...