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Dishing Up Maryland
by Lucie L. Snodgrass
American chestnut trees, sadly, were almost totally wiped out in a terrible blight that was accidentally introduced around 1900. By 1940, it had killed off virtually all American chestnuts. (Incredibly, a small intact stand of American chestnuts was discovered in 2006 in Georgia, a huge boon to the scientists at the American Chestnut Foundation, who are working to breed a blight- resistant American chestnut.) Most chestnuts that Americans consume are imported from Europe, but it's becoming more common to see Chinese chestnuts at local farmers' markets. I make my stuffing using local chestnuts that I buy from Bobi Crispens at the Anne Arundel County farmers' market in Annapolis. This dish is a natural with roast chicken or turkey, but it also makes a wonderful side dish for other meats, as well.
10-12 Servings

• 1½ pounds local chestnuts
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
• 2 onions, peeled and chopped
• 5 celery stalks, chopped
• 1 yellow or orange or red bell pepper, chopped
• 8 cups cubed and toasted day-old bread
• 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
• 3 tablespoons minced fresh sage
• 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1½ cups Chicken Stock or Vegetable Stock

Roast the chestnuts: Carve an X into each chestnut using a sharp paring knife. Soak the chestnuts for 30 minutes in a bowl of water. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Drain the chestnuts and place them on a baking sheet. Bake the chestnuts for 25 to 30 minutes, remove them from the oven, and immediately peel them, using gloves if necessary. If chestnuts are not peeled while they are still hot, you will have a very hard time peeling them. When they are peeled, chop the nutmeats roughly. You should have about 2 cups.

2. Reduce the oven to 325°F. Melt the butter in a large skillet over low to medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and bell pepper, and saute until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the bread, parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper, and toss to blend. Add the chestnuts and the broth, tossing until the bread cubes are moist. Remove the skillet from the heat.

3. Transfer the stuffing to a 3-quart buttered casserole dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Serve immediately.

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