1 1/2 pounds DRY wheat bread torn into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds
4 ounces thick bacon, sliced 1/8 inch thick and diced
1 small rosemary sprig
1 dried red chili, stemmed and broken in half
1 small onion, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 1/4 cups chicken stock-Use SWANSON’s if not using homemade
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound of chestnuts, roasted as per pkg directions (If, like me, you’re new to chestnuts, cut them deeply before roasting and enjoy the scent while they’re in the oven)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 400°.
In a skillet, toast the fennel seeds over moderate heat until fragrant and lightly golden, about 2 minutes.
In the skillet, heat the bacon and cook over high heat, stirring, until crisp, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat to moderate, add the rosemary and chili and cook for 1 minute. Add the onion, fennel, fennel seeds and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly caramelized, about 8 minutes; discard the rosemary and chili. Stir in the lemon zest and add to the bread.
Set the skillet over high heat. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits. Boil until reduced to 1/3 cup, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring back to boil. Pour the hot stock mixture over the croutons and toss well.
Add the chestnuts to the stuffing and let cool completely. Add the eggs and parsley and toss well.
Transfer the stuffing to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and dot the stuffing with the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until crisp on top.
Make ahead! Take the smart, oven freeing option. Unless you’re the proud owner of a giant Wolf that can fit a 15 pound turkey plus sides, oven space will be at a premium on the day of. So bake the stuffing, covered with foil, for 30 minutes then refrigerate overnight the night before. Then wait till the turkey’s out of the oven and is resting to pop the stuffing back into the oven and heat covered until cooked through, about 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for 20 minutes longer.