Home for the Holidays – Nana’s Stuffing
Area Chefs Share Seasonal Favorites
Traditions are big this time of year, and for many families they include getting together for big meals. Looking for a new wrinkle to those annual repasts? We convinced a few local chefs to share some seasonal and traditional favorites from their own tables.
Some people decide to learn traditional family recipes out of love, some out of respect. Jimi Gallant, executive chef for the Lupoli Companies as well as Andover’s new 34 Park, did it out of desperation.
“In my family, we call it ‘Nana’s Stuffing,’” he says. “And it was the only thing that mattered in terms of food at our house on Thanksgiving. When my grandmother was alive, she made this Canadian pork stuffing that was so awesome that everyone kind of fought over it, and then as Nana got older she’d make less and less of it.
“Us grandkids got wiser with time and realized that it was the best thing on the table. So I took over, got her approval, rewired it a little, and now I make loads of it for everyone to fill up on during all the winter months.”
The stuffing has been a part of the Gallant family table “for as long as I can remember,” he says, and he has no trouble explaining the culinary alchemy behind traditional clan dishes like his Nana’s stuffing.
“When you’re growing up, there are just certain flavors that always stick with you … the bite or smell of it … that just makes you go back in time to simpler days,” Gallant says.
That treasured recipe follows, and you’ll notice that the amounts required for some of the ingredients are a little vague. Gallant likes it that way, in part because that’s the way people in his grandmother’s generation cooked. It was a handful of this, a pinch of that.
I always made a point of being within hearing range when my wife, a terrific cook, would try to work with her grandmother on a traditional Armenian dish.
The verbal abuse my wife suffered always made me giggle. “Not THAT kind of handful,” her grandmother would invariably shout. “THIS kind!” Or, “You call that a PINCH? Let me show you what a pinch really is!” One day she literally body slammed my wife away from the stove because she wasn’t properly sauteing the onions.
And my wife endured it all because she knew it was the only way to master those wonderful platters. In the spirit of that tradition, here is the Gallant family recipe:
3 pounds ground pork shoulder
2 white sweet onions
Generous amount of Bell’s poultry seasoning
Pinch of ground clove and nutmeg
Rich chicken stock
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons chopped sage
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups cooked potatoes, diced
2 sleeves of saltine crackers, crushed
Salt and pepper
Season the pork shoulder with salt and pepper. Saute in butter and olive oil with the white sweet onions, seasoned generously with Bell’s, ground allspice, and a pinch of ground clove and nutmeg. Cook until browned.
Add the rich chicken stock, just enough to cover the pork and onion mixture. Add 2 tablespoons each of thyme and chopped sage.
Add the Dijon mustard and diced potatoes, then the saltine crackers. Mix. Add the crushed crackers until the mixture is thick enough to stand up a spoon.
Transfer to a casserole dish and let it rest overnight. Reheat until warm throughout and browned on top.
Admit it, you want some right now!