Here’s a recipe for an exciting Thanksgiving stuffing from chef Suzanne Goin of Lucques Restaurant in Los Angeles. Chestnuts and pancetta are a classic combination, and a little chile de árbol gives it a pleasant background heat.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the crust off the bread and tear the loaf into 1-inch pieces. Using your hands, toss with 6 tablespoons of the olive oil, squeezing the bread with your hands to help it absorb the olive oil. Transfer to a baking sheet, and toast in the oven for 12-15 minutes, tossing often, until the croutons are golden brown and crispy on the outside but still a little soft and tender inside. When the croutons have cooled, place them in a large bowl.
Meanwhile, toast the fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan often, until the seeds release their aroma and turn a light golden brown. Coarsely grind the seeds with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
Heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the remaining olive oil and the pancetta. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. Turn the heat down to medium, add the rosemary and the chile, and let them sizzle in the pan for a minute. Add the onion, fennel, fennel seeds, and thyme. Season with ¼ teaspoon salt and a few grindings of pepper.
Sauté for about 8 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly caramelized. Stir in the lemon zest, and add the entire mixture to the croutons. Return the pan to high heat and pour in the white wine. Bring the wine to a boil, and reduce by ¾. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
Pour the hot liquid over the croutons and vegetables, and toss well to combine. Wipe the pan out with paper towels, and return it to the stove over medium heat. Swirl in 2 tablespoons butter, and when it foams, add the chestnuts. Sauté 4-5 minutes, until the chestnuts are golden and sizzling in the butter. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and add to the stuffing. Stir to combine, and taste for seasoning. Add the egg and parsley. Toss well and put the stuffing in a ceramic baking dish or casserole.
Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and top the stuffing with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes. Return the stuffing to the oven and cook about 20 minutes, until crispy on top.