(Image credit: Diana Yen)
This recipe, created with my friend — the mother of a Syrian refugee family we hosted — takes a classic Thanksgiving stuffing and adds a Syrian twist. Commonly used celery is replaced by roasted chestnuts, and golden raisins are mixed with cranberries — but the tender pillow of soft bread remains. The result is a deliciously smoky-yet-sweet stuffing any turkey would love to be next to.
Adding Flavor with Bharat
This stuffing starts with all the typical players you’d expect in a traditional stuffing — a sautéed onion, dried bread, and just enough butter — but instead of using the spices and herbs often associated with this dish, we’re going with a combination of warm spices frequently used in Middle Eastern cuisine.
This spice mix, know as bharat, is widely used throughout Syria. The formula uses seven different spices — allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and cloves — and can be purchased pre-mixed or mixed at home and adjusted according to taste. Consider the amounts below a good starting point as a fragrant and delicious place to start.
Canadian-Syrian Thanksgiving Stuffing
1 loaf unsliced white bread (about 1 1/2 pounds), crusts removed, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 12 cups)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted chestnuts (about 100 grams)
2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 350°F. Divide the bread between 2 baking sheets and spread into an even layer. Bake until dry and light golden-brown, stirring halfway through, 10 to 15 minutes total; set aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
Once cooled, transfer the bread to a large bowl. Add the raisins, cranberries, and chestnuts and stir to combine; set aside.
Melt the butter or margarine over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add the onion and cook until soft and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the salt, allspice, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and cloves. Cook, stirring constantly, until very fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of bread, add the broth, and stir until well-combined. Transfer the stuffing to a 9×13-inch baking dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is golden-brown and crispy, about 15 minutes more.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.