2009-12-24 / Features

Dried Fruit And Prune Juice Add Flavor And Depth To Holiday Stuffing

Whether you call it stuffing or dressing, one thing’s for sure - no holiday meal is complete without it. Sometimes savory, often sweet, but always delicious, stuffing is one of the most anticipated dishes on the holiday table.

Stuffing is an easy-to-prepare, versatile holiday dish that can include succulent meats, sweet fruits and savory herbs. Incorporating both dried and fresh fruit into stuffing is a California tradition, adding depth of flavor.

“Dried fruits, such as cherries or prunes, are a great addition to any holiday meal,” says Chef Victoria Comfort, executive chef of Black Kite Cellars in California's Wine Country. “I enjoy adding them to stuffing because they add moisture, sweetness and texture to the dish and pair beautifully with a succulent roasted turkey.”

One of Chef Comfort’s surprise secret ingredients is prune juice. Made from plump, juicy California prunes, prune juice can help retain moistness in the stuffing and can also be a great base for sauces and glazes. This holiday season, Chef Comfort has shared her recipe for Country Sausage, Apple and Cherry Stuffing. This dish pairs Italian sausage with prune-juice plumped dried cherries, striking the perfect balance on the palate of sweet and savory.

“Cooking is about a balance of flavors. Sunsweet Prune Juice is one of those ingredients that contributes a complexity to many recipes,” Chef Comfort says. “In the Country Sausage, Apple and Dried Cherry Stuffing, the prune juice is used to counter balance the tartness of the dried cherries. The subtle fruitiness and sweetness of prune juice makes it the perfect flavor enhancer.”

Sunsweet Growers, the world's largest handler of dried tree fruits, offers several stuffing recipes using dried fruit on its Web site, www.sunsweet.com.

“Every holiday season we get a flurry of consumer requests for recipes from everything from stuffing to quick breads,” says Stephanie Harralson of Sunsweet Growers. “While many people think of Sunsweet products as naturally powerful snacks, they can also be fantastic ingredients. We always get rave reviews for our stuffing recipes.”

Chef Comfort’s recipe for Country Sausage, Apple and Cherry Stuffing along with other delicious holiday recipes, can be found at www.sunsweet.com.
Country Sausage, Apple and
Cherry Stuffing
1 pound sweet Italian
sausage, casings removed
1 1/2 yellow onions, diced
5 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup cherries
3/4 cup prune juice
5 cups French bread, cubed
and dried
1 apple, peeled, cored and
diced
1/2 cup parsley, washed and
chopped fine
2 eggs
1/2 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a skillet, brown the sausage; remove excess fat and add the vegetables and garlic. Cook briefly, about two minutes, and set aside. Put the cherries in a saucepan with the prune juice, bring to a boil and set aside. Put the bread cubes, sausage, vegetables, apples and parsley in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Whisk eggs and chicken broth together, and pour over the bread mixture, mixing until everything is well distributed. Drain cherries and add to the stuffing mixture, tossing again. If the mixture is too dry, add more broth 1/4 cup at a time. Place in a lightly greased 13 by 9 inch pan and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, remove foil and bake 10 minutes to crisp. Serve warm. Makes eight to 12 servings.

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