Last week I attended the American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo with USA Pears, where nationwide dietitians come together to explore current topics in nutrition, try new products, and network. We handed out delicious pears to eager dietitians, discussing the flavors and nutritive benefits. The conference was a wonderful experience, but the final speaker, Anthony Bourdain of Travel Channel’s No Reservations, left me with food for thought.
He gave an insightful look into global food culture, how food affects us as a society and as individuals. Food is a social experience for humans; people come together over food. His final words struck a chord with me, “Eat well.” I think that sometimes we dietitians lose sight of what’s really important; food isn’t just a nutrient delivery device! It has meaning and it should always be delicious. One of my fondest memories is of my mother preparing Thanksgiving dinner, not just because the food was delicious or filled the house with the aroma of turkey and pumpkin, but because my mother was pouring her heart and soul into each dish. Each bowl, plate, or platter contained protein, vitamins, and minerals to nourish our bodies, plus a cup of love, a measure of happiness, and a dash of laughter. The food brought us together to relish family and savor the connections we were making.
Each meal is an opportunity to nourish the body and soul, to create new memories with friends and family. This is what I’m thankful for this holiday season.
Bread Stuffing with Pears, Bacon, and Caramelized Onions
If you are baking this delicious stuffing to accompany a holiday turkey, bake the stuffing while the turkey is roasting if you have room in the oven. Otherwise, bake it beforehand and reheat it once the turkey is done. Your guests will rave!
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
10 cups unseasoned dry bread cubes
8 ounces bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 ¼ pounds frozen pearl onions, thawed and blotted dry
1 tablespoon golden brown sugar
3 firm but ripe Bosc or Anjou USA Pears, peeled, halved lengthwise, cored, and cut into ¾-inch cubes
3 large ribs celery, chopped
⅔ cup minced fresh parsley
1 ½ tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 ½ tablespoons minced fresh sage
1 ½ teaspoons salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a deep 9 x 13-inch baking pan with the softened butter. Place the bread cubes in a very large mixing bowl. In a 10-inch sauté pan, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, drain the bacon and add to the bread in the bowl. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan, reserving the extra. Add the onions to the pan and sauté over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar over the onions and sauté, stirring constantly, until the onions turn golden and the edges caramelize, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add to the bread in the bowl.
Return the pan to medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat and swirl to coat the pan. Add the pears and celery and sauté, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the parsley, thyme, sage, salt, and a few grinds of pepper, and sauté 1 minute longer. Add this mixture to the bread cubes and stir to combine. Add the beaten eggs and stock to the bowl, mix well. Place the stuffing in the prepared pan and bake, uncovered, until the top is lightly browned and crusty, about 1 hour.