There is nothing like an amazing stuffing to accompany a holiday dinner! Special occasions call for special dishes and stuffing is a favorite of mine. I created this apricot stuffing to accompany roast pork (though you could totally have it with turkey or beef!) and it brings in all the sweet and savory and rich flavors that I love in a stuffing, along with a great base note from the sauteed pancetta I added in for a little Italian twist.
Last fall I posted my favorite stuffing recipe. The one I always come back to time after time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love other stuffing recipes! Of course I do. There are lots of amazing variations on stuffing and I enjoy so many of them. My husband and I were talking before Thanksgiving, when I was testing stuffing recipes and apologizing for making yet more stuffing, and he reminded me that stuffing is his favorite too. I knew there was a reason I married him!
The secret is to get the balance of flavors right. And each stuffing has it’s own balance.
- Sweet and savory.
- Soft and crispy.
- Meaty and herby.
In this case, I wanted a stuffing which complements roast pork. To me, roast pork needs fruit! I tried apples, but that didn’t quite do it for me (at least that particular version), so I thought a bit, playing with other ideas. And then it hit me!
I wanted apricots. And figs. And something tart – cranberries!
As for the bread? It needed some flavor to stand up to all that fruit and sourdough seemed perfect.
Once I had the basics taken care of, it was time to add in the extras which would push this apricot stuffing recipe over the top! Since I was developing the stuffing to go with my Roast Pork Porchetta recipe, first up on the extras was pancetta. I wanted to bring the Italian flavors into the side dish too and pancetta is a great, flavorful, meaty addition.
Next up were the herbs. Sage and pork (and other roast meats) are great friends, so sage was a definite. I did try the stuffing without sage, and it was sad! Don’t have sad stuffing, use sage. I love thyme, so a couple tablespoons of thyme leaves made the cut. And, my roast pork is covered in rosemary, so I needed rosemary to tie the whole meal together!
Once I tasted this apricot stuffing, I knew I had the right balance. Plenty of sweet fruit, some sour fruit, a meaty base note, Italian flavors, and bread which could stand up to everything. A truly Italian American take on stuffing.
– Happy stuffing, Annemarie
Tip: If you can’t find pancetta, substitute bacon into the recipe. However, since pancetta is a leaner cut, remove all but 1-2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.
Apricot Bread Stuffing for Roast Pork
- 1 lb sourdough bread crusts removed and cut into 2 inch cubes
- 1 bottle white wine
- 1 1/2 cups chopped dried apricots
- 1 cup chopped dried figs
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 5 oz diced pancetta
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter divided, cut into pats
- 1 1/2 cups diced shallots
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 1 - 1 1/2 cups chicken stock low sodium or no sodium
- salt and pepper to taste
- Adjust the oven racks to the upper middle and lower middle positions. Preheat the oven to 200F. Spread out the cubed sourdough bread on two baking sheets. Dry the bread cubes in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Transfer the bread to a large bowl.
- Increase the oven temperature to 375F. Grease a large casserole dish.
- In a large saucepan, bring the white wine to a boil. Add the dried apricots, figs, and cranberries to the wine. Keep the wine at a boil until the wine is reduced to around 1 cup, about 15 minutes.
- While the wine is reducing, heat a skillet over medium heat and add the pancetta. Saute the pancetta for 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Once it is melted, add the shallots and salt. Saute for 5 minutes, or until the shallots are soft and translucent. Add the herbs and cook for 1 minute. Add the brandy and bring to a simmer.
- Take the wine mixture and the pancetta mixture and pour them both into the bowl with the bread cubes. Mix well. Add 1 cup of chicken stock. Check to see if the bread is sufficiently moistened. If not add a bit more chicken stock until the bread is no longer dry but not soggy. Transfer the stuffing to the prepared casserole dish and top with the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter.
- Cover the casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes. Then uncover the dish and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the stuffing from the oven and let it sit for about 15 minutes before serving.