1 1/2 lbs. lbs. chestnuts to yield 1 1/2 cups chestnut meats
6 unsalted butter T. unsalted butter
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves chopped
1/2 cup brandy
4 chicken stock cups chicken stock
one 15 oz. packaged bread stuffing, or 1 lb. stale white bread, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 T. chopped thyme
1 chopped coarse cup cranberries,chopped coarse
3 extra-large eggs
2 cups heavy cream
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roast and shell the chestnuts. Cut an X on the flat side of each chestnut. Put the nuts in a single layer in a roasting pan and roast for 45 minutes. Take the nuts out of the oven and, as soon as you can handle them, peel them. Keep the pan covered while you work: If the chestnuts cool, they will be difficult to peel. Rough chop the chestnuts. Generously butter a shallow 3-quart serving casserole or 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Melt 4 T. of butter in a large sauté pan and cook the celery, onion, garlic, and shallots over medium heat until wilted. Add chestnuts and cook 5 minutes more to brown the nuts a little. Add the brandy and 1 cup of the stock and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated.
Put the bread in a very large bowl. Add the parsley, thyme, cranberries, and chestnut mixture. Break in the eggs and add the cream and the remaining 3 cups of stock. Using your hands, combine everything thoroughly. Season liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread the stuffing mixture evenly in the buttered casserole, dot with the remaining butter, and cover with foil. You can prepare the stuffing up to this point a day in advance. If you do so, remove it from the refrigerator 4 hours before serving time.
If you want to cook the stuffing separately, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the stuffing in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake about 20 minutes more, until the stuffing is firm and a light crust has formed.
If you are cooking the stuffing with the turkey, remove the foil, put it, uncovered, in the oven and leave it in the oven at 325 degrees F until the turkey is carved.