The Phillips family’s turkey day run & killer chestnut stuffing

Holiday strutters at Phillips Farms

“We are not very exciting when it comes to Thanksgiving,” says David Phillips, co-owner and president of Lodi’s Michael David Winery.

Instead, what Mr. Phillips does – together with his wife Corene, and two sons Connor and Joseph – is wake up early every Thanksgiving morning, and hit the pavement in the Run and Walk Against Hunger in Downtown Stockton, benefitting the Stockton/San Joaquin Emergency Food Bank.  Par for the course for a family who also enjoys skiing, mountain biking, and competing in triathlons together.

Then after this year’s Thanksgiving run, they will go home and prepare a $700 turkey.

Well, $700 just happens to be the price tag of this year’s bird.  Explains Mr. Phillips, “I agreed to buy a second turkey from a Lodi High FFA student at the same price that she got from the bidding at last September’s San Joaquin County Fair, since I could not be at the auction.”

David & Corene Phillips, with sons Connor & Joseph

Mr. Phillips encourages everyone to come down to the Stockton PortsBanner Island Ballpark next week Thursday to join them for a brisk walk or run.  On another note about the County Fair, Phillips tells us, “this year we purchased seven steers from the 4-H and FFA kids that we are having processed for our hamburgers in Phillips Café – keeping it slow and local!”

The Phillips family is one of many in Lodi who can trace their origins in Lodi as far back as the 1860s, but with a little twist:  these longtime row crop and fruit farmers have turned into one of the most successful winegrowing families in all of California, and now sell their wines in every state of the union and around the world.

Therefore, their choice of wines to enjoy with their Thanksgiving meal can be a little sophisticated.  “Usually French Burgundy or Champagne,” says Mr. Phillips.  Corene adds, “I think the perfect Lodi wine for a traditional turkey is our ancient vine Cinsault.”  Indeed, the Michael David Bechthold Vineyard Lodi Cinsault ($35) – fashioned from the oldest continuously farmed vineyard in Lodi (vines originally planted in 1886!) – is a sumptuously rich yet satiny smooth, strawberry-rhubarb pie of a red, practically screaming for Thanksgiving turkey!

With the festive bird, Ms. Phillips also professes a weakness for Syrah, specifically citing the 2010 Fields Family Estate Lodi Syrah ($22) – a crushed blackberry and violet scented varietal that she lauds for being “leaner and lighter than typical Lodi reds.”  Not to be outdone, the 2010 Michael David 6th Sense Lodi Syrah ($16) is not just a fantastic value, but also redolent with exciting, nostril tingling perfumes, with a luxurious feel of crushed velvet.

For Thanksgiving dinner, David and Corene are always joined by their parents, Don and Jeanne Phillips, Peter Phillips and his kids, and assorted cousins (David’s brother Michael, CEO/co-owner of Michael-David, prefers to enjoy Thanksgiving in Hawai`i).

Says Mr. Phillips, “Corene makes a killer chestnut stuffing, using a friend’s recipe (Carolyn Fullers)… lots of work, but delicious.”

So without further ado, here’s what the Phillips family will be enjoying this Thanksgiving with their Burgundy or Champagne, Cinsault and Syrahs:

Carolyn Fuller’s Chestnut Stuffing 

1 pound fresh chestnuts, boiled, peeled and coarsely chopped (you can purchase cooked, peeled chestnuts)
2 pounds sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
4 slices (about 4 oz) thick cut bacon or pancetta, diced
2 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 apples, peeled and cut in rough dice
2 firm pears, peeled and cut in rough dice
18 plump dried prunes, stones removed, snipped into thirds
½ cup currants, plumped in warm water
½ cup pine nuts or coarsely chopped walnuts
1 grated lemon rind
1/3 cup Italian parsley, minced
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
6 cups fresh white bread crumbs
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Freshly grated nutmeg
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup Marsala wine
1 cup (approximately) water, chicken stock or white wine

Cook sausage meat in large skillet, breaking up coarsely with wooden spoon.  Cook over medium high heat until the meat loses its pink color and begins to brown.  Drain off excess fat and set aside.

In a large skillet, cook bacon or pancetta until pale golden brown.  Add the onions and sauté over medium high heat until softened.

Add apples, pears, prunes and currants.  Cook together, partially covered for about 10 minutes or until fresh fruits are tender.

In a large bowl, combine chestnuts, cooked sausage, onion-fruit mixture, nuts, lemon rind, parsley, parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, fennel seed, salt and pepper to taste, nutmeg, beaten eggs, Marsala.  Add enough water, stock or white wine to just bind the mixture.  Let mixture cool to room temperature before stuffing into turkey.

Phillips Farms' famous apple pie

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