Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

At some point, I think we’ve all heard that what has commonly been regarded as “stuffing” should actually never be stuffed inside of anything. While pictures from the 1940s and 1950s showed an iconic turkey bursting with goodness, putting stuffing inside a turkey or chicken actually slows down the cooking process and leads to what I believe is a lesser quality flavor. So yes, for your geniuses out there that will inevitably critique my recipe, this should be called “dressing” and not stuffing, but I suppose if you really wanted to, you could easily stuff this inside a chicken or turkey after everything is cooked separately.

Ingredients

  • 16oz unseasoned croutons
  • 1 lb lean pork sausage (without casing)
  • 1/2 lb thick cut bacon
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 3c chicken stock
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 tsp sage, ground
  • 1/2 tsp oregano, dried
  • 1/2 tsp basil, dried

1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the bacon strips. You are probably going to have to do this in two batches. The goal is to achieve a beautiful crispiness that will not become soggy once inside the stuffing. Set aside to cool on some paper towels.

2. Remove all but two tablespoons of the bacon fat. Keep the heat on medium high and place the carrots, celery, onion, and apple in the pan. Saute for 5 minutes or until the carrot just begins to soften. Add the garlic, oregano, basil, and sage and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Add the white wine to deglaze. Continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Place the cooked vegetables inside a large mixing bowl.

3. In the same pan, add the sausage and cook through. You can choose to cut the sausage into small bits, or keep in large clumps. The choice is yours. Cook until you cannot see any pink. Add the sausage to the vegetables.

4. Chop the bacon and add to the mixing bowl with the croutons. Add the chicken stock 1/4 c at a time until the croutons begin to get soggy and fall apart slightly. Combine the vegetable and meat mixture to the bread crumbs. Add to a casserole dish.

5. Cook at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until the top begins to get crispy. While cooking, the outside will get brown and crispy, the inside will remain moist and delicious. Serve piping hot.

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With the winter holidays fast approaching, I’m beginning to consider what I should add to the family’s holiday meal. Here is a recipe that was a mega-hit at Thanksgiving that I’m sure will appease even the most finicky eaters.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 2 tbsp cream
  • 3 tbsp orange juice
  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • zest of one orange

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Poke holes in sweet potatoes and place on rack. Cook for 1 hour until sugar oozes from holes and skin begins to wrinkle.

2. Remove potatoes from oven and set on counter. Place a towel over the potatoes and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Remove skin and mash flesh in a large mixing bowl.

3. Season with 1 tsp salt and pepper. Place remaining ingredients in the bowl and mix to combine. Adjust the seasonings to your liking, but do be careful with adding too much bourbon. For a deep orange flavor, you can add orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier in place of or in addition to the bourbon. You can also add 2 tbsp maple syrup for a sweeter side dish.

4. With a hand mixer, whip potatoes until desired consistency. Place in a oven safe contained and warm in oven for 20 minutes. Serve with orange garnish.

Lots of people will sit down together at turkey dinners across the country tomorrow and many families will honor the age old tradition of saying aloud the things that they are thankful for. When I was a kid, I always thought this time was a good opportunity to fit in something hilarious like “I’m thankful for Nintendo” or “I’m thankful for air.” I’m not entirely sure what my sense of humor was back then, but at least I thought it was funny. I also find it amusing when husbands take the time to honor their wives in a rare moment of romance indicating to their family and friends how lucky they are to have their wives. Wives of the world, don’t let this dribble fool you this year. If after dinner they immediately head to the television to watch football, nothing has changed.

But I thought it might be fun to write a bit about what I’m thankful for in my life through my environment I know the best: my kitchen.

  1. I’m thankful for olive wood which is not only incredibly light, but marvelously beautiful. I’ve seen a vast collection of kitchen cutting boards, utensils, and  various serving dishes at higher end stores. I’d imagine that in the future this trend will trickle down and more manufacturers will begin using olive wood as well.
  2. I’m thankful for induction burners and the leaps and bounds the technology has developed. When modern induction burners were first on the market, it was almost impossible to set a temperature to anything but boil and they were often bulky and overpriced. Now the technology has produced pretty decent portable induction burner units that have variable temperature settings in addition to full cook top options complete with 4 to 6 different burners. While the better quality burners are still a bit out of my price range, I can see in a couple of years a beautiful shiny new model sitting on my counter top.
  3. I’m thankful for Cuisinart who are quickly becoming my favorite brand of mid range kitchen appliances. Their stand mixer makes me second guess the Kitchenaid version which dominated the market for 40 years and has forced Kitchenaid to rethink their models and offer higher end options.
  4. Lastly, I’m thankful for pie. Pie is without a doubt my favorite dessert. That’s all. I just wanted to mention that.

And to all my readers, friends, and family, Happy Thanksgiving!

Peasant bread is bread made from simple ingredients without any of the frills. There are no herbs, spices, additions, or special equipment needed to make this bread because – lets face it – peasants can’t afford anything. They survived on what they had and what was available to them. Peasant bread is typically made with whole wheat flour with additions of rye or other healthful flours to supply the necessary nutrients (like protein) peasants were not getting due to the lack of meat on their dinner tables.

But I’m not a peasant and I really couldn’t find whole wheat bread flour, so I’m going away from tradition (surprise, surprise) and delivering a product without the healthful qualities of whole wheat or rye flour and utilizing delicious, empty nutrient white flour. I’ll stick with tradition on one level and utilize no special equipment for this bread loaf with the exception of a pizza stone and pizza peel because I know the peasants had bricks a plenty in their ovens that they cooked on and had to use some device other than their hands to retrieve their food from the fiery depths.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups of Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast (2 packages)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 3 cups luke warm water (125 degrees or so)

1. Place the flour, yeast, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

2. Pour in the water and use a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients.  You’re eventually going to have to use your hands to finish mixing, but there is no need to knead this dough. Once combined, cover loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel and allow to rise for 2 hours.

3. Drop the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough equally in half and form two loafs. You can make your loafs into any shape you want. Using a serrated knife or a razor blade, slash the bread several times. I like to make a tic tac toe board on my loafs, but every baker has their own preferences. Place the loafs on a parchment paper lined pizza peel (a big cutting board would work too) and allow to rise for another hour. While the dough is rising, place the pizza stone in a cold oven and preheat to 450 degrees. Place a metal sheet pan on the rack underneath the pizza stone. Pour four cups of water into the sheet pan.

Note: Parchment paper is special equipment I suppose, but a healthy layer of cornmeal with also prevent the dough from sticking to the pizza peel. Also, the metal sheet pan with the water is optional, but this will turn your oven into a steam oven and lead to a delicious crust that will form on the outside of your bread. Do you not have a pizza stone? You can use a cast iron skillet or a dutch oven too.

4.  If there is very little water left in the sheet pan, place another cup or two into the sheet pan. Cook the bread for 40 – 45 minutes until a thick, golden brown crust has formed. The bread should sound hollow when thumped.

5. Serve hot with dinner or allow to cool completely before freezing. Bread generally keeps for up to a month in the freezer.

Note: If you like, now is a good time to rub some butter on the outside of the crust before serving.

If you own a roasting pan, you are probably like 99% of other Americans that take it out once a year to cook a turkey or roast for the holidays. There really is no shame in this. There is actually very little information out there on how to use a roasting pan in your everyday rotation and even less information as to why you should invest in one.

But this article is not for those of you that already own a roasting pan. This article is for the holiday cooks who buy the disposable roasting pans at the supermarket for around $4 and try to cook a 20 pound turkey inside its flimsy walls. Don’t let the packaging fool you. They have different sizes for different sized birds, but in the end, physics and gravity still play a vital role in the cooking process.

My message to those of you who are disposable pan buyers is simple and straight forward:

You have to stop the madness!

I present to you my top five reasons for investing in a quality roasting pan over their rival disposable.

5. Better for the environment: Perhaps my weakest argument, but still. A roasting pan gets cleaned up and put away until its next use while a disposable gets tossed away and sent to a landfill to sit for centuries.

4. Multi-purpose: Turkey, chicken, pork tenderloin, pork shoulder, prime rib, etc. The list of potential cuts in nearly endless, but the point is that your roasting pan is worthy of more than just one use. But wait, there’s more. Not only can the roasting pan be used for different meats, it can also be used for multiple steps in the cooking process. Need to sear your prime rib before cooking it? Just remove the rack and put the pan over two burners. Want to cook some root vegetables with your meal? Just stick them under your meat. Not only will everything come out hot together, the juices dripping off the meat will season your vegetables.

3. Easier clean up: This is one area that disposable lovers have tried to get me on for years, but my retort is air tight. Yes, at the end of a meal, the disposable pan gets tossed away and that’s it. However, in my world, it’s never that simple. What happens if your flimsy disposable has a tiny hole in it and turkey juice begins to drip into your oven creating a solid mass of carbon that no amount of oven cleaner or scrubbing will take off? What happens if on your way to delivering your turkey from the oven to the counter, the flimsy pan buckles under the weight and not only does the turkey hit the floor, but hot juice scalds you and ruins your nice new shoes? I find the potential risk of using a disposable to far outweigh the ease of throwing away a pan at the end of the night. Besides, you’ll have very little to clean up if you consider number two.

2. Ability to make pan sauces: Roasting pans are long enough to cover two burners making it easy to turn your post dinner cooking vessel into a stovetop pan that is ready to make some gravy. Pan sauces, especially after cooking a roast turkey or chicken, are wildly tasty and require no additional kitchen equipment. In fact, the idea of not using more vessels to make a pan sauce makes clean up even easier and by deglazing the pan, you’re going to cook out the worst of the mess from the pan. But if even after all this, consider taking a moment and….

1. Just look at that rack: The rack is put there not as a storage challenge; it’s put there to keep the meat off the bottom of the pan and out of the fat. While roasting, the fat on the meat tends to melt off and drips into the bottom of the pan. Disposable pans do not come equipped with a rack leaving your roast to sit for hours in its own fat. The rack also allows for more air to move around the meat which will give you even cooking and that crispy skin that you’re craving.

Roasting pans are generally inexpensive and by no means should you feel obligated to spend more than $50. I find that most stores offer a great bargain during the holiday season, and almost every department store will have a bargain basement deal on roasting pans the day after Thanksgiving. As for recommendations, ensure that the pan is made of aluminum (plain or hard anodized) in order to keep the weight down and that the handles are riveted to the pan. Some roasting pans have the handles fused to the sides. This is a problem because the handles will heat up as hot as the pan and the handles have more potential to break off over years of use. Calphalon and Cuisinart make a pretty decent pan in general and I find their roasting pans to be fit for the job.

I think bacon makes nearly anything taste better and with Thanksgiving shortly coming, I wanted to inspire people to make one last attempt to enjoy Brussels sprouts as an accompanying side dish. Brussels sprouts are incredibly healthy and contains sulforaphane which is believed to have tremendous anticancer properties as well as indole-3-carbinol which boosts DNA repair in cells and blocks the growth of cancer cells.

If you’ve tried Brussels sprouts before in the past and didn’t particularly enjoy the flavor (or lack thereof), I encourage you to try this recipe as a last-ditch effort.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb brussels sprouts
  • 4 or 5 rashers of thick sliced bacon
  • salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set four or five pieces of bacon on a sheet pan and cook until crispy. Remove and lower the heat to 350 degrees. Crumble the bacon in pieces and set aside.

     

2. Cut the Brussels sprouts in half and add to a large mixing bowl. Tilt the sheet pan slightly and collect  2 tbsp bacon fat. Add it to a bowl with the Brussels sprouts.

     

3. Toss the brussel sprouts with the bacon fat until well coated.  Spread the brussels sprouts out on a clean sheet pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Cook for 15 minutes and then turn the Brussels sprouts over. Some will have begun to caramelize and others may just begin to show signs of wilting greens. Cook for another 15 minutes.

5. Serve the Brussels sprouts hot with the crumbled bacon pieces on top.