good stuff: sausage-apple stuffing

I’m deep into my preparation for next week’s Thanksgiving meal but as I’m posting the recipe and pictures for this stuffing that I made last year I’m having second thoughts about the stuffing I’m planning to make this year because the sausage-apple stuffing was so good!

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One of the things that I love the most about Thanksgiving food is all of the fresh herbs that get used and this recipe calls for the Thanksgiving trifecta: sage, rosemary, and thyme.  (Cue the Simon and Garfunkel song.)

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This stuffing also incorporates another of my favorite food combinations: mixing salty and sweet components– in this case, adding apples and sausage to the rest of the more standard stuffing ingredients of bread, celery, leeks, and chicken broth.  There is one more unexpected stuffing ingredient in this dish and that is parsnips.  I love parsnips, (as seen here and here) and they really do add a different dimension that is a little sweet and a little spicy which compliments everything else that is going on.

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You’re going to need a REALLY big bowl or pan to mix all of the ingredients up together, and fortunately my mom saved my grandma’s old oversized roasting pan for just this sort of thing.  In fact, I think this is the one time of the year the pan comes out of the attic to shine, and shine it does.

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Mmm, look at that golden goodness.  If I remember correctly there were no leftovers of this particular dish, so if you are in need of a stuffing recipe for your Thanksgiving meal I highly recommend this one!

Sausage-Apple Stuffing (recipe by Alex Guarnaschelli found at www.foodnetwork.com)

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for tasting
  • 6 medium firm apples (such as Macoun or Braeburn), peeled and cut into large cubes
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 12 slices white sandwich bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed, broken into bite-size pieces
  • 10 sage leaves, cut into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 leeks (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 6 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 pound small parsnips, peeled, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it melts and starts to brown; add the apples, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until slightly tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in the honey and vinegar, then transfer to a large bowl to cool.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the same skillet over medium-low heat. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat, then transfer to one side of a large rimmed baking sheet; add the sausage to the other side. Bake until the sausage is cooked through and the bread is toasted, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the sausage and bread to the bowl with the apples; add the sage, thyme and rosemary.

Heat another 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add half each of the leeks, celery and parsnips, and 2 tablespoons water; season with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables are translucent, about 8 minutes, then transfer to the bowl with the sausage-apple mixture. Add the remaining leeks, celery and parsnips, and 2 tablespoons water to the skillet, season with salt and pepper and cook about 8 minutes; transfer to the bowl and toss. Warm a spoonful of the stuffing in the skillet with a touch of butter and taste the seasoning; adjust as needed. (It’s so important to taste your stuffing while it’s hot to get a sense of the seasonings and flavors.) Add the chicken stock to the bowl and toss to moisten all of the ingredients.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter. Transfer the stuffing mixture to the dish and dot with the remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 40 minutes, then uncover and continue baking until golden brown, about 40 more minutes.

sweet potato and sage butter casserole

“No one who cooks cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”  Laurie Colwin from “Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen.”

This came from the foreword of a book my mom gave me for my birthday last year and even though I haven’t read further than the foreword yet I know I am going to love the book already based on this line alone.

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Today I share with you this simple and quick (and delicious) recipe for a sweet potato casserole featuring one of two herbs I’ve managed to keep alive in my apartment: sage (the other being rosemary.)  It comes from a cook who is often with me when I am alone in my kitchen: Martha Stewart.

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Sweet Potato and Sage Butter Casserole (recipe found at www.marthstewart.com)

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus 1 ounce (2 tablespoons), melted
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk, warmed
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (from 3 slices white bread, crusts removed)

Place sweet potatoes and potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with water, and season with salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 9 minutes. Drain; pass through a ricer into a bowl.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 1 stick butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat; add 2 tablespoons sage. Stir butter mixture and milk into potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish. (Mixture can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

Combine breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons melted butter and remaining 1/2 tablespoon sage. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

Top potato mixture with breadcrumbs. Bake, uncovered, until bubbling around edges and breadcrumbs are golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. (If browning too quickly, tent with foil.) Let stand, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

potato and rutabaga gratin

Awhile back I bought myself a mandoline so that I could slice vegetables razor thin and do cool stuff with them but the kitchen tool had gone unused until I busted it out at Thanksgiving to make a gratin.

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In addition to using to using the mandoline for the first time this was also the first time I’d ever done anything with rutabaga.  I love working with foods that are new to me!  Rutabagas are in the turnip family and paired beautifully with potatoes in this gratin.  In addition to the two root vegetables there was also garlic, red onion, fresh thyme, and of course the gratin staples of heavy cream, milk, and cheese– in this case Gruyère.  Several people remarked that it was their favorite dish of the day and one of those people may have been me.

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This weekend I plan to do a little Christmas cookie baking so stay tuned next week for ideas for your own holiday baking!

Potato and Rutabaga Gratin (recipe found at www.saveur.com)

  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1 lb. rutabagas, peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp. minced thyme leaves
  • 2 cups (about 4 oz.) grated Gruyére cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 425°. Heat butter and oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; add garlic and onion, and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in flour, and cook until smooth, about 1 minute. Add milk and cream, and stir until smooth. Add potatoes, rutabagas, and 2 tsp. thyme, and bring mixture to a boil; cook, stirring often, until vegetables are slightly tender and broken apart, about 5 minutes. Stir in half the cheese and salt and pepper, and then transfer to a 9″ × 13″ baking dish; top with remaining cheese and bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining thyme before serving.

cranberry, pear, and ginger chutney

Why do cranberries only get love around Thanksgiving time?  I guess dried cranberries have sort of become a thing over the past decade or so (thanks Craisins) but fresh cranberries need to take center stage more often, too.  Why?  Because they are beautiful and delicious.

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I don’t think I was ever subjected to old-school cranberry sauces (of the jelly mould variety) in my youth, and if I was I must have blocked it from memory.  As an adult I’ve become quite fond of cooking cranberries down into chutneys to serve with turkey or spread on sandwiches.  I thought I had a winner of a recipe in years past until I tried this one this year.  This one involves pears, ginger, lemon and orange zest, cinnamon, cloves, and shallots.  It’s a whole lotta beautiful in a bowl.

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Once you’ve cooked the cranberries long enough they start to soften and burst and become wonderful.  Yes I made this chutney for Thanksgiving but I totally think it would be good any time of year that you are able to find fresh cranberries.  When paired with a little Brie cheese it makes an out-of-this-world grilled cheese.  Trust me on this one.  It would also make an excellent addition to a burger off the grill  in the warmer months or an excellent accompaniment to a cheese plate with some crackers, grapes, and candied nuts.  Dream big.  Just don’t save it for only one day a year.

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Cranberry, Pear, and Ginger Chutney (modified slightly from recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped peeled fresh ginger (from about 2-ounce piece)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/4 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 2 large firm Bosc pears (about 18 ounces total), peeled, cored, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 2 1/2 cups)

Combine apple cider vinegar, onion, ginger, lemon peel, orange peel, cinnamon stick pieces, crushed red pepper, and ground cloves in heavy large saucepan. Boil mixture until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 10 minutes. Add cranberries, brown sugar, and pears; stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until pears are very tender, berries collapse, and flavors blend, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; discard cinnamon stick pieces. Using potato masher, mash mixture coarsely. Transfer chutney to bowl and cool. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

ten suggestions for your Thanksgiving menu

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and while I’m sure you all have had your menus planned for a month like I have, I thought I would offer up some suggestions in case you need a little last-minute inspiration.

For starters, how about Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Parmesan Croutons?  It brings a couple of my favorite Thanksgiving flavors together (sage + butternut squash) in a velvety soup that would make a great prelude to the big meal.

Rather than rolls, why not serve slices of Pumpkin, Sage, and Browned Butter Quick Bread?  As its’ name suggests, it doesn’t take long to make which will be very handy if you’ve got lots of other cooking/baking to do.  Better yet, these could be made this weekend and frozen until Thanksgiving day.

Brussels sprouts have become a staple with my family on Thanksgiving.  I’ve made them a variety of ways and one of my favorites is Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts Gratin.  I first had a version of this at a restaurant in NYC and couldn’t stop thinking about them so sought out a recipe so that I could recreate them at home.

Macaroni-and-cheese was a staple of my childhood (mostly of the Kraft boxed variety) but it never made an appearance on T-day.  A friend I used to work with in Detroit whose family was from the south told me they always had it as part of their meal so I  have since incorporated it on occasion, when I felt we could stand a few more carbs.  DuMac and Cheese is the best mac and cheese ever.  And if you wanted to add some bacon/pancetta/salt pork to it I would whole-heartedly support that decision.  And if you also wanted to stick it under the broiler for a few seconds to get a nice browned top on it I would say you and I should be friends.

In case we haven’t used enough cheese yet I would also like to recommend Gratineed Acorn Squash.  It’s simple to make which will free up your time to work on more high-maintenance side dishes.  Also, its delicious.

Another great side dish is Sauteed Parsnips and Carrots with Honey and Rosemary.  Parsnips and carrots go together like peas and, well, carrots.  Actually they go together better than that, especially when partnered with honey and rosemary.  Mmm.  Starting to regret not including this one in my meal this year…

And now for everyone’s favorite side dish… Chestnut, Prune, and Pancetta Stuffing.  This stuffing has something for everyone: a little sweet with the prunes, salty pancetta, tart sourdough bread, hearty chestnuts, and then all of the usual stuffing ingredients that add lots of flavor– celery, onion, sage, chicken stock.

Moving on to desserts, one that will be part of my meal this year is Cranberry Apple Crisp with Oatmeal Streusel Topping.  I love this crisp because it is on the light side which is welcome after a heavy meal and also it is not overly sweet.  This is going to be great with the mascarpone gelato I’m making tomorrow.

This Chess Tart will blow your guests’ minds.  Chess pies are another southern gem and are full of butter and sugary goodness and the vanilla wafer crust on this one is out-of-this-world.  A real charmer.

Finally, what would Thanksgiving be without apple pie?  In Wisconsin they put a slice of cheddar cheese on top of slices of apple pie which I’m not super into, however, Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust is something I can totally get behind because it is crazy delicious.  Trust.

Whatever you decide to make for the big day (aka my most favorite holiday since I stopped receiving toys for Christmas) I hope it is a great one filled with lots of friends and family and tasty food.

comfort food

Almost exactly six years ago I moved from the Upper East Side of Manhattan to the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.  I was still relatively new to New York and hadn’t spent a whole lot of time in Brooklyn prior to moving there but I knew that even though the rent was still exorbitant you got more space for your money so it seemed like a great idea.  But I digress.

My roommate and I happened to move in the midst of a snowstorm that produced what was then one of the largest amounts of snowfall on record.  Awesome.  I remember packing and moving from 6 in the morning until 8 at night and then crashing hard at 9pm which made that the first time I had gone to bed that early without being sick since I was about eight years old.  I still remember it being one of the hardest sleeps I’ve ever experienced.  I was cold out.

The next morning my roommate and I ventured out in search of sustenance and came across a cute little hipster pub that seemed like it had a decent menu.  I ordered mac and cheese.  It was the best dang mac and cheese I’ve ever had in my entire life.  And I have eaten some mac and cheese, let me tell you.  This heavenly mac and cheese had bacon in it.  And it had a crisp topping.  Yes, please.

The name of this restaurant?  DuMont Burger.  I lived in that neighborhood for two-and-a-half years and whenever I had been really good about going to the gym, or whenever I had worked a sixty-hour week, or whenever someone gave me the stink eye on the subway I would reward/comfort myself with mac and cheese takeout from DuMont Burger.  It was simply too easy to call on my walk home from the subway and swing in to pick it up.  Instant comfort.

Now that I no longer live (anywhere near) there I decided that I must recreate it for myself at home.  I couldn’t find radiatore pasta at my local grocery store, but fusilli worked just fine.  I had panko (Japanese bread crumbs) on hand instead of standard bread crumbs so subbed those.  I served pork with the mac and cheese so opted not to include bacon in my version (though I certainly will next time) because that just seemed like pig overkill.  Even still, it turned out pretty great.

If it’s as grey and cold elsewhere in the country as it is in my neck of the woods right now this would be a great week to make yourself a big ol’ pan of it.  Get to it!

DuMac and Cheese (from “The New Brooklyn Cookbook” by Melissa and Brendan Vaughan)

  • 1 pound radiatore, elbow macaroni, or fusilli
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 pound Gruyère, grated, divided
  • 1/2 pound sharp white cheddar, grated, divided
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, toss with the olive oil in a large bowl, and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat; bring to a gentle simmer.

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until the flour is fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Continue mixing with a wooden spoon until the mixture is a pale golden color, about 4 minutes. Slowly add the hot milk and cream mixture to the flour mixture, whisking constantly to incorporate. Bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally to keep the mixture from burning. Add half the Gruyère and half the cheddar and whisk until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the cooked pasta and toss well to combine. Pour the pasta into a buttered 9 x 13-inch baking dish or a 3-quart gratin dish. Top with the remaining Gruyère and cheddar and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Allow the mac and cheese to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

the right stuff

You could say that Thanksgiving is all about the turkey but let’s be real here: it’s really all about the stuffing.  Hands down stuffing is the best part of the whole meal and definitely everyone’s favorite leftover.  (Right?  I’m not alone here, am I?)

I used to be more of purist when it came to stuffing and always made the traditional kind with breadcrumbs, onions, celery, sage, etc. and then I branched out and did a cornbread version.  Last year I got real crazy and added sausage, apples, and dried currants.  Somebody stop me!

If you’ve been a reader of Baxter and Main for even a short while you have probably noticed my affinity for all things bacon so when I saw a recipe for stuffing with pancetta (which is essentially Italian bacon) I could not pass it up.  The fact that it also included chestnuts which is an ingredient I have only begun to experiment with was just icing on the cake.

This stuffing also has prunes which add a nice sweetness and probably help balance out some of the not-so-good-for-you ingredients (see image above of pancetta frying in butter…)

The recipe called for canned chestnuts which were not so easy to find in Madison, Wisconsin.  I tried three different grocery stores before winding up at the LARGEST grocery store I have ever seen in my life (it rivals a suburban Wal-Mart in square footage with maybe a Kmart thrown in for good measure) where I spent a good half hour seeking them out.  Would they be near canned vegetables?  No.  With nuts?  Naw.  In the ethnic food section?  Nope, weren’t there either.  Turns out they get shelved next to the canned pie filling.  Wha-wha-what?  Yeah, that’s what I said.

However, the long search for the canned chestnuts was well worth it as the stuffing was delish.  A very strong contender for this year’s Thanksgiving meal, indeed.

Chestnut, Prune, and Pancetta Stuffing (found at www.epicurious.com)

Yield: Serves 12
Active Time: 45 min
Total Time: 2 hr

  • 1 (1 1/2-lb) sourdough loaf, cut into 1/3-inch dice (18 cups)
  • 1 lb coarsely chopped pancetta slices (about 3 cups)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 3 cups chopped celery (5 to 6 ribs)
  • 4 cups chopped onions (2 large)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 (7- to 8-oz) jars peeled cooked whole chestnuts, halved (4 cups)
  • 3/4 lb pitted prunes (2 cups), quartered
  • 5 cups turkey stock , heated to liquefy, or reduced-sodium chicken broth (40 fl oz)
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 400°F.

Scatter bread in a single layer in 2 large shallow baking pans (17 by 12 inches) and toast, stirring once or twice and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until golden and dry, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a very large bowl.

Cook pancetta in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Add butter and heat until melted, then add celery and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 12 minutes. Stir in sage, salt, and pepper and cook 1 minute.  Add pancetta mixture along with chestnuts and prunes to bowl containing bread. Whisk together stock and eggs, then stir into bread mixture until combined well. Transfer to baking dish (stuffing will mound above dish).

Bake, loosely covered with a buttered sheet of foil (buttered side down) 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake until top is browned, 10 to 15 minutes more.

Cooks’ notes:
•Stuffing, without stock-and-egg mixture, can be assembled (but not baked) 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Stir in stock mixture, then proceed with recipe.
•Stuffing can be baked 6 hours ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, loosely covered. Reheat, covered, in a preheated 400°F oven until hot, about 30 minutes.