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.

gratineed baked acorn squash

I love picking up fresh produce at the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings but I have to say there is something that happens this time of year that I don’t love: the produce gets REALLY heavy thus making it difficult to lug around for very long.  Potatoes, pumpkins, beets, and the myriad varieties of squash.  I of course love squash so I don’t so much mind, but I am thinking of investing in one of those granny-esque wheeled basket-numbers to save my back.  But I digress.  Today we are working with one of my favorite kinds of squash.

Acorn squash is thus named because it is shaped like acorns, only a lot bigger and green on the outside with a lovely orange flesh on the inside.  The shell is quite thick on acorn squash so please be careful when cutting them down the middle and keep your digits out of the way of the knife.  Then scoop out the seeds and you are halfway done with the hands-on portion of this recipe.  Place the squash halves (cut-sides facing up) in a baking pan with half a cup of water in the base of the pan, then season the squash halves with salt and pepper.

Next you heat up some heavy cream with torn sage leaves and thin slices of garlic over medium heat until it simmers.  Pour the cream sauce evenly in each of the squash halves (recipe below is for two whole acorn squash or four halves) and bake in 375 oven for 30 to 40 minutes.  In the meantime grate some Gruyère cheese in preparation for the final step.  After the squash has baked for the 30 to 40 minutes remove it from the oven and sprinkle the cheese evenly amongst the halves and bake for an addtional 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.  Then remove from the oven and enjoy.

Gratineed Baked Squash Halves (recipe from Reader’s Digest magazine)

  • 2 acorn squash, halved crosswise, seeds removed
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, torn in half
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup grated Gruyère cheese (about 2 ounces)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Place squash halves, cut sides up, in 9-inch baking dish.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour about ½ cup water into baking dish around squash.

Combine cream with sage and garlic in small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then pour into squash halves, dividing evenly.

Bake until squash are tender when pierced with tip of sharp knife, 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove from oven; sprinkle with cheese, dividing evenly.  Continue baking until cheese is melted and golden, about 10 minutes.  Serve hot.

sage advice: make this pumpkin bread now

I know I’ve made pumpkin bread for you before but I promise you there is room in your recipe book for this version too.  The difference here is I left out chocolate chips and added sage.  The addition of sage made my kitchen smell like Thanksgiving which was an added bonus.

The bread is moist and sweet but the sage gives it a hint of a savory vibe, which in this case is a good thing.  The recipe was meant to be baked into small loaves so that you can have one for yourself and give the rest away to friends.  What lucky friends!

Pumpkin, Sage, and Browned Butter Quick Breads (from “Martha Stewart Living” magazine, also found at www.marthastewart.com)

  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage, cut into thin strips, plus more, whole, for garnish
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup solid-pack pumpkin (from one 15-ounce can
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour eight 2 1/2-by-4-inch loaf pans. (The smallest pans I had were 3 1/4-by-5 3/4-inch loaf pans so I buttered and floured four of them and they worked just fine.) Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add sage strips, and cook until butter turns golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl, and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.

Whisk together pumpkin, sugar, eggs, and browned butter with sage. Add flour mixture, and whisk until incorporated. Divide mixture evenly among 8 pans. Smooth tops gently using an offset spatula.

Place pans on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until a tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack, and let cool for 15 minutes. Invert pans to remove breads, transfer to wire rack, top sides up, and let cool completely. Garnish with whole sage leaves before serving.

roast the new year in

I can’t believe this was ever true about me, but I used to not eat meat if it was still attached to bones.  Seriously.  I ate it only if it didn’t too closely resemble the animal that it once was so my meals consisted of a lot of ground beef, chicken breasts, and deli meats– not super exciting.  Then, on a visit to a friend in Baltimore, I ate the most magnificent roasted chicken still on the bones from a Peruvian restaurant and I was a changed woman.  It was so full of flavor and tender and just plain delicious that I did away with my silly old rule and have not looked back since.

It should also be mentioned that chicken is one of my least favorite meats.  In general I find it to be rather dull and it is often the last thing I will order at a restaurant unless of course it is the restaurant’s specialty.  You don’t go to the Chicken Shack and order fish.  You just don’t.  At any rate I have discovered that roasting a whole chicken is not only easy-as-pie it is also mouth-wateringly delightful when done right.

This recipe is so simple that even the most novice of cooks can get it right.  You just put a whole chicken in a bowl with some sage, lemons, olive oil, salt and pepper, cover it tightly and stick it in the fridge for 24 hours.  (Note: when I made this I did not have 24 hours so I stuck it in the fridge for only 4 hours before roasting and it still tasted great.)

After marinating you throw it in a roasting pan– you can add carrots, celery, and onions if you so desire (I did not), and then roast it in the oven for a little over an hour and voila!  A beautiful roasted bird, bones and all.

Herb-Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Sage (recipe by Eric and Bruce Bromberg, found in House Beautiful magazine)

Serves 4

  • 1 (3- to 3 1/2-pound) whole chicken, patted dry with paper towels
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of fresh sage leaves (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and halved crosswise (for whole chicken only), optional
  • 3 celery stalks, cut crosswise into thirds (for whole chicken only), optional
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into large chunks (for whole chicken only), optional

Put the chicken in a large bowl. Add the oil, lemon, and sage; toss well. Cover tightly and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for 24 hours.

The next day, let the chicken stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while the oven preheats to 450 degrees.

Sprinkle the chicken inside and out with the seasoning. Remove the lemon slices and sage from the marinade and stuff them inside the chicken cavity. Scatter the carrots, celery, and onion, if using, over the bottom of a roasting pan. Pour just enough water into the pan to cover the bottom. Arrange the chicken, breast-side up, on top of the vegetables, if desired, or place the chicken on a roasting rack over the vegetables.

Transfer the pan to the center oven rack; roast for 20 minutes. Baste with the pan juices, and continue roasting, basting once or twice, for 25 minutes more (if the chicken is not golden-brown all over at this point, continue to cook for 10 more minutes).

Reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Finish roasting, without basting, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes longer. Let the chicken stand for five minutes before carving. Serve with the pan juices and vegetables, if desired.

last minute side dish

A last minute idea for your Thanksgiving table: roasted acorn squash.  It is so simple to make and it’s delicious.  The hardest part is cracking open the squash but I have found that a sharp knife does the trick– just be sure to keep your fingers out of the way of the blade!  You don’t want to spend Thanksgiving in the emergency room…

After the squash is cut in two (cut into fourths if the squash is particularly large) and has been seeded, fill it with a combination of butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and fresh sage leaves.  In the past I have also used a similar Tyler Florence recipe that also includes Amaretto and crushed up vanilla wafers that is also quite good.  Take your pick.

Roast in the oven until tender and enjoy.

Roasted Acorn Squash

  • 2 acorn squash
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Fresh sage leaves (about 8)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Split squash in half through the equator and scrape out seeds with a spoon.  Set the squash halves (cut sides up) on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Stir melted butter, brown sugar, and nutmeg in a bowl.  Brush mixture onto cut squash halves.  Sprinkle coated squash halves with sage leaves.

Bake for about an hour or until squash halves are tender.

soup season

Fall is my favorite time of year for a variety of reasons– the brilliant colors of the changing leaves, the cooler temperatures, and of course for the abundance of foods that are prevalent this time of year: squash, pumpkins, apples, parsnips, Brussels sprouts– love them all.  I also love nothing more on a cool fall day than a nice hot bowl of soup.

When I went apple picking two weekends ago I also picked up a beautiful butternut squash at the same farm and this inspired me to whip up my first soup (chili doesn’t count!) of the season.  This recipe starts with roasting cubed squash for a nice caramelized flavor.

Then you chop up some onions, celery and fresh sage.  Sage is a wonderful herb that does a lot of work this time of year as it pairs very nicely with squash and pumpkin as well as poultry.  Bonus: it makes your house smell wonderful!

After these ingredients (along with some vegetable or chicken broth) had simmered for a solid half hour I busted out my immersion blender and made a beautiful smooth soup.

What goes well with soup?  Bread.  What’s one step better than bread?  Homemade croutons.  I chunked up a few slices of sourdough bread and tossed them with olive oil, more chopped fresh sage, minced garlic, finely shredded Parmesan and a little salt and toasted them in the oven until they were nice and crisp.

Nothing says “fall is here” quite like a hot bowl of butternut squash soup with homemade croutons…

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Parmesan Croutons (from recipe from Real Simple magazine)

  • 1 3-pound butternut squash—peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (5 to 6 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400° F. In a large bowl, toss the squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and the pepper. Place the squash on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in oven for 15 minutes. Turn the cubes over and continue roasting for 15 minutes or until they are caramelized; set aside.

In a Dutch oven or a large stockpot, heat the butter and the remaining oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and sage and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are translucent and tender, 10 minutes. Add the squash, broth, and the remaining
salt and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until the liquid is flavorful. Remove from heat.

Using a blender or a food processor, blend the soup in batches until smooth. Return to the pot and keep warm. Top with Sage and Parmesan Croutons and the grated Parmesan.

Sage and Parmesan Croutons (also from Real Simple magazine)

  • 3 ounces rustic white bread (about 3 thick slices), torn into 24 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage (about 6 large leaves)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl to coat.  Spread the bread evenly on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.