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.

pumpkin parmesan biscuits

Not to get all zen on you here but there’s something very meditative about making biscuits.  The whole process is done with your hands and kind of takes you out of whatever’s going on in your life at the moment and makes you focus on forming dough out of some butter and flour and really be in the present as my yoga instructor says.

You start out by using your fingers to rub together cold chunks of butter with some flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and (in this case) parmesan cheese and nutmeg until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.

These biscuits are a little extra-special because they involve pumpkin puree.  The pumpkin puree gets whisked together with a little heavy cream.

Then you pour the pumpkin/cream mixture over the flour/butter mixture and you work the dough with your hands until it all holds together.

Next you roll the dough out on a piece of lightly floured wax paper and use biscuit cutters (a round upside-down drinking glass also works in a pinch) to cut the dough.

Place the dough rounds on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet about two inches apart and bake until golden for about 15 to 20 minutes.

The results are light and crumbly and comforting: all the things biscuits should be.

Pumpkin-Parmesan Biscuits (from www.foodnetwork.com)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced, plus melted butter for brushing
  • 1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl. Whisk in 1 tablespoon parmesan. Add the diced butter and work it in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Mix the pumpkin and cream in a small bowl and pour over the flour mixture. Mix with your hands or a fork to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle using a floured rolling pin. Cut out biscuits using a 2-inch-round cutter and arrange about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon parmesan. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the biscuits cool slightly before serving or cool completely and freeze (see below).

Note:  Let the biscuits cool completely, then freeze in a resealable plastic bag for up to 5 days. To reheat, arrange on a baking sheet, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F until warmed through, about 10 minutes.

roasted maple Brussels sprouts with pancetta and chestnuts

I hope everyone had a lovely and restful Thanksgiving!  Mine was very nice, though went by far too quickly as it always does.  The good news is I will be reliving the holiday in my posts in the coming weeks as I share the recipes and pictures from my meal, starting with this dish.

I knew I wanted to incorporate chestnuts into the meal somehow, partially because I’ve always been intrigued by them and partially because I wanted to right the wrong I made several years ago when I cooked them with acorn squash but neglected to peel them before serving…  No one knew quite what to do with them but gamely attempted to crack them with their teeth and get to the meat in the center.  Oops.  This year I roasted them and then peeled them before taking any further steps.

Scoring the chestnuts with an x on the flat part and then roasting dry on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes did the trick.  The shells started to peel back making it easy to get the meaty centers out.  Lesson learned.

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without Brussels sprouts, at least not at my house.  There have been a few years that I haven’t made them in favor of something other green-vegetable sidedish and there were complaints, so this year I brought a new iteration of them back to the table.

In this version, pancetta is pan-fried with a little olive oil and then tossed with the Brussels sprouts and pre-shelled chestnuts.  I added a little extra olive oil to the ordeal so that they didn’t dry out and then generously salted and peppered them and roasted them for about 20 minutes in the oven.  After they’re done roasting you toss them with a little maple syrup and serve.  They were a big hit, even with the children at the table and who ever heard of kids eating their Brussels sprouts?!

Roasted Maple Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Chestnuts (recipe by Laura Pensiero, found in House Beautiful magazine)

  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh roasted chestnuts, approximately ¾ pound in shell (substitute peeled, frozen chestnuts if desired)
  • 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and halved (quartered, if large)
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • Pinch cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Roasting removes the shell and richens the flavor of chestnuts. Using the tip of a knife, cut a small X in the flat side of their outer shell, then spread them out on a baking pan. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes; you will see the skin curling away and the chestnut taking on a golden color. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. The shells can easily be removed. Set aside the chestnuts.

Heat the olive oil in a large (approximately three- to four-quart) sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring often, until it renders its fat and is lightly browned. Add the chestnuts, toss or stir to combine, then cook for about one minute. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook, tossing or stirring, for about two minutes.

Transfer vegetables to a rimmed baking pan or roasting pan; they should spread out into one slightly overlapping layer. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the upper third of the oven, stirring once halfway through until the vegetables are golden and tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Use the tip of a sharp paring knife to test the doneness at the base of a Brussels sprout; it should insert easily.

In a small bowl or cup, stir together the water, maple syrup, and cayenne. Pour the mixture into the hot baking pan, using a wooden spoon to dissolve any browned bits. Return pan to oven and cook another five minutes. Serve hot or warm, family-style, in a festive bowl.

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.