Friday, November 30, 2012

John's Thanksgiving Dressing - November 30, 2012

Well, I had to focus on the turkey and carcass last week as it is the true center of the Thanksgiving holiday, but many others are much more focused on the carbs.  One holiday carb that requires leftovers is dressing.  There are many types of dressing from cornbread to oyster to rice.  But, for the past several years, my husband John has focused on a rich sweet and savory sourdough dressing that requires day old sourdough bread.  This dressing which originally came from Bon Appetit with a few tweeks from the Harris’ is so complex in flavors and ingredients that you could eat it as a meal, but my husband informs me that the strength of dressing is its ability to take turkey and gravy to another level.  I'll let you decide about that.

If you are considering making this dressing, you'll need to set aside a bit of time or recruit a few willing family members.  It requires a great deal of slicing.

Sourdough Dressing with Sausage, Apples and Golden Raisins

1 1/2-pound loaf sourdough bread, crusts removed, bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 pounds bulk chorizo sausage (we have a local farmer that produces this, but you want spicy sausage)
2 large onions, chopped
5 stalks finely chopped celery (if you must)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided
6 cups peeled and finely chopped Granny Smith apples
3/4 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
3 large eggs

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°.  Spread bread cubes in single layer on baking sheet and bake until golden, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer bread to very large bowl.

Sauté sausage in heavy skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, breaking up into small pieces with fork, 8 to 10 minutes.  Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to bowl with bread cubes.  Add onions and celery to drippings and sauté until golden brown, about 12 minutes.  Transfer to bowl with bread-sausage mixture (do not clean skillet).

Melt 2 T. butter in same skillet over medium-high heat.  Add apples and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add to bowl with bread mixture and mix in raisins.

Melt remaining 2 T. butter in same skillet over low heat.  Add 2 T. sage and stir 30 seconds.  Add sage butter to bowl with bread-sausage mixture and toss to blend.   Season stuffing with salt and black pepper.  This can be done ahead and kept covered in refrigerator over night.

Generously butter 15x10x2-inch glass baking dish (ours actually took two).  Whisk broth and eggs in medium bowl and add to stuffing, tossing to mix.  Transfer to prepared baking dishes).  Bake stuffing uncovered until top is golden and crisp in spots, 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Let stand 10 to 15 minutes and serve.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Let’s Talk Turkey – November 25, 2012

My husband, mother-in-law and I traveled to Tennessee with a 23 pound locally raised turkey for the holidays.  It was juicy and delicious but cooked much faster than the recipes for bloated grocery turkeys that are basted every 30 minutes said it would.  And, the seven of us present ate it for days and still had left overs.  Most of the left overs were eaten as on Thanksgiving Day with dressing and gravy, but we also had sandwiches and my relatives left with stories of turkey tetrazzini and hash in their future.

The last Thanksgiving I had left overs, I made a great pot pie, but this year, I took home the turkey carcass, not the meat.  I decided this was the perfect opportunity for a turkey soup or stew.  What I made turned out to be something in between.  You could add a little more water to make it more soupy or less to create a thick stew.  I only had a few things in the pantry and fridge after being gone from home a week, so I made do with what I had.  I thought the results were delicious:

 Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Stew

1 turkey carcass
½ chopped onion
3 bay leaves
2 crushed cloves garlic
1 T. Penzy’s Ruth Ann’s Muskego Seasoning (or other seasoning of choice)
¼ - ½ tsp. cayenne
½- 1 can tomato paste
1 can garbanzo beans with the liquid
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
2 c. frozen corn (hopefully you put some up during the summer)
1 c. dehydrated tomatoes (I put these up from cherry tomatoes, but you could use frozen or canned tomatoes.  It’ll just have less punch)
1 c. macaroni (I used Barilla Piccolini made with carrots and squash)

Add all ingredients except the macaroni to a large pot and bring to boil.  Let simmer 20 minutes and remove the carcass.  Once cooled, remove any remaining meat and toss back into pot, tossing the bones and bay leaves.  Add macaroni and bring back to boil.  Cook as directed for pasta.  Serve.

So, if that just isn’t to your liking after Thanksgiving and you want something more exotic or warm and easy to digest, Jook is the answer for both.  This porridge like Chinese soup goes down easy, especially with the addition of ginger which is said to settle a stomach ache.

Turkey Jook

1 c. long-grain white rice
6 scallions
1 turkey carcass
1 4 inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
10 c. water

Simmer rice, 3 scallions, carcass, half the ginger and water in large covered pot until it becomes creamy (about 1 hour).  Discard turkey bones and large pieces of scallion and ginger.  Serve sprinkled with remaining ginger and scallions finely chopped.

Whatever you do with the turkey carcass and other left overs, I hope you had a wonderful and warm holiday with those you love!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bringing in the Herbs – November 17, 2012

We are headed off for a week out of town.  We’ll be away from work and house projects (although I’ve packed a blender to make pumpkin butter and plan to have a great resulting blog) so the raking won’t happen for another week.  The one project did take a few minutes to perform though, was bringing in the herbs.

I would love to grow more herbs, especially dill, so that will be a project for the Spring.  For now, we just have Lavender, Rosemary, Chives, Mint, Oregano and Basil.  I don’t do anything for the first three.  I use them as I like during the summer and then let die during the winter and wait for them to come back.  My response to Mint and Oregano is similar, but I want to save some of those herbs to have through the winter.  You can find lots of recipes for blending these herbs (as well as others) into a paste and freezing in ice cube trays.  I find that to be alt to work and to take away a good deal of the flavor of the herbs due to all that crushing.  Instead, I just pick all the healthy leaves I can find before the first big freeze, wash and air dry them and then stack in a zip lock bag with a label in the freezer.  I can just pull out the bag and remove as many leaves as I need for a recipe.

The hardest is the Basil.  Basil is not meant to winter through in Kentucky, but I have started to make it a winter house plant.  I cut the plant back to the first set of leaves and pot it and bring it in.  It doesn’t look great most of the winter, but for the last five years, it has come back better each year in the Spring.  I’m sure you could do this with other woody stemmed herbs as well.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with lots of lovely fresh herbs.  We are traveling with a 23 pound locally raised turkey that is sure to end as a great story and I am making the Brussels Sprout’s from a previous blog.  Whatever you have, enjoy!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lettuce Clean Out the Fridge - November 10, 2012

In our house salad is the perfect solution for left overs.  Lettuce is plentiful in the Spring and Fall and Greens last even longer.  I wash a new batch of greens and have ready in the fridge during the week to make salads as needed.  But, salad can be made throughout the year without lettuces.  I've already blogged about rice salad and everyone knows such famous lettuce free salads as Caprese or Orange Salad.

A perfect example of salad as a way to clean out your fridge is Nicoise.  While, it is expensive for me to get the basic ingredients for this fabulous salad filled with fresh grilled tuna, olives, French green beans, potatoes and capers; this is exactly what is available in abundance in the Nicoise region of France.  So, I looked around to see what I had to make a great salad this week.  It all started with my cleaned lettuce and some great Brussels sprouts that had come in our farmer's box.  Here is the simple recipe for them:

Brussels Sprouts

6 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 c. sliced shallots
1 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts, halved
6 sliced garlic cloves
1/2 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. white wine
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Heat skillet over medium-high.  Saute bacon for 5 minutes until brown and remove pan from heat.  Add in Brussels sprouts and shallots and saute 4 minutes.  Add garlic and saute 4 minutes.  Add broth and wine and bring to boil.  Cook 2 minutes until sprouts are crisp tender.  Season.

Along with these beautiful sprouts and lettuces, I added carrots, olives and homemade croutons.  A little goat cheese and Balsamic vinegar finished it off for a perfect lunch. 

One last pointer about making great salads is that it helps to have some go to staples in addition to lettuce readily available.  We always have some dried fruit (especially cranberries), nuts and cheese.  These are fabulous together in a salad.  Capers, olives, croutons, sesame sticks and garbanzo beans also keep well and are great to pull out for a last minute salad.  Anyone else have favorite salad recipes or staples?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pumpkin Day – November 2, 2012

My all time favorite holiday is pumpkin day.  Okay, most of you have never heard of pumpkin day and there are no greetings cards for it.  This explains why it is such a joy!  Once a year, I enjoy spending the day with those I love outside in Fall weather.  The day must involve turning trees and the purchase of a pumpkin but everything else including fresh donuts, apple cider, hayrides, corn mazes, ornamental gourds and corn are optional. 

This year we headed out to Fox Hollow’s Fall Festival and it was a big event.  There was lots for kids to do including pony rides and a giant hay castle.  There was live music and local food and thanks to getting lost on the way due to an interstate closure, we saw lots of turning trees.  We also got our annual pumpkin.

Now, here is where I have to confess that I had picked out the next two recipes for using up a pumpkin after it has served as Halloween decoration, but before I could do so, the squirrels, gnawed through the top of our pumpkin and ate the whole thing top down.  But, I was not to be deterred.  I went ahead with my original recipes and just adapted with what I had from our weekly farmer’s box.  I was really surprised to find that the roasted pumpkin seed recipe is just as good, if not better with winter squash seeds.  I used the seeds from a large butternut squash.

Toasted Pumpkin or Winter Squash Seeds

1 cup seeds
1 T. olive oil
½-1 tsp. salt

Wash and remove the squash from seeds.  Lay out on tray to dry.  Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  When ready to toast, place tray in oven just long enough to fully dry.  Remove and toss seeds in a bowl with oil and salt to coat well.  Cover baking sheet with foil and return seeds, spreading evenly.  Toast for 15 minutes or until seeds start to pop.  These are great on a salad or just as a snack with wine as we had them above.

Pumpkin-Ricotta Stuffed Shells

24 jumbo pasta shells (I actually used lasagna noodles and just rolled them up around the stuffing)
1 T. olive oil
2 ½ c. fat-free ricotta (I used the new Philly cheese fillings)
15 oz. pumpkin puree (thanks to the squirrels, I used sweet potato puree)
¾ c. plus 2 T. grated Romano
1 large egg white
2 minced garlic cloves
1 c. chopped basil
26 oz. tomato sauce (I used a jar of the spaghetti sauce I put up in the blog months ago, but store bought is fine)

Cook pasta and drain.  Drizzle with oil and set aside.  Stir together ricotta, pumpkin, squash or sweet potato, ¾ c. Romano, egg white, garlic and basil.  If you just used regular Ricotta also add salt and pepper to taste. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread sauce in bottom of 9 x 13 baking dish.  Fill each pasta shell with stuffing and arrange in pan.  Cover pan with foil and bake 30 minutes.  Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining ricotta and bake 15 minutes more.  (You can also make and stuff the shells the night before and bake the next day.)