Not that I haven’t always been an odd duck, but as a child, I didn’t eat any sort of seafood except for oysters. Fish was assumed to taste the way it smelled, crabs looked like spidery ocean monsters, and shrimp had to have been the grossest looking things I’d ever seen. But oysters! How I loved them so! My favorite preparation was fried with lots of lemon and ketchup, and I would adore the nights our family and extended family would pile into the car to go to the Chesapeake Bay Seafood House for their All-You-Can-Eat extravaganza. I’ve grown to become EEO about seafood (I’m sorry for judging you guys!) and adore just about every fresh catch I can get my hands on, but oysters hold a special place in my heart. Continue reading Oyster Rockefeller Dressing
In the powerplay for key plate location and eating supremacy, stuffing is my champion well beyond Thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong – I adore mashed potatoes, roast turkey, string beans and a biblical-worthy proclamation of gravy over all. But at the end of the day, the one dish that I jones about above all others is glorious stuffing.
For a goodly while, I’ve been taking part in (if not orchestrating) the Thanksgiving meal. I can remember the first time I was allowed in the kitchen to help out my paternal grandmother make sweet potatoes, and what a gift it was. It was like a vote of confidence that I was old enough to help out with the cooking (and thus, not going to eff things up). The meal itself was full of such history, from the family recipe for Carolina-style cornbread to two special versions of dressing, my favorite one with oysters. When it came to my making the meal myself years later, I carried with me the memories as much as the flavors and ingredients. This stuffing was less a recipe and more an extension of my favorite type of cooking – completely unfussy ingredients turning into deliciousness with fail-proof techniques. My hope is that if ever you end up cooking this meal for you and yours, and you don’t already have a beloved stuffing recipe, that maybe you’ll try this one out for inclusion in the pantheon of cherished Thanksgiving favorites. It’s really that simple and lovely that you’ll be happy to make it a part of your fam.
2 bags of Pepperidge Farm stuffing (I prefer the crumbs to the cubes, but either works)
2 stalks of celery
1 large onion
1 cup of craisins
6 c. of chicken stock
2 sprigs of sage
4 sprigs of thyme
1/2 tsp. of white pepper
1 tsp. of black pepper
1/4 tsp. of salt
1 stick of butter plus 2 tbs.
1 tbs. of olive oil
Begin by chopping your carrots, onion, celery and apples – I like to just throw everything in the food processor and chop into a rough dice. Stem and chop your sage and thyme. Set the herbs and veggies aside.
In a saucepan, warm your stock with 1 stick of the butter, white pepper, black pepper and salt. Add the craisins and allow to reconstitute. Let it hang out while you prep your veggies.
In a large skillet, add the 2 tbs. of butter and 1 tbs. of olive oil. Add the veggies and herbs and cook until softened, but not browned. Add the veggies to a large mixing bowl and stir in the stuffing. Pour the broth over the stuffing and stir to moisten. Turn out into a greased casserole dish.
Bake stuffing on 375° for 35-45 minutes, or until browned on top. Serve on a prime spot on your dinner plate.
The much-aligned cranberry gets a bad wrap – only typically broken out at the holidays in the form of a canned cylinder of fright, these tart lovelies are so much more. A long while back, my paternal grandmother decided to have a more cooperative Thanksgiving and assigned the kids recipes to bring. My sister and I were assigned a Cranberry Relish recipe that she had snipped from a magazine. The recipe itself seemed kind of wacky as we were making it, from the use of a whole orange (peel, pith and all) to the use of crystalized ginger, which we had never heard of at the time and had to look up (and this was well before “Google it” became a catch phrase). Turns out the spicy treats were considered candy in Australia and could be purchased with the other McCormick spices in the baking aisle. Who knew?
Well, knowledge begets power and powerful that first batch of relish was in transforming our opinions of the lowly cranberry. Once an afterthought next to the turkey, potatoes, stuffing and green beans, this relish had star quality. It’s ingenious in its ability to freshen up the heavy meal and enliven your palette. Best of all, it requires not a lick of cooking – just pulse everything in the food processor, pour out into a bowl and put it on the table. Done. For such freshness and flavor with absolutely no work, those cans of cranberry gelatin are looking mighty good for target practice right about now.
1 bag of fresh cranberries
1 small orange
1 tbs. of crystallized ginger (candied ginger) pieces
1/3 to 1/2 c. of sugar, to taste
Cut the orange in half and then into 1 inch pieces. Add all ingredients to the food processor and pulse until it forms a chunky relish. Pour mixture into a bowl and let sit for at least 5 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Store any leftovers in the fridge.
Thanksgiving leftovers go from absolute wonder to total boredom as the days pass after turkey day. By day three, you’re still hiding under mounds of potatoes and gravy, but so over the leftover sandwich. You don’t want to waste, but you’d like a taste profile different from the original meal. While mashed potatoes are easy to repurpose (shepard’s pie, pierogies, croquettes), stuffing gets old. But yet, with a little bit of ingenuity, you can make a glorious appetizer out of the remnants of the holiday.
These mushrooms are stuffed with a combination of ground beef, spinach and cheese to make a mini-meatball as a baked, one-bite delicacy. Feel free to chuck in leftover vegetables (roasted red peppers or caramelized onions work well) or different greens (kale or swiss chard) to make the same deliciousness with whatever solid ingredients you have on hand. You’ll be most pleased with the increased fridge space and the dying of the rumble in your tummy, not to mention the end of turkey malaise.
Post-Thanksgiving Stuffed Mushrooms
1/2 lb. of ground beef
1 c. of leftover stuffing
1/4 c. of spinach leaves, defrosted and squeezed of liquid
1 lb. of mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed.
1/2 c. of parmasean
1 tsp. of fennel seeds
1 c. of mozzarella cheese
Wipe the mushrooms clean and remove the stems. If you’d like, chop the stems and add to the filling that you’ll mix in a bit. Line a cookie sheet with foil and grease with olive oil or melted butter. Place the mushroom caps on the cookie sheet and preheat the oven to 375°.
In a standing mixer (or with your hands in a mixing bowl), blend the ground beef, stuffing, mushroom stems, spinach, parmasean and fennel. Fill the mushrooms with a few tablespoons of filling, using a spoon to smooth the mounds into round balls. Sprinkle with parmasean cheese and bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes, until the mushrooms are golden on top and cooked through. Serve with toothpicks.
This recipe is decidedly a hack – upon researching recipes for Thanksgiving, I came across a stuffing that looked to be a welcomed alternative to my tried and true Classic Stuffing. Given that this year’s celebration was a pot luck extravaganza, why not two stuffings instead of one? Truthfully, I wanted to do a third Oyster Dressing like the ones we used to have at my paternal grandmother’s house every year, but not enough people were into oysters, so I skipped it.
The original recipe from Food Network Kitchens is good, but I lost the leeks and butternut squash for caramelized red onions and canned pumpkin – MUCH easier, which is really what you are going for at Thanksgiving. The result was moist, flavorful and complex – a nice accompaniment to turkey and gravy, if I might say so myself. Give this one a try if you are looking to make a new tradition or two – how can you form a tradition if you don’t try something out for the first time, right? Right?!?
Sausage, Pumpkin and Kale Stuffing
2 round loaves of foccacia (onion or herb)
1 stick of butter, melted
1/2 can of pumpkin
1 can of chicken stock (or 2 cups of homemade stock)
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbs. of olive oil
2 tbs. of butter
1 lb. of sweet italian sausage
1 bunch of kale
1 tsp. of whole fennel seeds
1 tsp. of rubbed sage
1 tsp. of white pepper
shredded pecorino romano
Cube foccacia and spread on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350° oven until crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the white pepper, sage, fennel seeds, pumpkin and chicken stock and mix until incorporated. Set aside.
In a skillet, brown the sausage and remove with a slotted spoon. Add the olive oil and sauté the kale until wilted. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to sausage. Add the butter to the pan and turn the heat to medium low. Let the onions sweat it out in the pan until dark brown and soft, about 10 minutes.
In a huge bowl, add the foccacia cubes, sausage and kale, and caramelized onions. Toss to combine and then pour in the pumpkin mixture. Turn out into a greased 13x9x2 casserole and bake in a 375° oven until puffy and golden on top, about 35-45 minutes.