Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Time For Giving Thanks...And EATING!

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays mainly because of the food.  We always spent that holiday at another family member's house...even after I got married but I longed for the day when I could host my own.  Once we moved away, I figured I would have that chance and we would be able to make some new traditions.  Well, that hasn't quite happened yet.  The first year I did host dinner for my parents.  But last year we spent the week of Thanksgiving at Disney World with Hubby's entire family and we ate dinner at a restaurant (not something I ever care to repeat).  I did make a turkey breast dinner for our immediate family the following weekend.  But this year, I am really looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with some good friends who live a couple hours away.  We will be heading up to their house the day before and I CANNOT wait (neither can my husband and kids).  They love to cook as much as I do so we will all be pitching in.

They will be ordering a turducken which I cannot WAIT to try.  We'll also be frying a turkey which I will supply.  I am going to bake the apple cranberry pie I posted here.  I am also going to make the stuffing.  Now, stuffing has ALWAYS been my favorite part of Thanksgiving.  I made this recipe for the first time the year my parents were here and it was a hit so this has become my staple recipe.  It is SO good.

Raffy's Turkey Sausage and Chestnut Stuffing

1 medium green apple, cored and diced into 1-inch cubes
1 medium red apple, cored and diced into 1-inch cubes
1 medium onion, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons cubed
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 (6-ounce) bag dried cranberries
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage, meat removed from casing
8 ounce jar steamed whole chestnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 pound day old cornbread or bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup canned chicken stock
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a medium saute pan add the apples, onion, 1 tablespoon oil and butter cook over a medium low heat for 10 minutes to soften. Add the wine, cranberries, and salt and pepper, simmer for about 5 minutes. Take off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and turkey sausage meat and break up with a wooden spoon and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl toss together the fruit and onion mixture, the sausage, the chestnuts, the cornbread and red pepper flakes. Combine all the ingredients.

Add the chicken stock, and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan. Gently place into an 8 1/2 by 8 1/2- inch glass Pyrex baking dish and top with the remaining Parmesan. Dot with butter. Place in middle rack and bake until top is golden brown, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

My Notes:  I leave out the chestnuts.  I also don't measure the chicken stock...I just add it until the consistency is right.  I also leave off the Parmesan cheese and butter on the top.  The top browns nicely enough without it.  I use ciabatta bread that I leave out to get stale but I think any bread would work.

I will also be supplying the cranberry sauce.  I like whole cranberry sauce and it is SO easy to make, there's no reason to buy it.  When I was a kid, we used to make cranberry relish in elementary school around Thanksgiving.  We make it with oranges and walnuts so I went looking for a similar recipe.  This one brought the memories flooding back.  I've also made it without walnuts and it's just as good.

1 12-ounce bag cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 medium seedless orange, all peel and pith cut away, fruit diced
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Combine first 4 ingredients in medium saucepan; bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook until cranberries are tender and mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in orange pieces and walnuts. Transfer to bowl. Cover and chill until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

We will also be having the Thanksgiving staples such as sauteed spinach with bacon, butternut squash, mashed potatoes, corn bisque and sweet potatoes.

Another good side side that incorporates a green veggie and butternut squash is a salad made with roasted butternut squash and arugula.  I made also made this the year my parents were here and it got rave reviews.  I tweaked it a little so I'll add my notes at the end.

1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and 3/4-inch) diced
Good olive oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup walnuts halves, toasted
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

My Notes:  I used spinach in place of arugula.  I also used goat cheese (chevre) in place of Parmesan.  I just think it goes better with the tangy dressing and the sweet squash and cranberries.

As a last note, another good pie to serve is the caramel apple pie I posted at the same time as the apple cranberry pie (link above).

I hope that as time goes on and I cook more Thanksgiving dinners, I can use it as a chance to try new spins on traditional recipes.  I will be buying an extra turkey to make another turkey dinner for my immediate family so maybe I'll go look for some new recipes.  You know if I find good ones, I'll share them!