Mushroom, Chestnut, and Sausage Stuffing

Mushroom, Chestnut, and Sausage StuffingThat’s The Stuff-ing
The past 48 hours have been immensely frustrating. A few weeks ago, in anticipation of having to talk about all things Thanksgiving, I was searching for different recipes for stuffing. And, I found one that I though looked so interesting. But now, for the life of me…I can’t find it anywhere.

I don’t know what it’s like in your household, but in mine, the stuffing is ridiculously important. If there were no stuffing on the Thanksgiving table it would be a major issue—no matter who is in charge of making the meal. As a general rule, my family likes to cook most of the stuffing in the bird. But, we also do some extra in a casserole so there is enough to go around. There is plenty of debate on which is best. Personally I am conflicted. I like the flavor of the stuffing cooked inside the turkey. But, I also like the crispy stuff that is cooked in the casserole. I‘m good either way. Stuffing that bird is a problem though…if you choose to spatchcock your turkey.

Since we are not doing Thanksgiving the normal way this year, I am cooking Thanksgiving for my immediate family. And, since my oven isn’t super huge I am forced to spatchcock my turkey if I want to have a bird big enough to allow for leftovers. And, there must be leftovers.

So, I was looking for stuffing recipes that aren’t cooked in the bird and I found one made with sausage, herbs, the usual breadcrumbs, and possibly mushrooms. It had been moistened, chopped fine (or possibly put in a food processor) molded into a log, cooked, and then sliced. It looked so cool and elegant—and definitely different. But, that is the recipe I can no longer find. Arrrrrrgggggh!!!

If this sounds at all like something anyone of you have heard of please let me know and pass along the recipe if you can. It’s going to drive me batty until I can find it again!

My frantic search has been good in one respect. I have found some really interesting possibilities for this year’s stuffing for those who are inclined to change things up. There are stuffings using rye bread and others with figs and kale. There’s traditional apple and sausage stuffing as well as some with chorizo. Below is a recipe for Mushroom, Chestnut, and Sausage Stuffing and it is the most appealing to me for this year. It’s a bit of a departure from our usual. But, then again everything about this year is new territory…

Mushroom, Chestnut, and Sausage Stuffing
Adapted from Anthony Bourdain in Food and Wine Magazine
Yields 8 to 10 servings

This recipe can be made the day of and timed to come out of the oven when the turkey is ready (or kept warm). Another option is to partially prepare the stuffing the day before and place in the fridge overnight—to be easily completed and popped into the oven about 50 minutes before serving. Read more…

Slow-Cooker Braised Butternut Squash

Slow-Cooker Braised Butternut SquashSlow Turkey
With a lot of people potentially making Thanksgiving for the first time this year, we at Piedmont Grocery have been looking for recipes that strive to make life a bit easier on the big day. The best option we found? Your slow cooker…

Stock
Good turkey stock is essential for many of the other dishes that make up a Thanksgiving feast. You use it for the stuffing, the gravy, and a little drizzle over the meat on the platter before serving helps keep it moist. Sure, you could buy turkey stock, and there are lot of good ones out there. But, nothing beats the flavor and nutrition of homemade stock. The drawback is the time it takes to make it.

Enter the slow cooker. Making stock in your slow cooker is the no-hassle way to have the good stuff on hand for the big day. Throw the ingredients in the cooker in the morning and walk away. By dinner time you have a rich tasty stock. Even better, set the cooker on low and do it in your sleep. Literally. Check out our post on making your own stock.

Sides
You can also use your slow cooker for the side dishes that you don’t have room for in the oven. No matter how big your oven is, chances are there will be something that just won’t fit. So, why not throw it in your slow cooker or Instant pot? There are so many Slow Cooker/ Instant Pot recipes out there for you to search that would work well for Thanksgiving or any day frankly. My favorites tend to be the squash recipes.

My favorite find is our recipe for Braised Butternut Squash with Pecans and Cranberries. It’s simple—but looks so festive on a platter. And, the best part is you put the ingredients in the crock pot and don’t have to think about it until you’re ready to eat.

If you’re one of those souls who is cooking for the first time this Thanksgiving, first, take a deep breath. There’s no need to make it more stressful than it needs to be. Nor does it need to be exactly like Mom would make. Everything is different this year so try to roll with it and think of ways to make it easy. No matter what you do to celebrate, the important thing is that you are celebrating.

Slow-Cooker Braised Butternut Squash Recipe
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…

Pasta Alla Vodka

Pasta Alla VodkaHittin’ The Sauce
There are a number of reasons to use alcohol when cooking. The most obvious one is to add flavor, and some ingredients just scream for a shot of something. Adding some white wine to garlic sautéed in butter and olive oil makes for a fast and fabulous weeknight pasta dinner. And is there a better combination than peaches, pecans, and bourbon? (Or is that just my inner Southerner?)

Using alcohol in recipes can serve another purpose. Adding a small amount of alcohol to your food can enhance and bring out the flavors of the ingredients you are using. The Italians are the masters of this. There is a reason that they use wine in their sauces and it’s not just because they enjoy a nice glass of Sangiovese. Besides adding great flavor to your dish, adding a small amount of wine to, say, a red sauce, actually gives the sauce a bigger tomato flavor than if you left it out. Even if you are using the good San Marzanos. The same principal applies when using the harder stuff—but with a little twist.

Pasta Alla Vodka can be found on the menus of Italian restaurants everywhere. And, while it may seem strange that you would use vodka, a basically flavorless alcohol, to improve your pasta sauce, the fact is that you aren’t using it to add more flavor per se but to make the other flavors better. While vodka does add a hint of peppery flavor, its main purpose is to release the flavors that are hidden in the tomatoes and other ingredients. This is where we get all scienc-y.

The trick is not to use too much. Full strength vodka will overpower the natural flavors in your sauce because it traps the other molecules. Smaller amounts of vodka will actually release new flavors as the alcohol is cooked off during a slow simmer. It sounds like witchcraft but the results are so so good.

This weekend looks like we might have lower temperatures which should make it feel more like Fall. (Hallelujer!) It’s a great opportunity to fire up a big batch of this pasta sauce for your Sunday dinner with a little left over to save for later in your freezer.

Pasta Alla Vodka
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…

Focaccia-Style Sheet Pan Pizza

Focaccia-Style Sheet Pan PizzaSmoke Adjustment
Normally, when the temperatures get toasty, I do a lot of grilling. Grilling outside means that the house stays cooler inside. I had planned to write about cooking pizzas on the grill for this week but, circumstances being what they are, grilling isn’t an option.

Once again the Golden State is dealing with horrific fires that have burned thousands of acres, destroyed homes, and taken lives. And, all of that on top of an ongoing pandemic. It’s emotionally and physically exhausting. Not to mention devastating to those who are experiencing it first hand. The air quality just does not lend itself to outside pizza making.  But, I’m still in the mood to make some pizza. So, I have been looking for alternative ways to get my cheese and carb fix.

I found this recipe for Focaccia-Style Sheet Pan Pizza in a recent copy of Milk Street magazine. While it does qualify as pizza, it is not your typical neighborhood delivery type pie. It’s actually got a crust more like focaccia. (Okay, my mouth just started watering at the mention of focaccia…) The dough for this crust is pretty wet, so the trick to making this sheet pan pizza is to not use fresh mozzarella and to top it with ingredients that do not have a lot of moisture to keep the top from getting too soggy. You can try regular pizza sauce—but use it sparingly. Lightly brushing it on with a pastry brush would be ideal. This is what I have had to do because the original recipe called for sliced up cherry tomatoes on top and that is a no go for a few people in my household. You just want enough to give it some tomato flavor without wetting it down. Also, if you want a little more bang for your buck, you can chop up some fresh rosemary to add to the crust dough to give it some tasty fresh flavor.

Focaccia-Style Sheet Pan Pizza Recipe
Yields 4 to 6 servings
Adapted from 177 Milk Street Read more…