Thanksgiving Day Stuffing

ImageI, like most Americans, have my prejudices around what constitutes a proper Thanksgiving Day meal.  Stuffing is almost a religious experience in my house.  I have no use for the fancy-shmancy stuffing that is showcased on magazine covers this time of year.  Don’t even talk to me about goat cheese!  Stuffing is the ultimate tradition (along with the canned cranberries that look like jelly) and should be revered as classic American comfort food.  This is my mother’s recipe and has been served at every Thanksgiving that I can remember. Now, someone please pass the canned cranberries.

This recipe will stuff a 12-pound turkey.  Feel free to cut this in half or double it, if you are feeding a crowd.

Makes 12 cups stuffing – enough for a 12 pound bird

2 Sticks Butter

2 large onions, chopped

1 cup minced celery  (about 4 stalks, leaves removed)

1 cup chopped nuts of your choice (walnuts, pecans, pine nuts)

8 to 10 cups fresh bread crumbs (see below)

1 teaspoon dried sage (fresh is nice if you have it, use 2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Using a large pot, dutch oven or casserole, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the nuts, cook stirring constantly until they start to brown, about 3 minutes.

Add the bread crumbs and herbs, and salt to taste, if you use salt.  Stir the bread crumb mixture for another minute or two and remove from the heat.

You can do this much ahead of time and the stuffing will last in the refrigerator, tightly sealed, for a couple of days.

Pack the stuffing into the prepared bird and roast according to your turkey recipe.  If you prefer, you can put the stuffing into an ovenproof dish and bake, for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Bread Crumbs:

This recipe calls for almost 2 loaves of bread.  Of course, the bread that you use will determine the amount of crumbs.  A batard or ciabatta will render more crumbs than a standard white loaf.  If I don’t have homemade bread for the crumbs, I use Acme Bread’s sweet batard for this recipe. It’s available in most grocery stores and is quite good, for store-bought bread.

2 large loaves bread torn into chunks

Using a food processor or blender, work in small batches to process the chunks of bread into crumbs.  Don’t worry if the bread crumbs don’t process into uniform sized crumbs.  The inconsistency is part of the charm of stuffing.  Bake on a rimmed baking sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Measure out 8 – 10 cups and freeze the rest.  You can do this ahead of time and freeze the crumbs in a ziplock bag. Frozen bread crumbs are a nice thing to have on hand and they keep forever.

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Autumnal Raisin Almond Bars

My grandmother would bring hermit bars from her local bakery when she came to visit us.  These were spicey, chewey bars that featured raisins and the taste of ginger.  I’ve replicated this dessert bar using several different recipes from vintage cookbooks, including a lebkuchen and stolen recipe from an original edition of  Joy of Cooking–1938.  If you like the Autumnal flavors that are so common in the Fall, the smell of apples, cloves, cider and the thought of a brisk morning walk, these are for you!  No white sugar, this snack features the taste of honey and brown sugar, along with raisins and almonds.  Whole wheat flour is also a part of the ingredient list, feel free to use the increasingly popular whole wheat white flour, if you prefer.

Bar Ingredients

3/4-cup honey

1/2-cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 egg

2 teaspoons orange peel, or 1/4 teaspoon orange extract

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1-cup whole-wheat flour

1/4-teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup sliced almonds

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1-teaspoon ground ginger

1-teaspoon ground nutmeg

1-teaspoon ground cloves

¼ cup raisins

Glaze Ingredients

1-cup confectioners’ sugar

6 tablespoons apple cider

½ teaspoon brandy extract or 1 Tblspn brandy

To Make the Bars:

In a medium saucepan, bring the honey and brown sugar to a boil while stirring occasionally.  Remove the mixture from the heat and cool.  Alternatively, place honey and brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave 4 mins.

In a large bowl, beat together the cooled honey mixture, the egg, and the orange peel or extract. Add the flour, baking soda, almonds, spices and raisins.  Mix with a wooden spoon, hand mixer or stand mixer.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch pan. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 9 x 13-inch rectangle. Carefully transfer the dough rectangle to the prepared pan, either by wrapping it around the rolling pin and then unfolding it into the pan, or using a giant spatula.

Bake the bars for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

To Make the Glaze:

Stir the brandy extract and apple cider into the confectioners’ sugar.  Mix until smooth. Transfer the baked bars to a cooling rack and immediately brush on the glaze with a pastry brush; let the glaze soak into the bars somewhat before applying another layer.

Let cool completely before cutting into 1 x 2-inch bars. Store the bars in an airtight container.  If you make the bars 2 to 3 days ahead of time, they’ll taste even better. Yield: 54 bars.

Pie Crust

Who makes their own pie crust?  Who makes the trip to Costco to buy pie crust?

I love to bake, however, I have never had success with pie crust.  It seems so complex and precise.  I have recently stumbled onto a recipe from my favorite author, Mark Bittman  http://www.amazon.com/Mark-Bittman/e/B000APUJB0/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1275834528&sr=1-2-ent.  I’ve re-worked his recipe several times and made a few changes.  This version can be made quickly and with a few minutes in the freezer before rolling out, can be worked into a crust with ease.

Now, some purists believe that pie crust should consist of only a certain few ingredients.  I’ve never been accused of being a purist, so here is my version.  It includes sugar and egg yolks, which makes this crust easier to handle and it tastes like a giant cookie.

Simple Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) cold butter, cut into 10 pieces

2 egg yolks

3 – 4 tablespoons ice water

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor, pulse twice to combine.  Add the butter (all 10 pieces) and process until combined and the mixture looks like cornmeal (about 15 seconds). Add the egg yolks and water through the feed tube, one at a time.  Process for another 10 seconds.

Turn the mixture out onto a silicon mat (silpat), if you have one, or a floured work surface.  Shape into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap and freeze for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove from the freezer, keeping the plastic wrap on top of the dough, roll out the dough with a rolling pin and place into a 10-inch pie plate.  Cut the edges that hang over the pie pan (Save the scraps and bake them like a cookie, the cook’s treat for a job well done!) and use with your favorite pie recipe.  This pie crust can be frozen in a pie dish, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for several months.  Just pull out of the freezer, thaw for 20 minutes and fill…dessert!

Spaghetti Squash Parmesan

This is one of the easiest vegatable dishes that I know and kids love it!  It’s inspired by my husband’s aunt.  She made a similar dish for us one evening, and making this reminds me of that wonderful meal!

Spaghetti Squash Parmesan

Ingredients

5 lbs. spaghetti squash

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves minced garlic

3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 tbsp. minced fresh basil or parsley

1 egg (optional)

2 tablespoons cream (optional)

Additional parmesan cheese for passing

Directions

Pierce squash in several places with a long-tined fork or metal skewer. Place on baking pan and bake 1 12/ to 2 hours. Using potholders, squeeze squash to test for doneness. It is ready when it gives slightly under pressure. Remove and cool.

Heat saucepan over heat, pour in olive oil. Add garlic and cook until tender but not browned for about 5 minutes.

When squash is cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and stringy portions. Using a fork, pull pulp from the shell in long strands and add them to the warm garlic oil.  Cook on low for another 3 minutes.

Toss squash strands gently with cheese, cream and eggs (if using). Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with basil or parsley. Broil under broiler until top is golden brown.  Serve immediately. Pass additional cheese at the table.

For a printable version of this recipe, click below.

Spaghetti Squash Parmesan