So, tomorrow is Thanksgiving! Is everyone ready? I braved the grocery store this morning to pick up a few things, and surprisingly, it wasn't that crazy. It was before 9 am though, so maybe it'll get worse as the day goes on. As I've mentioned before, we're not hosting so I'm not preparing the meal myself. We'll be eating dinner at my mom's house, and I usually bring one or two dishes each year, generally a dessert and appetizer. This year I'm thinking stuffed mushrooms and an as yet undecided dessert, though it likely won't be a pie as those are pretty well covered already by others.
I think everyone has one or two dishes they really look forward to on Thanksgiving. What are yours? I've been talking to several people about this topic lately, and the most popular answer has been the stuffing. Now, call me crazy, but stuffing is just about the last thing I put on my plate, if there happens to be any room after I've loaded up on veggies, turkey and cranberry sauce. It's just never really appealed to me for some reason. This year, though, I was tasked with making stuffing for our Friendsgiving. Another of our friends typically makes it, but he had to work, and it was scary trying to step in and fill the void left by his stuffing, which is, in Shane's words, "legendary." Not being a big stuffing fan, I've never made it, so I wasn't even sure where to start.
After a lot of research (cookbooks, magazines, Google, etc), I decided to try this cornbread and sausage stuffing. I was surprised by just how easy stuffing is to make; it just takes some patience and time to chop and prep the veggies and herbs. I used a recipe from Fine Cooking for the cornbread as well, and I'm so glad I did, because it's a new favorite. Super easy to make, it's cooked briefly in a pan on the stove top and then finished in the oven. It's unsweetened, and though I generally prefer sweeter cornbread, I absolutely loved this version. Our friends really seemed to like the stuffing; I received several compliments. Shane also ate it and liked it, which is saying a lot, as he generally won't try anything with this many veggies, particularly when he's stood in the kitchen watching me chop all of them, as he did with this one.
As I mentioned yesterday, I also wanted to share a butternut squash pie today that might be a welcome addition to your Thanksgiving meal. I tried this recipe a few weeks ago when I was on a huge butternut squash kick. It's a nice change from the more traditional pumpkin pie, though still incorporates many of the same spices so it's not vastly different in flavor. The filling is made almost entirely in the food processor (or blender) so it comes together easily once you've got the pie crust prebaked. The filling will be warm when you add it to the crust, which reduces the baking time. If you make the filling in advance, you'll want to rewarm it before baking the pie. I only caution you this - heed David Lebovitz's advice when he tells you not over-bake the pie - it will absolutely develop a big crack while cooling if you do (yep, I speak from experience). No worries if it happens though, that's what whipped cream is for :)
I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday filled with delicious food and great friends and family!
Cornbread & Sausage Stuffing
adapted from Fine Cooking
3/4 lb hot Italian sausage (without casings)
3 - 4 tablespoons butter, if needed
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery, including leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 cups cornbread (recipe I used here), cubed
1 cup chopped scallion
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
freshly ground black pepper
1 - 2 cups low sodium chicken broth, as needed
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large skillet, brown the sausage over medium heat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to a paper towel lined plate. Add enough butter to whatever fat is left in the pan from the sausage so you have 5 tablespoons in total. Add the onion, celery, garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, and salt. Cook briefly until the onion is softened, about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon and scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cool briefly then combine in a large bowl with the cubed cornbread, sausage, scallions, parsley, chives, and pepper. Toss to combine.
Transfer the stuffing to a baking dish. I had enough stuffing to fill a 2.5 qt baking dish as well as a 7 x 10.5" rectangular dish. Pour a cup or two of chicken stock over the stuffing - you want it to be moist, but not mushy. Bake it covered until heated through, about 45 minutes - 1 hour. You can remove the foil for the last 15 minutes of baking to allow the top to brown.
Butternut Squash Pie
adapated from Ready for Dessert, by David Lebovitz
2 pounds butternut squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
4 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon brandy or Cognac
one 9- or 10-inch prebaked pie crust
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and rub generously with butter.
Place the squash halves on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the squash is tender, about 45 minutes. You should be able to insert a paring knife into the thickest part without meeting resistance. Remove from the oven and decrease oven temperature to 375 F.
In the bowl of a large food processor, pulse the cream, milk, eggs, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, nutmeg, salt, vanilla and Cognac or brandy until combined. Scoop the flesh from the warm squash into a measuring cup - you want 2 cups of pulp. Add it to the food processor and pulse until the filling is smooth.
Pour the warm filling into the prebaked pie shell. Bake until the filling is just barely set in the center (it'll be slightly jiggly), about 30-35 minutes. If you overbake, the pie will develop a crack as it cools.