This was our Thanksgiving dinner last week! It’s a little non-traditional, but extremely tasty.
First off, there was an appetizer. This may shock or offend some people, but. . . I hate stuffing. There, I said it. I really do. Stuffing, dressing, whatever you call it, whatever you put in it, I still strongly dislike it. I think it’s the soggy bread that just doesn’t do it for me. The other thing that irks me so much about stuffing is that you cannot simply say you dislike it, or politely say “no, thanks” and pass the stuffing dish at the dinner table without people making a fuss. You can say, for instance, I hate artichokes, and that will be the end of the story. No one will try to get you to eat them. But that’s never the case with stuffing, is it? No, every time you say you dislike it, someone just must pipe up and say, “But you’ll like MY stuffing. MY stuffing is different, try MY stuffing.” You know what? I’ve tasted enough recipes to know that no, your stuffing is not different!! I still hate it! So, for an appetizer, I came up with what I call Stuffing Bruschetta. I made this a couple years ago when we were actually hosting Thanksgiving for people besides ourselves, who I worried might expect it to make an appearance. I made this dish to take its place and please everyone’s palates, and it was a hit! At Matt’s request, I made it again this year. It really does taste like stuffing, flavor-wise, but with no soggy bread! And the beautiful thing about it is that you can tweak this recipe however you want, to accommodate whatever you might usually put in your stuffing. You could add different veggies, make it vegetarian, use a different kind of sausage, whatever you want! Here’s the recipe.
1 loaf of Italian bread, sliced into toasts on the diagonal
1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbs butter, divided
2 tbs flour
1 cup chicken or turkey stock
1/2 cup half and half
3 sprigs of thyme
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
Toast the bread slices. Set aside.
Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle in the tbs of EVOO. Remove the sausage from its casings, if needed, and crumble into the hot pan. Break it up with a wooden spoon and cook until no longer pink. Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Add 1 tbs butter to the sausage drippings. Add the mushrooms and cook until nicely browned. Next, add the celery, onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened. Stir in the thyme leaves. Add the remaining two tbs of butter. When it melts, add 2 tbs flour and stir constantly for one minute. Add the stock and stir to remove any lumps. Next add the half and half and then return the sausage to the pan, and stir until thickened. You want this to be really thick, with no trace of liquid. When done, season to taste with salt and pepper, and then spoon it atop the toasts. If you want, you could add some minced fresh herbs to the top to make it a little prettier. Enjoy!
Now on to dinner! We kept it somewhat simple, and just made duck breasts and green bean casserole. I tried a new recipe for the beans. It came from America’s Test Kitchen Magazine, and it was made completely from scratch. No canned soup or canned onions. It was good, but definitely needs some improvement. I will probably use it at a jumping off point to make my own recipe in the future. It’s really not a good enough recipe to blog. The duck was fabulous. Matt was planning to grill them, but weather did not permit, so he used a cast-iron skillet instead. It was so amazing, he’s really good at making duck taste wonderful. He says the tricks are to have a REALLY hot pan or grill surface, and to score the fat enough. Many cookbooks will say to just make some slits across the top and you’re good, but that’s really not enough for truly crisp, decadent skin. Matt makes slits about a half inch all the way across the duck, then does a cross-hatch pattern by slitting it the other way too. It really renders the fat this way, and produced the best tasting duck!
Okay, now for dessert! This is really my favorite part of Thanksgiving. Dinner is something of an obligatory pathway to the best part of the day, isn’t it?. I usually make pumpkin pie, but I decided to shake things up a little this year. I made Gingerbread with Pumpkin Ice Cream and Salted Caramel Sauce. So good!! I found this recipe in Cat Cora’s “Classics with a Twist.” When I was perusing this book before getting it, this was one of two recipes that jumped out at me and made me say, “Okay, I must have this book. Even if the rest of the book is terrible, it will be worth it for this one recipe.” It didn’t disappoint. So delicious and pretty!
Pumpkin Ice Cream:
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbs cornstarch
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp baking soda, dissolved in 1 tbs hot water
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup boiling water
Salted Caramel Sauce:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
Fleur de sel, or other good quality sea salt
Pumpkin Ice Cream:
Heat 3/4 cup of the milk, cream, and the vanilla bean in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. While you wait for it to come to a boil, 7 to 10 minutes, mix the sugar and cornstarch with the remaining 1/2 cup milk. When the cream mix is boiling, remove from heat and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and discard the vanilla bean. Whisk in the pumpkin and the spices. Pour into a bowl, cool, cover, and refrigerate for 4 hours, preferably overnight. Pour into an ice cream maker, follow manufacturer’s instructions, and freeze until serving.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease an 8 inch square baking pan.
In a large bowl, beat the egg with the sugar until the mixture is pale yellow. Stir in molasses, ginger and oil and beat well. Stir in the baking soda mixture. Sift the flour with the spices, add to the batter, and stir until just blended. Beat in the boiling water. The batter will be very thin. Pour into the cake pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. (Note: you can use a whisk for all the beating in this recipe).
Salted Caramel Sauce:
Pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat just until it comes up to a boil. While you are waiting for it to boil, put the sugar into a small nonstick skillet over high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat when the sugar has completely dissolved and is a dark amber color, 5 to 7 minutes. Using oven mitts to protect your hands, carefully pour the cream into the sugar in small batches, stirring after each addition. Return the pan to the stove, reduce the heat to medium, and stir constantly for about 3 minutes, until a smooth sauce is formed.
To serve, cut a square of gingerbread, top with a scoop of ice cream, and drizzle caramel sauce all over. Sprinkle a little bit of fleur de sel on top, and with some sweetened whipped cream on the side. Enjoy!!