10,000 calories later, early Thanksgiving was just as good as the real thing. After spending hours preparing just two dishes in my parents' kitchen surrounded by my entire extended (and rather chatty) family, I have a new respect for anyone who actually cooks an entire Thanksgiving meal themselves. Wow, was it distracting to have so much going on at once! Thank goodness I'd made the dessert a day in advance because I couldn't possibly have prepared anything else.
I made a last minute switch from the savory bread pudding I was planned (had something like a quart of heavy cream in it) to a somewhat less hearty stuffing with dried cherries, goat cheese and smoked ham. Dried cherries are my new favorite ingredient, they're ever so slightly juicier and sweeter than the ubiquitous dried cranberry, and they just make everything tastier.
It was pretty time consuming to make, so in the future I'd take their advice and make part of it in advance. Granted I was trying to make it while 8 other people were talking and 3 other chefs were in the kitchen, so perhaps with more focus it would be easier!
All of the ingredients ultimately melded together quite well, and this recipe was a big winner with my family. The next day's leftovers were as good if not better! Definitely a keeper recipe.
Country Bread Stuffing with Smoked Ham, Goat Cheese, and Dried Cherries
- 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
- 1 (1-pound) loaf crusty country-style white bread
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
- 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
- 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery
- 1 1/4 cups chopped smoked ham (Epicurious recommends 2 meaty ham hocks, I stuck with traditional smoked ham from the deli case)
- 1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup toasted husked hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1 3/4 cups low-salt chicken broth or turkey stock, heated
- 4 ounces chilled fresh goat cheese, crumbled into 1/2-inch pieces
Preheat oven to 375°F. Place cherries in bowl; cover with boiling water. Let stand until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain.
Cut bottom crust and short ends off bread; discard. Cut remaining bread with crust into 1-inch cubes (10 cups loosely packed). Place in large bowl. Add oil, thyme, and garlic; toss. Spread out on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until golden and slightly crunchy, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Return to same large bowl.
Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add next 4 ingredients. sauté until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Mix in parsley and cherries. DO AHEAD Bread cubes and vegetable mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately. Store bread at room temperature. Chill vegetables.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Stir vegetables and nuts into bread cubes. Add hot broth, tossing to coat. Mix in cheese. Transfer to dish. Cover with buttered foil, buttered side down. Bake until heated through, about 25 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is brown, about 25 minutes longer, and serve.
My mom usually makes the same cranberry relish every year with mandarin oranges. It's definitely good, but this year I wanted to try something new. I originally picked a recipe with grapefruit in it, but apparently old people can't eat it (something about reacting with medicines?), so my mother chose a cranberry pear relish to make. In the end, it was delicious, and I suspect she was glad she branched out from the norm. It was so good in fact that the boyfriend and I ate it on it's own the following night. Yum!
Cranberry Pear Relish
From Food Network
- 1 small navel orange
- 1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 Bartlett pear, cored and cut into large chunks
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- Pinch kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
Wash and dry the orange. Cut the orange into small wedges, including the peel, and put in a food processor. Add the cranberries, pear, sugar, and salt. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days. Just before serving, stir in the pecans.
Last but not least was the brussels sprout hash with caramelized shallots. I cheaped out on the shallots because they were annoyingly expensive and being sold only in those little mesh packs of 3, so I cut that amount in half, and it still tasted great. The other change I made was I used the slicer on the food processor to turn the brussels sprouts into a hash, which saved tons of time.
Adapted from Epicurious.comIngredients
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, divided
- 1/2 pound shallots, thinly sliced (I used about half of this since shallots were so pricey at my grocery store)
- Coarse kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- 1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup water
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Sauté until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar. Stir until brown and glazed, about 3 minutes.
Halve brussels sprouts lengthwise. Use food processor slicing attachment to cut into narrow slices. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sprouts; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until brown at edges, 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and 3 tablespoons butter. Sauté until most of water evaporates and sprouts are tender but still bright green, 3 minutes. Add shallots; season with salt and pepper.
My pumpkin cheesecake was so good, it deserves it's own article, so more on that to come!