Saturday, January 24, 2015

"Colorful Louisiana Cuisine in Black and White" - Shortnin' Bread and Turkey Gumbo - for MLK, Jr. Day

Date I made this recipe:  January 19, 2015

Colorful Louisiana Cuisine in Black and White by Bibby Tate and Ethel Dixon
Published by:  Pelican Publishing Company
© 1988; Third printing  July 1990
Purchased at Bonnie Slotnick's Cookbooks, NYC
Recipes:  Shortnin' Bread (B) – p. 19 and Turkey Gumbo (W) – p. 37

This is one of my more unique cookbooks and entirely fitting for Martin Luther King Day as it combines recipes of two women, one black and one white.  Bibby Tate (whose recipes are denoted with a "W" for white), was a descendent of a Louisiana plantation family who owned slaves.  Ethel Dixon (whose recipes are denoted with a "B" for black), descended from slaves.  Together, they published this book, filled with tons of recipes that will make you hungry.  Really hungry.

The timing for me using this book could not be better as one of the big films of the year – and an Oscar contender for Best Picture – is "Selma," that tells the story of how Martin Luther King, Jr. organized a march from Montgomery, AL to Selma, AL, 50 years ago this year, in an attempt to secure voting rights for all blacks in the state of Louisiana and beyond.  And although the vast majority of marchers were black, many from the white community risked life and limb to join in the fight for equality. 

Normally, I limit myself to one recipe per cookbook but seeing as how people of all color joined the march, I thought I would make two dishes, one of Ethel's and one of Bibby's.  Although a few recipes in this book gave me pause ("Smothered Sqirrel???"), there are 338 pages of glorious recipes sure to please.

And so there I was, all of 19 pages in, when I found my first recipe:  Shortnin' Bread.  Many of you who are my age might remember singing that song, Shortnin' Bread as kids, but the real reason I had to make this recipe – just had to – was all because of one woman and one woman only:  "Ethel Mae Potter (We Never Forgot Her)."

Ethel Mae Potter was TV character Ethel Mertz's maiden name on the show, I Love Lucy.  Actually, Ethel was given a couple of different middle names and maiden names over the course of the show but this one was most memorable.

In season four, Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel motored to LA so that Ricky could be in a movie.  Along the way, they stopped in Albuquerque, NM, so that Ethel could visit her hometown.  This episode remains one of my favorites.  Turns out Ethel told a teeny lie to her dad and hometown neighbors, alluding to the fact that she, not Ricky, was the big star.  And as it also turns out, the entire town always thought that she was destined for greatness as well.  As Ethel's father, Will, explained in a hilarious moment, the local theater marquee now reads "Ethel Mae Potter, We Never Forgot Her."   When daddy explained "Ethel Mae's very big in Albuquerque," Ethel's husband Fred, always the fast one with the quip said "She's big everywhere!"  Love me that Fred Mertz.

So of course, with Ethel Mae now back home (in triumph), she was asked to perform as the headliner for a variety show.  And one of the two numbers she sang is – wait for it – "Shortnin' Bread." 

And this is how I came to select one of today's recipes.  Thank you, Ethel Mae!

I don't know as I've ever had shortnin' bread so I wasn't sure what to expect when I made this recipe but what you get is a rather dense cake that doesn't rise much (and it wouldn't since it doesn't contain baking powder) and is not very sweet.  It reminded me of cornbread which, unless you add sugar to it, is pretty bland (in my northern opinion).  Not in a bad way "bland," just bland!

Since there are only two of us, I decided to make just half a recipe which was fine and I somehow knew that the baking time needed to be adjusted from 60 minutes to about 30.  But I lost track of time and so the bread ended up being a little bit more golden than I would have liked.  Still good, but very golden.  The instructions say to serve with jam or jelly but I used honey instead to combat the aforementioned "blandness."  (It's the word of the day.)

Turning our attention to turkey...for the first time ever, I happened to have a turkey breast carcass in the refrigerator, left over from my New Year's Eve dinner.  So last week, I made up the gumbo base, sans the shrimp, and put it in my freezer.  I can promise you that this combination of "recipe calling for turkey carcass" + my having a carcass on hand = not likely to be seen again until asteroids pound the earth, destroying civilization.  Well, maybe.

But lo, though I had the main ingredient, once again the making of this gumbo was fraught with peril.  As you will see, this recipe doesn't give ingredient amounts, leaving me to guess at the right combinations.  There are several other gumbo recipes in this book but each one is so different, using different ingredients, and that made it hard for me to determine whether or not I could "borrow" ingredient amounts and instructions.  Further, a bona fide roux usually involves fat, flour and liquid but this instruction said to use flour and liquid only.  Soooo...fat, no fat?  I decided to use the flour and liquid as directed and hope for the best.

As to the spices, I started with ¼ teaspoon of each, then tasted, then added another ¼ teaspoon more.  And I added the entire can of Rotel tomatoes without draining them  - in other words, I was living life on the edge!

All in all, this recipe turned out okay and the flavors were good and yet, this recipe also tasted a little bland.  You can adjust that by just adding a bit of salt and pepper to taste before serving.

The bigger problem though, was that I thought this was a bit watery and the only way to solve that – I think – was to either add more okra (which is often used as a thickener), which I did not have on hand, or to add more roux.  But since I didn't know what to do with my roux in the first place, I'm not sure adding more would have made a difference.  Hopefully, some great southern cook is reading this and will let me know just where this thing went south, pun intended.  It was a tasty dish but I felt it was missing a little je ne sais quoi.

As suggested, I added shrimp and the shrimp was okay (actually, some of it was freezer-burned even though I had just purchased it the day before) but I think it would have been even better with pieces of leftover turkey.  Next time.

Turkey Gumbo – Serving size not given - *You'll need a leftover turkey carcass for this!
1 turkey carcass
Flour (Ann's Note:  about 1 tablespoon)
1 chopped bell pepper
1 can Rotel [tomatoes – traditional mixture]
Basil (Ann's Note:  about ½ teaspoon or more)
Thyme (Ann's Note:  about ½ teaspoon or more)
Rosemary (Ann's Note:  about ½ teaspoon or more)
Okra (Ann's Note:  amount not given, instructions not given so I used 4 small diced okra)
Salt and pepper to taste

Ann's Note:  As I explained in my narrative above, exact amounts were not given so season this mixture to taste.  As to the Rotel, all the recipe said was "Rotel" and like many things, there are several varieties of these canned tomatoes.  Use the "traditional" mix.  I also added the can without draining it and have no idea if that is correct or not!

This bears repeating:  Unclear instructions annoy me!

Put whole carcass in big stewing pot and boil in water with chopped onion until meat falls off bones.  (Ann's Note:  I almost boiled away my broth so keep an eye on this pot.  I think I reduced my stock to about half and that actually seemed about right but again, who knows?)

Remove the bones and make a roux by taking some of your seasoned water and mixing with flour, or use one of the prepared roux like "Iron Pot."  (Ann's Notes:  Okay, folks, traditional roux is fat + flour + liquid but do you see a mention of fat here?  No, you do not.) So I followed the directions and mixed flour and liquid until I felt the mixture looked like a roux; not that I know what a roux looks like. 

Return mixture to the pot and add chopped bell pepper, a can of Rotel, chopped basil, thyme, okra, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Cover and let simmer at least an hour.  Add crab meat, fresh or frozen, and shrimp that has not been cooked before.  You may also add gumbo, crabs, and oysters.  Cook till shrimp are done and serve over rice.

Shortnin' Bread – makes a 9 x 12 loaf pan
2 cups flour
2 ½ tsps baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 stick butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sweet milk

Cream eggs and butter.  Add remaining ingredients.  Oil and flour a 9 x 12 loaf pan.  Pour batter in pan.  Bake in 350 oven for about 1 hour.  Let cook.  Cut and serve with jam or jelly.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

"The A-Z of Casserole Cooking" - Pork Chop Casserole

Date I made this recipe:  January 18, 2015

The A-Z of Casserole Cooking by Jennie Reekie
Published by:  Galahad Books
© 1976
Recipe:  Pork Chop Casserole – p. 54

Like most people, I hate to waste food and so for two weeks now, I've been contemplating what to do with three Idaho potatoes I bought for my New Year's Eve dinner that I never made.  I thought this would be easier; it wasn't.

See, it's not like I have 100 recipe books about potatoes sitting around my house and so I had to go through my collection to find a dish that would just float my boat.  Ten books later, I was beginning to despair. Surely every recipe book had at least one potato recipe, right?

Well yes...but no.  I was in the mood for a main dish but instead found recipes for side dishes, potato salad (not my husband's favorite), and a few for soups but I was running out of patience as nothing clicked.  I kept picturing a recipe for something simple like Shepherd's Pie but alas, if one existed, it was not in any of the books I pulled off the shelf.  I even turned to an Indian cookbook thinking that surely a dish existed with something like potatoes and peas and curry or potatoes and cauliflower but again, no.  No, no, no.

And then finally – finally – I found this A-Z casserole book and praise Jesus, at last I had a recipe that used up my three potatoes.  And it was easy. And it was tasty.  And hearty.  It worked.  It wasn't gourmet fare by any means but it worked.

Except...I needed three hours to cook the thing.  Well, this almost put me over the edge but I was determined to make this meal and make it tonight.  And so at half-time during the Packers v. Seahawks playoff game of which we will NEVER speak, I went to the grocery store and was back in time for the first play of the second half.  When your recipe calls for only a few ingredients, you can do things like that.  Plus, I even had time to gas up the car!

Upon arriving home, I turned on the TV in my kitchen and got to work:  slice the potatoes (thin), dice an onion, brown the chops and then open cans.  Combine.  Then put it all in an oven, watch the game, have a meltdown, pour a cocktail and serve the dinner.

Easiest dinner ever, especially during these "trying" times.  This may not have been the fanciest dish ever but it did the trick:  comfort me with comfort food.

Had I not been so focused on using up my potatoes, several other recipes in this book would have done nicely...well, except for "Creamed Kidneys."  This book was originally published in Hong Kong and definitely had a British flair to it.  All recipes were fairly simple and ingredients were listed by metric/imperial and "American" measurements.

PS—Any book titled The A-Z of Casserole Cooking had to be spot-checked to make sure it contained foods from A-Z and it passed with flying colors:  Almonds to Zucchini.  As the Brits would say: "Smashing!"


Pork Chop Casserole – Serves 4
2 tablespoons dripping
4 pork chops (loin or spare rib)
14 oz can tomatoes
15 ¾ oz can baked beans
1 onion, chopped
1 ½ lb. potatoes, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
¼ teaspoon dried mixed herbs (Ann's Note:  I used Herbs de Provence)

Heat the dripping in a frying pan and fry the pork chops on each side for 5 minutes.  Put half the tomatoes, with the juice from the can, baked beans, onion and potatoes in layers in a casserole.  Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with half the herbs.  Lay the pork chops on top, then cover with the remaining ingredients in layers, finishing with the potatoes and seasoning.  Cover the casserole and cook in a cool oven, 300F for 3 hours.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

"The Italian Slow Cooker" & "Camille Glenn's Old-Fashioned Christmas Cookbook" - Lentil Soup and Good Fortune Tea Cake - Lucky Foods for the New Year

Date I made these recipes:  January 1, 2015 – New Year's Day

The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone
Published by:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN:  978-0-547-00303-0
Recipe:  Sicilian Lentil, Vegetable, and Pasta Soup – p. 32

Camille Glenn's Old-Fashioned Christmas Cookbook by Camille Glenn, author of The Heritage of Southern Cooking
Published by: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
ISBN:  1-56512-102-1
Purchased at Arc's Value Village
Recipe:  Good Fortune Tea Cake – p. 200-203

Well, Happy New Year, everyone!

As is usual and customary, I decided to make something with beans (or lentils, as the case may be) to bring good fortune to our household for the coming year.  And then I found this recipe for Good Fortune Tea Cake and thought "why not," right?  Can there ever be an abundance of good fortune?  I think not.

And though we are far away from baseball season, let me use a baseball analogy for these recipes:  the soup was a swing and a miss as it lacked any flavor whatsoever, but the tea cake was a home run.  This concludes my baseball analogy.

Let's start with the Italian Slow Cooker cookbook.  I have a couple of books by Michele Scicolone and so when I saw this one, I thought it would probably be fantastic because her stuff usually is.  But I sensed going in that this recipe would not be another home run hit based on two things:  1) using water instead of chicken or vegetable broth to cook these lentils.  Water doesn't have much flavor, folks.  Broth does.  And 2) the instructions call for you to add salt and pepper but only after cooking the soup for 7 hours.  Believe me, I salted and I peppered and it was still one very bland meal.

Normally, I never alter a recipe for this blog because I want to evaluate the thing "as is," but this time around,  after tasting it midway through, I added a lot of Italian spices.  Still, this only upped the flavor profile (such that it was) a little bit.  And I should have really cheated and used chicken broth.  Live and learn, folks.  Live and learn.

The author also suggests that we add Pecorino Romano to the dish which is always a good idea, but in my book, the flavor should be there before adding any accoutrements.  So for this boo-boo, I'm going to have to ding our author. Nothing personal, Michele!

As to other recipes in this book, many sounded good but I was stuck on the lentil thing to bring us good luck and so there's that.  Still, two good things came out of these experiments from New Year's Eve (previous posts) and New Year's Day:  first, deep down, I'm a bread stuffing versus cornbread dressing gal, and by bread stuffing, I mean my mother's recipe that includes bread, onions, celery and sage.  No need to get all crazy about this stuff.  Second,  as between lentils and the black eyed peas used in Hoppin' John, another New Year's Day southern favorite, it's lentils every time.  I just don't get the point of black eyed peas.  Do not. 

But the cake.  Oh people, THE CAKE!  My gawd, it was awesome and so unexpected!  And hilariously, it was from a southerner so I figure that balances out my previous attempts with cornbread dressing and Hoppin' John.

And although I intended that just my husband and I partake of this incredible edible, we were invited over to my mother-in-law's for a New Year's Day open house and so we came bearing gifts.  There's nothing like the pressure of serving all these people a cake we've never made or had yet to taste but they swooned at first bite. 

I suppose I could just tell you all that the making of this cake was all so simple but that's not how these things go.  So here's how this thing went:  I was too busy cooking on New Year's Eve to get around to making the cake the night before so I asked my husband if he would take out the butter and eggs on New Year's Day to bring them up to room temp (as directed) so I could make the cake that morning.  But when I woke up that morning, I had a near-migraine and so he ended up making the entire cake.  And for the record, no, this was not a hangover migraine.  We ate dinner kind of late on New Year's Eve, and as soon as we sat down, I was wiped out.  In fact, I only had half of my usual and customary martini and that was all the "good cheer" I was able to manage that night.  I fell asleep at 10:30 and so Andy had to ring in the New Year all by himself and that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

So I don't know why I had the headache the next day but it was awful.  And so I pressed  Andy into service to help out and am I a lucky gal or what that this man likes to bake?  And this recipe is a bit involved so it took some doing.  But to paraphrase the old Shake and Bake commercial "Here's how I helped:"  I pointed to the cupboards containing the sifter and the grater as well as some of the ingredients he needed and had already put out the springform pan he needed the night before so he was all set.  But thereafter, I was on the couch until go time.  But PS—I normally like the smell of oranges and orange peel but that day, the stuff smelled like that awful Orange Glo stuff you use to remove stick adhesive and if it wasn't zero outside, I would have opened a window to clear the air.  Sorry, Orange Glo people.

This recipe makes enough for either two 8 ½-inch springform pan's worth of batter or one 10-inch and we went with 10-inch.  And it makes a ton of frosting, not that there's anything wrong with that, but we had more than what was needed seeing as how we made one cake.

This recipe also calls for you to insert randomly two small blanched almonds into the cake batter with the instruction that whoever finds the almond in the piece of cake they are given will have harmony and good fortune in the year ahead.  Well folks, if some is good, more is better, right?  So I bought about a cup's worth of almonds and then blanched them and we put them all throughout the batter so that everybody got good luck.  The New Year is no time to be playing favorites with the roulette wheel of life.

I was also to have purchased 1-2 tiny mirrors to put in the center of the cake(s) and before serving the cake, everybody was to look in the mirror and make a wish.  I hate to tell you but we defied fate and skipped the mirror part.  I figured between the cake's name and the overabundance of almonds, we were good to go.

As to the rest of the cookbook, I may just have to keep this one at the ready for next year's holiday dinners.  I don't normally do that but this cake was so good and the rest of Camille's recipes also sounded so awesome that I just may.  What I loved about this book is that she put together suggested menus for the entire season and sometimes you just cannot beat that. 

So, even though the lentil soup was disappointing, the lentils alone should bring us luck and the addition of the cake into the mix should have put us over the top.

May all good things come your way in 2015.

Spinach Lentil, Vegetable, and Pasta Soup – serves 6
*Ann's Note:  Please consider using at least a half and half mixture of water and broth of your choice.  And spices such as basil, oregano, etc.  The author also suggested you can add a couple of chopped potatoes or two cups chopped green beans, winter squash or spinach leaves.  I used potatoes but they were just too bland for this dish.  Should have gone with the green beans...
1 pound brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 large celery rib with leaves, chopped
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
6 cups water (*Don't say you weren't warned)
 1 cup ditalini, tubetti or elbows
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano

In a large slow cooker, combine the lentils, vegetables, and water.

Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.  (Ann's Note:  I don't think that's enough as my lentils were still a bit al dente.  I tried 8 hours and that was a little better but not by much.)  Add the pasta and salt and pepper to taste.

Cook on high for 30 minutes more, or until the pasta is tender.

Serve hot, sprinkled with the cheese.

Good Fortune Tea Cake – serves 6 to 8 per cake
For the cake
2 cups sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of ½ navel orange
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs, separated
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons fresh orange joice
1 ½ teaspoons cognac vanilla (see page 29) or 1 tablespoon cognac
2 whole blanched almonds (Ann's Note:  most grocery stores carry slivered blanched almonds but you need them whole.  To do them yourself, pour boiling water over your almonds, just enough to cover and let sit for 1 minute.  Drain, rinse, drain again.  Peel off the skins.  Do not let the almonds sit for too long or they will be soggy.)
For the frosting
½ cup heavy or whipping cream
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 ½ teaspoons good-quality pure almond extract, or more to taste

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter two 8 ½-inch springform pans and dust them with flour.  (You can also use one, 10-inch springform pan).  Shake out excess flour and set the pans aside. 

Combine the sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest in a food processor and twirl until the zest is finely grated (or grate the zest by hand and add it to the sugar).

Using an electric mixer, beat the zest mixture and butter together until thoroughly blended.  Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

In another mixing bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder and salt; stir well.  Alternating, add the milk and the flour to the egg mixture.  Do not overbeat.

Add the lemon juice, orange juice, and vanilla and blend carefully.

Beat the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak.  Gently fold a third of the whites into the batter to lighten it.  Then fold in the remaining whites, mixing gently but thoroughly.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans and poke and almond down into the batter of each pan. 

Bake the cakes on the lower rack of the preheated oven until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Watch the cakes carefully – if they overbake they will be dry.  Don't let them cook so long that the cake separates from the sides of the pan – that's too long.

Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 5 minutes.  Then remove them from the pans and set them on wire racks to cool thoroughly before frosting them.

Frost the cakes:  place a small mirror in the center of each cake and frost around the edges to seal it in place.  Then cover the remaining top and sides of the cakes with the frosting.  Place each cake on a stand or platter and arrange a few very small edible flowers around the mirrors.

Before serving the cakes, each guest in turn looks into the mirror and makes a wish.  The person who finds an almond in his slice will have a year of harmony and good fortune – it's a promise!

The author also notes that "This is one of the best cakes I know for its "keeping" qualities.  Store in an airtight container, it will stay moist for days.  (Ann's Note:  this is assuming you have any left!)

To make the frosting, heat the cream in a small saucepan until it is warm. 

Using an electric mixer or food processor, cream the butter, confectioners' sugar, and salt together until smooth.  Slowly add the warm cream, beating until smooth.  Add the almond extract.  If you won't be using the frosting immediately, cover and refrigerate it.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

"Thanksgiving Dinner" - Pistachio and Apple Stuffing - New Year's Eve 2014

Date I made this recipe:  December 31, 2014 – New Year's Eve

Thanksgiving Dinner – Recipes, Techniques, and Tips for America's Favorite Celebrations by Antony Dias Blue and Kathryn K. Blue
Published by:  HarperPerennial
ISBN:  0-06-092343-1
Purchased at Goodwill
Recipe:  Pistachio and Apple Stuffing – p. 66

As mentioned in my last post, we sort of skipped over Thanksgiving this year but that didn't stop my cravings for the "real deal."  This craving was helped along when I perused America's Test Kitchen specialty magazine, Slow Cooker Revolution," while waiting in line at the grocery store.  And there, on page 52, was a recipe for Turkey Breast and Gravy made in a crock pot.  Sold!

So then, of course, I had to find recipes for the "go withs," and so came upon this recipe for Pistachio and Apple Stuffing in one of my Thanksgiving cookbooks.  And maybe it's just me, but at this point, all stuffing recipes started sounding the same so that made my job hard.  And then finding something without sausage, (a favorite ingredient) given that I made two Christmas dishes using that ingredient, even harder.

Then there was the age-old question:  "stuffing or dressing, bread or cornbread?"  Over the years, I've observed that if there is one thing that causes family tension during the holidays, it's the "stuffing" issue. 

So for fun, I had a little online chit-chat about this with my attorney friends, "The G's."  We're a group of women attorneys who all met while working on a legal project and became fast friends.  "TEA" opined that she was a bread stuffing gal, always had been, always would be and that it was supposed to be stuffed into the bird, end of discussion. But "Tex," a native Texan, who is also now living there again, said it was dressing and it was made with cornbread and that's all that you needed to know about that. (Except she did share that her momma, who was originally from Baltimore, added oysters to hers and we all agreed that was a bad idea.  In cornbread?  Ew!) Two of the other G's stayed out of the conversation although I suspect that as born and bred Midwestern gals, they would vote for stuffing.  It's what we know.

Now folks, I have made cornbread "dressing" in the past but almost always with mixed results. (I hate to say but Paula Deen's cornbread recipe that I made years ago was awful.  I mean awful.  It called for a sleeve of saltine crackers, making me feel like I was licking a salt lick.  Move over, Bossie!)  And while I sometimes appreciate the texture cornbread adds, I decided that this year, I was a bread gal all the way and that it is indeed better "stuffed" than "dressed," and that all my cookbooks aside, what I really want is my mom's stuffing because it's so good and so basic:  bread, onions, celery and sage.  And honestly, I think that about covers the ingredient list.  But of course, that is not what I made though I wish I had. 

After looking through several cookbooks, I finally decided on this stuffing as it sounded unique and whoa, even somewhat healthy!  I mean, it has apples, it has currants (okay, so they're soaked in brandy) and so what's not good about that?   "An apple a day keeps the doctor at bay!"  And it was good but since I made a turkey breast, I couldn't really stuff the bird and so that disappointed.  Instead, I baked the dish in the oven, turning it into dressing instead of stuffing which defeats the entire purpose but we must do what we must do.

So—things you must know:  the first instruction is to let the currants soak in ¼ cup Calvados or apple brand for one hour.  And thereafter folks, you never see another word about the currants and what to do with them.  Well this irked to no end.  And I didn't realize, until the stuffing/dressing was in the oven for a good 10 minutes, that they were still sitting on my counter, unused.  Surely, we were not meant to soak and stare, were we?  And so for this oversight, I am going to have to "ding" the authors.  (For the record, I believe you incorporate the currents, booze and all, into the stuffing.  Or at least, that was my interpretation!)

Second thing to know:  pistachios are expensive.  Tres cher!  Muy caro!  $$$$!  Luckily, I made half the recipe (a full recipe serves 12) and so the pistachios were half the price but that still came to a whopping $10.00 for just over one cup.  As my dad would have said "That's highway robbery!!" 

Third thing to know:  any time you bake a stuffing versus use it to stuff the bird, it will get drier faster so even though the authors said using the chicken or turkey stock is optional, I recommend you use it.  The mixture was pretty moist without it but the last thing I needed was for this Cadillac-priced stuffing to dry out.

"But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln," the recipe was good and I liked it.  It was certainly different from my mother's and I think that now that I got this dinner out of my system, I can go back to making hers with no regrets left on the table.

And as if these dishes weren't sinful enough, I found a recipe for Creamed Spinach Gratin in O The Oprah Magazine, saved from her November Thanksgiving issue.  And it was fabulous!  Sinfully fabulous.  But I did have to chuckle that this was included in the magazine, given how Oprah is trying to get us all to eat better and all, but at day's end, she is like anybody else:  give me comfort [food] or give me nothing at all!  (And by the way, do note that this dish is made up primarily of healthy spinach.  I mean, between the turkey breast, and the apples and currants in the stuffing, and now this spinach, was I on a healthy roll, or what?  Never mind that you use half and half and two cheeses for the spinach.  It's "dairy."  Balances out the rest.  'Nuff said!)

Pistachio and Apple Stuffing – makes 12 cups
½ cup currants
¼ cup Calvados or apple jack
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups cubed French bread, crust on
2 cups shelled pistachio nuts (Ann's Note:  prepare for sticker shock!)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 celery stalks, trimmed and diced
3 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 ½ cups sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 teaspoon fresh
¼ teaspoon cayenne
2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and cut into small chucks
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup Chicken (see page 77) or Turkey (see page 78) Stock (optional)

Place the currants in a small bowl and pour the Calvados or apple jack over them.  Let soak 1 hour.  (Ann's Note:  What we are to then do with these currants is a mystery but I added them to the mixture, booze and all!)

In one or two skillets, heat 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil and brown the bread cubes, turning them several times.  Add more olive oil, as needed.  (Ann's Note:  even though I only made a half recipe, I needed to add more oil several times to prevent sticking and burning.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Toast the nuts for 8 minutes in a single layer on a baking sheet or a jelly-roll pan lined with foil.  Cool and reserve.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Sauté the celery and onions until transparent, about 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, garlic and seasonings.  Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 3 more minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl.

In another bowl, moisten the apple chunks with the lemon juice.  Add to the onion mixture, and toss to combine.  Add the bread cubs and nuts, and toss again to combine.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet and dribble it over the stuffing. If you wish, moisten the mixture with chicken stock, but be careful not to let the stuffing become soggy.  Correct seasoning.

Ann's Note:  Did you see any mention of the currants beyond step 1?  Didn't think so!  So put them in before you dribble the butter as it would be a sin to let even a scant amount of Calvados go to waste.

Ann's Note, part 2 – IMPORTANT – Also missing?  So you mix the whole thing together and....then what?  Page 59 tells you how much stuffing mixture to use per pound but since this was a turkey breast, not an entire bird, I had to find other baking instructions.  And so as best as I could tell, bake the stuffing at 325, right alongside your turkey if you are doing that, or alone in the oven if you are using another method for the turkey, for about an hour, just to make sure it's warmed through.  See page 39 for more details.

Advance Preparation:  Can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature before using.