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.

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