Friday, November 30, 2012

Ceasefire Stuffing

On the way out of town the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I said to D: the only thing I wasn't able to get was a brioche or a challah bread for the stuffing. He asked if I wanted to take a detour to the Lower East Side to B & H Dairy for some fresh challah. He told me that his dad, a NYC taxi driver, used to stop there all the time and bring home a fresh loaf for the family. Sadly, I never met D's dad. From what I know of him--an irascible character with an outsized personality--I think I would have really liked him a lot. So off we went into the morass of traffic (which was great, because for some reason, I remembered as we were driving that I had left our brining turkey on the porch back in Brooklyn. A discovery better made in Lower Manhattan than in New Jersey). As we neared the shop on Second Avenue, D wondered if they'd even have any bread left the day before Thanksgiving. I figured if the Dairy didn't have it, then Moishe's across the street would. But we were in luck! I asked for the challah (which I never imagined would look like this) and the woman behind the counter handed me the loaf, "still warm from the oven," she said. It was $4.

Beautiful challah loaf
 Such a shame to cut this beautiful bread up for stuffing cubes! So I set aside four slices for breakfast tomorrow morning before everyone comes for dinner. Chop the rest of it I did, though, in large chunks. I placed those on dry baking sheets and stuck them in the oven at 250 F for about 15-20 minutes until they were hard and dry.

toasted challah cubes

The title of this post is "Ceasefire Stuffing" because today, after 8 days of sustained violence in Gaza, Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire, and I combined challah bread with pork for my Thanksgiving stuffing. Clearly, the two events are not at all comparable: the former being a critical global event that will save countless lives and the latter a simple tasty dish. But the blog post needed a title, and the dish needed a name. 

pork sausage, removed from its casing, with fresh thyme.
There are some foods that are just designed to go together, and apple, sage, sausage, and leek are like a close knit group of friends--they are so good together--in a soup, a stir fry, and best of all, a stuffing. Thankfully no vegetarians this year, but I guess you could substitute a vegetarian tofu sausage, or even leave the meat out altogether. The smell of this dish cooking, as Julia Child would say, will make you feel like home.

The key to this dish, I think, is the careful way you have to fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Don't be afraid to use the butter--your guests will appreciate it. I was worried that the stuffing would be too wet with all of the stock, butter, and egg, but once you bake it, this liquid will ensure that your stuffing is moist and holds together. This recipe made quite a bit of stuffing, but we're having 8 with healthy appetites for dinner, and I hope there's some left over for turkey sandwiches!

Ceasefire Stuffing
Challah Stuffing with Apple, Leek & Sausage

1 large loaf of challah bread
2 large leeks, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
4 apples, diced
4-5 sausages or ground pork*
1-2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
3 tsp sage
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 tbsp melted butter
1 beaten egg

*spicy, sweet, seasoned or not, depending on your taste.

Cut the bread into 1" or 1/2" cubes, depending on how you like your stuffing. Spread out evenly on cookie sheets and toast at 250 F until dry.

Saute the chopped leeks and celery in a cast iron pan with some olive oil until soft. Add the mushrooms, apples, sage, salt & pepper and cook until the apples are tender.

Transfer the leek-apple mixture to a very large bowl. By this time, your bread should be done. Take it out and set it aside. In the same cast iron pan, saute the pork and thyme. When the meat is nicely browned, transfer to the bowl with the leek-apple mixture. Melt 4 tbsp butter in the pan you've just taken the meat out of; add the melted butter to the meat-veggie mixture. Stir in the stock. And then, when the mixture has reached room temperature, add in the beaten egg.

Carefully stir the toasted bread cubes into the meat-veggie mixture a little bit at a time to fully coat the bread with the mixture. Stir together until everything is incorporated. Pack the stuffing into a casserole dish, cover, and bake at 350 F for 30-40 minutes. Uncover the stuffing for the last 5 minutes and turn up the heat to 400 F to brown the top. You can also prepare the stuffing the night before and pop it into the oven the next day before dinner.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Drunken Kabocha

On the way up to the country in the car, we heard an interview with  Hiroko Shimbo, author of a new book Hiroko's American Kitchen and she was talking about using kabocha squash for pie instead of pumpkin. Her description of the nutty flavor and buttery texture of the squash was intriguing, and I figured it was something I was definitely going to have to try. We stopped at a grocery store close to our destination, and what do you know--there was a big pile of kabocha squash. So I tried it out. I don't yet have her book, so I had to look for some other model recipes and found one from the New York Times that I had most of the ingredients for on hand.

It was a great alternative to pumpkin pie this season and I would definitely make it again. I'm looking forward to experimenting more with kabocha--ginger kabocha soup is on deck, and next week I'd like to try a red curry stir fry with the squash.

Drunken Kabocha Pie

2 cups of pureed kabocha squash
8 ounces softened cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons good quality whiskey
2 eggs at room temperature
1/4 cup cream
(your favorite pie crust for the bottom. We use the crust from Four & Twenty Blackbirds)

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, and then pre-bake your crust at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. When the pie crust is done, add the squash mixture and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve with fresh whipped cream. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Everybody's making fun of all the pumpkin-flavored things that people load up on this time of year: pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin scones, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin-Pringles, pumpkin pasta, pumpkin salsa, pumpkin-flavord martini, and even pumpkin pie margarita....but I really do enjoy pumpkin season.

It seemed pretty obvious to me that our Sunday pancake routine could use a dash of pumpkin, so I found this recipe on the blog "i am baker." I adapted it with my sourdough starter and the addition of more spices and pecans. You can do a lot of adjusting with this recipe. If you like thinner, creamier pancakes, use a lot more liquid (milk, sourdough, buttermilk, water); if you like them cakier, follow this recipe strictly.

Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes

1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
(any other spices you like: cardamom, ginger, allspice)
1 beaten egg
1 1/2 cup milk (or sourdough or buttermilk)
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
(chopped pecans to sprinkle on top)

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In a separate bow, mix together the wet ingredients. Add the dry to the wet, and blend until incorporated. If the batter is too thick, you can add warm water or more milk.

Drop pancakes by the heaping tablespoon, depending on how big you like your pancakes, onto a very hot griddle with oil and/or butter. Sprinkle pecans on the uncooked side. Cook until just a few air holes appear on the top of the pancakes or the sides become shiny, and then flip.

Serve with maple syrup, local bacon, and hot coffee.