Sourdough Stuffing with Ham and Pears

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I have saved this recipe for years, from back when I’d photocopy recipes from library cookbooks. So unfortunately I can’t offer up the recipe creator or cookbook source.

For me, this was a perfect recipe to learn early on in my cooking “career” that stuffings or dressings can be quite varied. They don’t have to be big blobs of wet bread, or dry dressings made from purchased stale cubes of bread.

The sourdough bread base is one difference with this stuffing, but the highlights are the bacon, ham and pears. The pears add subtle flavor but mostly moistness to the stuffing.

This could be served as a lovely side to a pork tenderloin, but certainly at Thanksgiving time. If you want it more festive, you can add dried cranberries and walnuts.

Sourdough  Stuffing  with  Ham  and  Pears

1 – 1 pound loaf sourdough bread, trimmed, cut into 1” pieces, approximately 12 ounces after trimming
2 ounces butter
3 ounces double smoked bacon, cut into 1/4” pieces
3 shallots, finely chopped
1/2 large celery bunch, with leaves, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3/4 pound smoked ham, cut into 1/2” pieces
2 large pears, cored, cut into 1/2” pieces
1/4 cup minced parsley
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons white wine
Salt
Pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 and gently toast the bread cubes on a large baking sheet, turning them over as necessary. It should take about 20-25 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350. Set aside to cool.

Melt the butter, then cook the double-smoked bacon for a minute. Add the shallot, celery, garlic, and thyme and sauté for about 15 minutes, or until everything is fairly soft.

At this point, you could add some Cognac or Armagnac or Calvados and flambé the mixture, but I didn’t this time.

Add the ham and cook with the bacon and vegetables for a few minutes, then add the pears and parsley.

Combine this mixture with the bread cubes in a large bowl, and pour the broth and wine over the stuffing.

Toss gently, occasionally, for about 30 minutes for the bread to absorb the liquid; taste for seasoning.

Bake the stuffing in a greased 9 x 13” baking dish, covered with foil, for one hour. I only baked half of the stuffing, and used a 9″ square baking dish.

The other half I stuffed in a chicken and roasted.

If you wish for more browning, remove the foil for the last 5-10 minutes.

The whole amount of stuffing is a perfect volume for a 15 pound turkey.

I sliced the roast chicken and served with the stuffing and some tomato jam.

Sourdough Country Bread

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When I first read Martha Rose Shulman’s book Supper Club chez Martha Rose, published in 1988, my life changed. Why? Because of what she did with bread. I’m not referring to the crazily intense scientific approach to bread baking, I’m talking about her creativity. She added stuff to bread doughs. And I mean just about everything.

On this blog I’ve shared an olive bread, above, that was inspired by a recipe in her cookbook, but the book taught me to add just about anything to bread. This kind of creativity came in handy during my years as a private cook and caterer. Olive bread isn’t that unique these days, but it was in 1988.

Because of Ms. Schulman, I’ve made breads with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, chili powder, nuts, seeds, grated zucchini, nuts and dried fruits, cooked or raw grains, paprika creme, onions, and cheese… you name it.

But the recipe I want to share from this cookbook today is a rustic sourdough country bread. It’s crusty, chewy, and has the flavor that’s undeniably sourdough.

If you want to get on the scientific sourdough bandwagon with an expert, hop over to Elaine’s blog, called Foodbod Sourdough. I love Elaine because she began innocently enough, with a starter and curiosity and passion, but quickly evolved. Her recipes and techniques are specific, and she now has a book!

But this Martha Schulman recipe shows how sourdough can be created in a matter of days, without a starter. And it’s magnificent! (And no feeding.)

Sourdough Country Bread

for the starter

The First Day
1/3 cup water
1 cup flour, whole-wheat or unbleached white

Mix together the water and flour and knead into a smooth ball on a floured work surface. The dough should be soft and sticky. Flour your hands so you can work with it. Return it to the bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let sit at room temperature for 72 hours. The dough will form a crust on the top and turn a grayish color, which is normal. If you keep wetting the towel it will reduce the drying. The dough will rise slightly and take on an acidic aroma.

After 72 hours
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 cups flour, whole-wheat or unbleached white

Add the water to the starter and blend together. If the crust on the top is like cardboard, you will have to peel it off and discard it. Try blending it before you resort to this. Add the flour and stir to blend. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead into a smooth ball.

Return it to the bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let sit in a warm place for 24 to 48 hours. Again, a crust may form on the top. If it is like cardboard, peel it off and discard before proceeding with the recipe.

for the bread

All of the sourdough starter
2 cups lukewarm water plus 1 cup coffee
Scant tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
1 scant tablespoon salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups whole-wheat flour
Cornmeal for the baking sheet

Combine the sourdough starter, the water and coffee, and the yeast. Whisk together until the starter and yeast are thoroughly dissolved. Whisk in the molasses and the salt.

Fold in the flour, 1 cup at a time. By the time you have added 4 cups, you should be able to knead. I usually do this right in the bowl, as the dough is sticky and unwieldy. Using a pastry scraper instead of your hands to fold the dough for kneading will help. Knead for 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary.

Cover the dough and let rise in a warm spot for 1 1/2 hours. Flour your hands and wrists and punch down the dough. Knead for 2 or 3 minutes on a lightly floured surface, using a pastry scraper to make it easier. Remove a cup of the dough and place in a bowl, to use as a started for your next loaf of bread. Cover the starter and refrigerate after a few hours if not using again in a day’s time.

Dust a clean, dry towel with flour and line a bowl or basket. Form the dough into a ball, dust the surface with flour, and place, rounded side down, in the towel-lined bowl or basket (banneton). Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm spot for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until almost doubled in bulk. You can also let the dough rise in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. (I made two smaller breads.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place an empty pan on the bottom shelf of the oven. When the oven is heated, pour 2 cups of water into the pan; the steam will help give the bread a thick, hard crust. Turn the dough out onto an un-oiled baking sheet or baking stone dusted with cornmeal, peel off the towel, and slash the dough with a sharp knife or razor. Place it in the oven and bake 45 minutes, until brown and it responds to tapping with a hollow thumping sound. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

I don’t do the slashing cause I’m not good at it. But the first thing I do is slather butter on the hot bread. I’m good at that.

And then, you have the starter in your kitchen or fridge, depending how often you bake bread. A bonus!

The lesson here, is that you can make a slurry/dough with just water and flour, let it sit for a few days, then use it to create a bread. Then you magically have a sour dough!

I usually make the first bread, then use all of the starter for a second bread. I just don’t want that much bread around! But the “souring” process of starting with just flour and water still excites me.

Monte Cristo Crêpes

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A Monte Cristo sandwich is a ham and cheese sandwich with a layer of strawberry jam, that is then egg-dipped and pan-fried in butter. The sweet and savory flavors, along with the melty cheese and crispy bread are heavenly.

I’ve only had a Monte Cristo once, but I remember it well. My stepfather had come to Santa Barbara, California, where I was attending college, and he took me to lunch at a well known Mexican restaurant downtown called El Paseo, which was housed in a popular fiesta venue known for its retractable ceiling. I found this photo on Pinterest!

How I came to choose the Monte Cristo sandwich that day is beyond me, but I loved the flavor combinations.

The traditional Monte Cristo sandwich recipe is generally the following:
Firm sandwich bread slices
Sliced Swiss cheese
Jambon de Bayonne or other good thinly-sliced ham
Strawberry jam (not preserves) or red currant jelly
Mayo mixed with some whole-grain mustard
Eggs whisked for dipping
Butter for pan frying

The Monte Cristo is always sliced in half before serving, so the beautiful layers show, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. This photo is from Bon Appetit, although it doesn’t show the layers.

Thanks to general pandemic googling, I came across Monte Cristo Crêpes from Serious Eats, by Morgan Eisenberg, WOW! I was so excited to make these. From the recipe’s creator, whose blog is Host the Toast: “It’s a masterpiece of the sweet-and-savory genre, and it turns out it’s just as good in crepe form.”

Monte Cristo Crêpes
adapted by Morgan Eisenberg

1/2 cup strawberry jam (not preserves)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
6 basic crêpes, unsweetened
6 slices Havarti cheese
Grated Gruyere, about 6 ounces
12 thin slices deli ham*
1/3 milk
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Confectioners’ sugar, to dust
Assorted berries, for garnish (optional)

In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk together jelly and mustard. Spread a thin, even layer of the jelly mixture over each of 6 crêpes. Warm first if necessary.

Top each crêpe with 1 slice of each cheese and then layer the ham on top of the cheese.

Sprinkle some grated Gruyere around the outside of each crêpe to help everything to hold together – about 1 ounce each. I used my microwave on a very low setting to just get the cheese warm and slightly melted in order to hold the crêpes together before continuing with the recipe.

Roll the crepe up tightly and and set seam-side down. Press gently. Repeat for remaining crepes.

In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, egg yolk and salt. Have a non-stick skillet over medium heat, starting with about 2 tablespoons of butter melting. Using your fingers, briefly dip a crêpe into the egg mixture. Allow excess to drip off and transfer to the skillet, seam-side down.

Fry crepes until golden all over, turning once. Everything is already cooked, so you’re just looking for some nice browning.

Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining crepes, frying one or two at a time and adding butter as needed.

Serve any remaining jam-Dijon mixture.

Dust crepes with powdered sugar, if desired.

Serve warm with berries. See the beautiful layers?

I might have made these extra cheesy, because the cheese “juice” as my husband calls it, just poured out of these!

But so did the cheese, which was lovely.

I have a lot of experience with crêpes, but with all of the ooziness, I didn’t think they looked very pretty free-form. I might make these again more in casserole form, even though I detest that word! I also think larger diameter crepes would have been easier to manage.

*Since I used Serrano ham, which is similar to prosciutto, I only used 6 slices total.