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.

Sausage Stuffing

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When I started following food blogs, I realized some authors had initiated them for the purpose of cataloging family recipes. Therefore the blog was their family cookbook essentially.

I didn’t think much of that concept, because I really didn’t have family recipes. My recipes were those I followed after I got married, when I began cooking seriously, based on saved recipes, those from cookbooks, or these days, online recipes as well.

Every day or two that I cooked, I made a new recipe. Thus my motto – so much food, too little time! There was always something to learn from a recipe, whether a technique or new ingredient.

And then there were holidays, like Thanksgiving. Of course I always made a turkey, but I never made it the same way, which also led to various-tasting gravies. But the side dishes were always different. When my daughters were really young they didn’t take part in the leisurely Thanksgiving meal, so it was an opportunity make new festive dishes – sometimes embracing our favorite global cuisines!

But when my daughters got older, they had Thanksgiving requests. Fine with me, but then I had to figure out what they were requesting. Like their request recently for sausage stuffing. No clue. What kind of sausage? What else is in it? No memory. Was it cornbread? Sourdough? Not sure.

Well great. Now I’m wishing that I’d documented this mysterious Italian sausage stuffing for my own purpose! So this recipe is one I’m (maybe) recreating so that next year I can remember it! I’m pretty sure it’s French-bread-based, and I remember using cognac and cream in the stuffing, inspired by a French recipe ages ago.

And the reason I didn’t post it before Thanksgiving is that I don’t only cook turkeys in November. This stuffing doesn’t have to be stuffed in a bird, either. It makes makes a nice side dish, prepared in a baking dish.

Italian Sausage Stuffing
Serves 4

1 baguette
2 tablespoons butter
16 ounces Italian sausage, crumbled
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup of cream, or more
1 tablespoon cognac
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

If you’re baking the stuffing in a baking dish, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease an 8 x 8” baking dish; set aside.

Remove the crusts from the baguette and crumble the bread. Measure 2 cups; set aside.

Heat the butter in a large skillet. Cook the sausage over medium heat until no pink shows. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a bowl.

Using the remaining fat, saute the onion for about 5 minutes, now allowing too much caramelization. Stir in the garlic, and place the sautéed vegetables with the sausage.

Stir the bread crumbles into the sausage mixture gently, then pour the cream and cognac over the top. Stir again gently, and check to see if the stuffing is moist. You don’t want it wet, but it also shouldn’t be dry.

Add the remaining ingredients. Spoon the stuffing into the baking dish and bake, uncovered, for approximately 30 minutes.

The top should be golden brown.

If you prefer, any kind of bread – corn bread or whole-grain variety – can be substituted for the French bread, and I’ve even used raisin bread in stuffings.

Plus, pecans and dried cranberries can be included as well.

And as I mentioned, you don’t only have to make stuffing on turkey day. Here I’ve served it with a turkey cutlet, but it’s just as delicious with chicken.

The stuffing is moist but not mushy, which is to my liking.

Spaghetti Squash

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There’s a special place in my heart for spaghetti squash. I love all squashes, and my locally available winter squashes like butternut and acorn are great for stuffing or for soups. But spaghetti squash can be used like noodles! After cooking the squash, you use a fork to scrape out the strands of spaghetti, except they’re actually squash strands.

Now I have nothing against pasta, but of course a vegetable, even a starchy squash, will always be healthier, especially over traditional white pasta. Plus the texture is fun and different. It’s just an option. And you don’t need a spiralizer!

There are many ways to cook a spaghetti squash, but I’ll show you the one I now stick with because it’s foolproof.
IMG_4511

And I mostly love it served spaghetti and meatball style!

spagh

Baked Spaghetti Squash

1 large spaghetti squash
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a cleaver, cut the squash lengthwise in half. (My halves aren’t perfectly matched, but I am always concerned for my fingers when I’m wielding a cleaver!)

Remove all of the seeds from inside the squashes. Then place cut-side up in a baking pan. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

squash1

Cover with foil, and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. If you want the squash to brown a little, remove the foil from the pan and continue baking for about 15 minutes.

Let the squash cool, then scrape at the squash halves with a fork to free up the lovely spaghetti strands. That’s it!

Try spaghetti squash as you would spaghetti, or with a Puttanesca, or underneath grilled chicken and peppers.

IMG_4530

Or you can stuff the squash halves!

I prefer spaghetti squash used as noodles. You can stuff other squashes!