Buckle in, kiddies, it's gonna be a long one!
This Thanksgiving the husband and I ate at his mother's house. Now, I have nothing against the woman personally, but it has to be said that she can't cook meat. Side dishes, veggies, cold items, all good. But I can't tell you how many classic meat dishes - meatloaf, pork chops, pot roast - my husband hated when we first began dating because he thought that they were "too dry." So yeah, the bird was dry, but otherwise we had a good time and plenty of good food. We were also sent home with a huge bag full of dry, flaky turkey.
Next weekend the two co-authors of this blog, moi and the fabulous Dez, are getting together for an event we have dubbed "The Turduckening." Neither Dez nor I have ever tried turducken, and we are very eager to. As I will be leaving for St. Kitts to begin vet school soon, this seemed like a good time to have a get together with our close friends and say to hell with the expense and just do the damn thing. So Dez is preparing the birds and gravy (side note: this quote from Dez exemplifies why she and I are such good friends. "Hell if I'm NOT making gravy out of the pan drippings of three different poultry."), and I am contributing cranberry sauce and stuffing.
I have never liked cranberry sauce until recently. The reason for this seems to be a running theme in my life; I don't like shit from a can. Spinach, asparagus, whipped cream and now cranberry sauce were all things that I intensely disliked until I had them fresh. My family, on the other hand, has an affinity bordering on adoration for all things over-processed, so I never got to try the foods that I now love until I ventured forth into my own kitchen as an adult. All of that lead up was for this point; homemade cranberry sauce takes canned cranberry sauce, hogties it, whips it like the little bitch it is and then makes your taste buds have a simultaneous, multiple orgasm in your mouth.
You start with 1 lb of cranberries. The recipe I used said 12 oz but I prefer a really thick sauce, so I used 16 oz. Add those along with 1 cup of water and 1 3/4 cups of white sugar to a heavy saucepan. Get that going on low to medium-low heat.
In the meantime, zest and juice one orange and one lemon. Peel and chop an apple (any flavor, I used Braeburn) and toss the apple bits with the juice and zest to prevent browning.
Once your cranberries start bursting their skins, add the apple, juices and zest and simmer over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. Depending on whether you prefer whole berries or more mushy sauce, you can take a slotted spoon and smash the softened berries. You can also add pecans or walnuts after removing it from the heat. OH MY GOD! So deliciously tart and citrus-y! People who continue to eat the canned stuff when this is so easy and so much more tasty are freakin' insane.
After making this delectable sauce and deeming it appropriate to bring to a foodie gathering, I knew immediately what I wanted to do with the leftover dry turkey. So for dinner tonight we are having turkey, havarti, brie and cranberry sandwiches on grilled sourdough, served along with the stuffing recipe below.
1/4 cup butter
1 onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
8-10 cups bread crumbs (I cubed my own and left them on a cookie sheet overnight to get stale)
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp Penzey's "Mural of Flavor"
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
4-6 cups turkey or chicken stock
*You can add apple, dried cranberries, nuts, anything you like to this.
If you don't have Penzey's "Mural of Flavor" substitute 1/2 tsp thyme, 1/4 tsp rosemary and 1/4 tsp dried dill, although I promise this won't even come close to touching "Mural of Flavor". Do yourself a favor and order some. It is fantastic on baked potatoes and fish, as well.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Butter the bottom of a 9x13" casserole dish. Melt butter in a non-stick skillet and sautee your onion and celery. In a large bowl combine breadcrumbs with your herbs and spices, salt and pepper. Add the onions and celery and toss to mix. Add stock 1 cup at a time and mix well after each cup to make sure you don't add too much and end up with stuffing soup. Add the stuffing to the buttered casserole dish and bake for 45-55 minutes.
Here is the finished result of the sandwich and stuffing. And yes, it was absolutely as delicious as it looks.
Since I had some leftover stale bread cubes from the stuffing, I decided to make a bread pudding. I absolutely love bread pudding. Few things can better satisfy that place inside where only warm, gooey, cinnamon-y things on a cold winter day will do.
4-5 cups stale bread cubes (I used half of a loaf of Meijer sliced country white bread)
2 cups milk
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup of unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Preheat oven for 375 degrees. Place bread cubes in a 8x8" baking pan. Toss with the cinnamon and melted butter. Combine dairy, eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt. Pour the custard into the pan over the bread cubes and let soak for 20 minutes. Sprinkle nutmeg over the top. Bake for 30-40 minutes until uniformly puffy.
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp half and half (substitute milk or water)
1 tsp vanilla
Combine and drizzle over warm bread pudding.