11 November 2009

The Thanksgiving Table

Diane Morgan's The Thanksgiving Table was published in 2006. It was a straight forward cookbook offering Thanksgiving favorites with relatively easy cooking instructions for the novice, but with enough variety to hook the most jaded Thanksgiving cook.

It was also and attempt to get people to add variety to their family traditions and to make new traditions. Her is my Thanksgiving confession: Every year I look at countless magazines featuring, baked, barbecues, broasted, brined, deep fryed, fresh, free range, Vermont certified turkeys and a million sides and every year I make the EXACT same Thanksgiving dinner that my mother made right down to the frozen Butterball turkey. I cook it in the same covered roaster she cooked every turkey she ever cooked. I am not a great person to suggest changing one's traditions in any way.

There is one change I have been known to make and that is adding sausage to my dressing. This is not my dressing, but if you must, give it a try.

Italian Sausage, Mushroom, and Sage Stuffing

5 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
10 cups unseasoned dry bread cubes (see Cook’s Note)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound mild Italian sausages
1 pound cremini mushrooms, wiped or brushed clean, stems
trimmed, and quartered
1 large yellow onion (about 12 ounces), chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large ribs celery, chopped
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 teaspoon salt Freshly ground pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium
chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Coat a deep, 9-by-13-inch baking pan with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Place the bread cubes in a very large mixing bowl. In 10-inch sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat, and swirl to coat the pan. Cook the sausages until nicely browned on all sides. Remove and let cool. Drain all but 3 tablespoons of the fat. Add the mushrooms to the pan and sauté, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add to the bread in the bowl.

Return the pan to the heat, and add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Swirl to coat the pan, and add the onion, carrots, and celery. Sauté, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the parsley, thyme, sage, salt, and a few grinds of pepper, and sauté 1 minute longer. Add this mixture to the bread cubes, and stir to combine.

Cut the reserved sausages into ¼-inch rounds and add to the stuffing. Add the beaten eggs and stock to the bowl, and mix well. Place the stuffing in the prepared pan and bake, uncovered, until the top is lightly browned and crusty, about 1 hour.

If you have room in your oven, bake the stuffing while the turkey is roasting. Otherwise, bake it beforehand and reheat it once the turkey is out.

Here's to new tradition. Is that an oxymoron?

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