Sunday, November 25, 2012

Side Dishes with Proven Holiday Success

First and foremost, I hope all my readers had a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday this past week and were able to indulge in some phenomenal cuisine.  Although there are some staples that are hard to get around when it comes to the classic holiday meal (mashed carrots and turnips, I'm talking about you), I think every holiday table needs to stretch a few culinary boundaries.  Yes, I love a juicy, well roasted (or smoked or deep fried) turkey with all the fixings, but who says those fixings have to be bland and boring.  I'd like to share a few new side dishes I tried for our family dinner(s) this year... hey, who says stuffing is exclusively for Thanksgiving?

Apple Sausage Cornbread Dressing

1 small cortland or honeycrisp apple
1 10oz package of cornbread (preferably 3-4 days old)
1 pound sweet Italian fennel sausage
1 white onion
1 shallot
12 fresh sage leaves
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Break cornbread into 1/2 inch cubed pieces and lay out on a single layer on a cookie sheet
- Toast the cornbread for 15 minutes to remove excess moisture
- Heat a cast iron skillet on the stovetop
- Brown sausage and break into bite sized chunks, remove from skillet and reserve
- Melt butter
- Finely chop the onion and shallot and sweat out in the butter until translucent
- Chop sage, rosemary and thyme and add to the pan
- Dice apple into 1/4 inch pieces and add to to the onion mixture
- Add cinnamon, garlic powder, fennel, celery seed, salt and pepper
- Return sausage to the pan, combine well and remove from the heat
- Gently fold the sausage mixture and the cornbread together in a 9'x12' baking dish
- Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 15 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and crispy

Bacon Mushroom Risotto 

1 pound assorted mushrooms
5 strips of high quality, thickly cut bacon
2 tablespoons truffle oil
1/2 white onion
1 shallot
2 tablespoons herbs de provence
1 tablespoon porcini powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups arborio rice
2 boxes of low sodium chicken stock
3 tablespoons mushroom stock base
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup marscapone cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

- In a nonstick skillet, toast dry rice granules until lightly golden brown
- Remove from heat and reserve
- Slice bacon into 1/4 inch strips and crisp in skillet
- Finely dice onion and shallot and add to the bacon
- Add truffle oil, porcini powder, herbs, garlic powder, salt and pepper
- Roughly chop mushrooms and add them to the skillet, sauté until the mushrooms are soft
- Remove from heat and reserve
- In a small sauce pan, combine chicken stock, mushroom base and wine and bring to a low simmer
- In a large sauce pan, combine rice with 2 ladles of the stock mixture (just enough liquid to cover the rice)
- Allow the rice to absorb the liquid (about 3 minutes) and then add 2 more ladles of the stock mixture, continue this process for approximately 20 - 25 minutes or until the rice is cooked  al dente
- Add marscapone cheese to the rice and combine well to a creamy texture
- Gently fold the mushroom mixture into the rice, adjust salt and pepper to taste

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