Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sausage and Dried Cranberry Cornbread Dressing

This is one of those posts where I don't have many pictures due simply to forgetting to take pictures. I'm going to apologize for the pictures I do have. They aren't great. You'd think after all those classes in photography that my pictures would be better. Sometimes, they're not so bad, and sometimes, well, they're just really bad. You must understand though, that I spent most of my time in the darkroom. That was the part I loved most. But, I digress. Let's get on to the dressing, shall we?
In the southeast we do a traditional cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving. The base of it is just that, cornbread. Sometimes turkey is added, sometimes not. I've tasted some that was dry as dirt, and others that tended to the soupy, sloppy side, if you know what I mean.
I may have my Southern Girl Status revoked for what I am about to say, but hear me out first. I was never impressed with most dressings. There I said it. Oh, dear. I can hear them coming for me now. I liked my grandmother's dressing, but I didn't dream about it. What? You don't have daydreams of food? Well, maybe this dressing might help remedy that sad situation. Food should be dreamt about. Trust me.
It was one year that I didn't make it home for the holiday that I embarked upon my very first dressing date. Oh, yes. I made a date out of it. I scoured magazines, cookbooks, web sites, and polled many, many people on what made dressing important to them. You see, after years of hearing people fawn over their favorite dressings, I knew there had to be more for me. So, after much research, and probably a glass of wine or two, I spent an entire day working on a dressing modge podged together from what elements I liked from all the research. This is what I've come up with. Since concocting what is my favorite dressing, I've found others similar out there on the web. That's awesome! I'm not the only one that likes this variation. So, take a look. If you like what you see, give it a go. But, you know your taste buds best, deviate and have fun. But most of all, make it yours, your favorite.

Ingredients
1 9x13 pan of baked cornbread
1lb of sage ground sausage
1 medium yellow onion diced
1 cup celery diced
1 Granny Smith apple cored and chopped
1 liberal cup of dried cranberries, I really wanted to make a political joke in there, but it was lame.
roughly 1 pint of chicken stock, I tend to use more because we like a moist dressing. Between 2-3 cups is fine.
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375. Saute sausage in a large, heavy skillet till brown. Remove sausage to a large bowl with crumbled cornbread.
2. Melt the butter using the same skillet; add onions, celery, and apple to butter and saute till tender.
3. Toss sauteed veggies into the large bowl with the sausage. Add the dried cranberries, salt, and pepper. You can also add more rubbed sage if you're really fond of it.

4. Add the eggs and chicken stock bit by bit mixing all ingredients together. Don't add too much and make the mixture mushy. As my grandmother always said, "You can always add more, but you can't take it out."
5. Pour dressing into a lightly greased 9x13 casserole dish. I tend to make more dressing than this dish holds and have to add the remaining dressing into an additional dish. I told you I really like this dressing.
6. Place dressing in oven uncovered for 20-30 minutes. Keep an eye on your baby. If the top looks like it's getting too dark, cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Think I left something out? Don't like what I put in? Change it! Make this dish distinctly yours. And, then have sweet dreams of you and your new crush.
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sweet Potato Bread Pudding, Oh My

I'm from the south and we are most fond of our sweet potatoes. There's sweet potato fries, mashed sweet potatoes, sweet potato pie, sweet potato casserole, and sweet potato souffle just to name a few of our favorites. Then there's bread pudding, another traditional Southern staple. You can imagine my excitement when I ran across a recipe for sweet potato bread pudding several years back. I can't be sure, but I believe there was jubilant dancing.
And, while I would like to give credit for this most yummy of yummy recipes, I can't. Unfortunately I'm not completely sure where I came across this one. If memory serves me correctly, and that's a rare thing on some days, I believe it came from the Loveless Cafe from Nasvhille, Tennessee. Again, I'm not sure. All I have is a recipe written down on a bar napkin.
This bread pudding is everything you would think it to be and more. You get the creamy, rich, custard mixed in with a healthy cup of mashed sweet potato, molasses, and heaping mounds of meringue folded not only into the pudding, but heaped on top as well. The only thing to make this taste any better than a warm serving drizzled with caramel sauce, is having good kitchen help to make it.
Ingredients:
2 loaves of French bread cut into 1/4 inch segments. For this batch I made two loaves using my old fashioned white recipe but only used 1 1/2 loaves.
Custard:
8 egg yolks
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup roasted and mashed sweet potato
2 cups heavy cream
1/8 cup molasses
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
bourbon, optional
Meringue:
8 egg whites
1 cup granulated white sugar

Step 1. Cream egg yolks and sugar.

Step 2. Mix in remaining custard ingredients. Layer bread into a well greased, read buttered, oven safe dish and saturate with the custard. In the past I have soaked the bread in bourbon before transferring to the baking dish and saturating with the custard. It's fabulous either way.

Step 3. Remind your brood it must be baked before consumption. Proceed to bake for 25 minutes at 325.

Step 4. While baking mix together the 8 egg whites with the cup of granulated white sugar till stiff peaks are formed.

Step 5. After the pudding has baked for 25 minutes gently fold the meringue into the bread pudding and mound on top. Return to oven and bake an additional 25 minutes at 325.

It's best to let this cool a few minutes once out of the oven, if for no other reason than not to scald the roof of your mouth. Serve with whipped cream, caramel sauce, or ice cream. Or, if you're feeling especially sassy, all three.

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