Making your holidays special


Nov 2016

Spicy Pork Sausage and Chestnut Dressing for Thanksgiving

Posted by / in Holidays, Recipes, WCSH6 /

I know these are fighting words, (my mother always argues with me about this topic) but I don’t ever stuff my bird. Stuffing insulates the turkey, thereby slowing down its cooking. It also almost guarantees that the turkey will be cooked unevenly. To eliminate this headache and to have the most control over the temperature of my turkey and my savory treat, I cook the bird separately and the stuffing separately. When you cook the stuffing outside the bird, in a shallow casserole pan, it is called “dressing”.

This Italian American recipe is one of my Thanksgiving favorites. It is adapted from the recipe of Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis who received the ingredient list and method from her Aunt Raffy. I love the flavors of the original dish, but I made several changes. Giada uses only cornbread. I prefer a mixture of challah bread and cornbread. The texture is softer and more luscious with the addition of egg bread. Giada likes turkey sausage. I find it too dry so I substituted fatty pork sausage. I’ve also adjusted the seasonings and added organic pine nuts which I crave. This recipe is greatly enhanced if you use your own homemade stock rather than canned broth. Of course, stuffing recipes are easily adaptable and, you may add or omit most things in this recipe to suit your needs and preferences.

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    Apr 2016

    Intensely Chocolate Flourless Cake for Passover

    Posted by / in Holidays, Into the Fire Blog, Recipes, WCSH6 /

    My sister-in-law, Joanne, recently posted on my Facebook page that she would rather “pass over” the Passover meal  and head straight for my chocolate dessert.  It’s true that the Seder can be a long, drawn out affair, and particularly lengthy if the leader of the Seder insists on having everyone at the table take turns reading from the Haggadah in English and, when possible, in Hebrew. When I was a child, we used to drink a good amount of Manischewitz, lean to the left, wash our hands, and dip our karpas into salty water, but my father was one of the most considerate conductors of this ritual and, like Moses, he knew how to keep things moving and get us to the promised land: my mother’s feast.

    I loved this dinner and, no wonder! My mother made everything from scratch, including the richest chicken stock for her matzo ball soup. She bought fresh ground carp and pike and whitefish for her delicate gefilte fish ovals and served the cold first course with a side of horseradish dressing. She grated the horseradish by hand and I witnessed firsthand the tears that flowed. The piece de la resistance, though, was her dessert: a sponge-like chocolate flourless cake, filled with whipped cream, powdered with cocoa and drizzled with  homemade hot fudge sauce.  Oh, what a sweet memory… It takes a lot of time to prepare this old fashioned feast and, today, most people are looking for delicious and reliable shortcuts. Fortunately, I know a great one for dessert. This intense chocolate cake takes very little time to prepare, does not need a frosting and, because it is flourless, is perfect for Passover. You can serve a small slice of this cake with a dollop of whipped cream and a side of fresh raspberries and everyone will think you slaved (pardon the expression) over it!

    Here are a few tips to keep in mind when making and serving this cake:

    1. Use a reliable 9×2 cake pan. I love my pan by “Doughmakers.” Make sure you prep the pan according to the recipe directions and allow the cake to cool completely in the pan before flipping it over on your baking rack. Then ease the cake carefully onto your cake plate. 

    2. This cake should bake for 40 minutes  at 300 degrees. You want the cake to be moist in the center. To be sure, insert your toothpick into the center and if it does not come out perfectly clean, be happy.  This is a good sign. 

    3. It’s especially wonderful if you make it in the morning and serve it at room temperature later in the day. Don’t forget to sprinkle it with sifted confectioners sugar just before you bring it to the table.

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      Dec 2015

      Brisket for Hanukkah

      Posted by / in Holidays, Into the Fire Blog, WCSH6 /

      I cannot think of the word “brisket” without thinking of my mother. She made brisket for shiva calls, for mahjong, for Hanukkah. She considered it the perfect comfort food for a crowd. Although brisket can be very fatty, my mother’s go to meal was not. Like so many of her Jewish friends, mother’s “first cut” was Kosher and so well trimmed, the red meat was often unprotected. In spite of this sin, somehow Mother’s brisket was fairly tender, though a little dry. It was bathed in a sweet mixture of light beer and ketchup, surrounded by carrots and steamed potatoes. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t great and I never requested mother’s brisket for my birthday. In fact, until recently, I did not want braised oven roasted brisket for any occasion. But WCSH6 reminded me that Hanukkah would soon be here and wouldn’t I like to prepare something traditional for our viewing audience?! Last year, it was latkes, so this year, I decided it was time to tackle brisket.

      Brisket comes from the muscular forequarters of the cow. It should be cooked slowly and although some of the fat should be cut away, a nice thin layer of fat must remain in order for the meat to melt in your mouth and taste rich. If you like your brisket super lean, the way my glamorous mother does, it’s going to be tasteless. Brisket can be purchased whole (10-18 pounds). It can also be purchased as the first cut or leaner flat cut (Most supermarkets carry the flat cut.). The second cut of brisket is significantly fattier and includes the deckle point. This second cut is the favorite of many chefs today. Rosemont Market and Bakery in Portland, Maine carries the whole brisket straight from local Maine farms and can give you either cut and tailor to your taste. I chose the first cut for this recipe because it is easier to find and because, as long as it’s not trimmed to death, it will cook beautifully, and be greatly enriched by the other ingredients in this recipe.

      If at all possible, do make homemade beef or dark chicken stock for this dish. It makes a world of difference. And it’s a very good idea to prepare this a day or two in advance. All pot roasts benefit from a day of rest. Although you want to cook with some fat, once the meat is tender, you need to make sure the sauce is not greasy. The best way to remove fat from a sauce is to carefully skim the top congealed layer with a spoon after the sauce has chilled in the fridge.  This slow cooked, time consuming dish is really rich and luscious and I tip my hat to meat master Bruce Aidells for helping me realize just how good a brisket can be.

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