alice’s stuffing

IMG_6204I love holiday recipes that have a life of their own brimming with history, insight and love. This cherished Thanksgiving recipe was shared by one of my dear friends, Annie-Laurie.

Annie-Laurie married into an Irish family of five, with her husband being the baby and the only boy. From day one, the family scooped her up into their holiday traditions and high-spirited meals. I’ve heard her recount many years of endearing holiday stories…turkey cook-offs, taking turns around the table saying what each person is thankful for, piano playing and singing and a bevy of games from Catch Phrase to Pictionary.

Annie-Laurie’s first Thanksgiving with her husband’s family was 25 years ago. Both of her in-laws have passed on but imprinted onto their family treasured customs that the family shares in, especially during this time of year.

This is Annie-Laurie’s favorite recipe from her mother-in-law, Alice. In reminiscing about Thanksgiving with Alice, she said, “Alice made everything from scratch and she did it so well. The whole meal was ready at the same time. She would always want us to take our time and enjoy it because it took an entire day to prepare. My sister-in-law, Beth, has followed in her footsteps and makes the Thanksgiving meal a treat. Next week we will have Alice’s stuffing and I will savor every mouthful.”

Counterclockwise: Alice's recipe in her own writing. she and husband Jack in the early years. Sitting down to Thanksgiving in the early 80s

Clockwise: Alice’s recipe in her own writing. She and husband Jack in their early years. Sitting down to Thanksgiving in the early 80s.

Recipes aren’t just instructions on a page; they connect families and friends to the past the present and the future. A special recipe holds purpose and love and the ability to tell a family’s story from generation to generation. The love of those we miss comes alive with each ingredient we add and with each bite we take. Ask your friends about their favorite family recipes and you will be sure to not only get a delicious new dish to make but insight into the love of family that connects us all.

Alice’s Stuffing is meant to cook inside the turkey. See below for a second version that omits a few ingredients and cooks outside of the bird.

Fresh, cubed bread, ready to be mixed with fresh ingredients

Fresh, cubed bread, ready to be mixed with celery, onions and herbs

Ingredients
1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups diced celery
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp pepper
16 cups lightly packed fresh bread cubes
3 eggs lightly beaten

Fresh, wholesome food

A simple recipe using the freshest ingredients

Directions (about 40 minutes before adding to the turkey)
In a large saucepan over medium heat, in hot butter or margarine, cook celery and onions until tender, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add parsley, salt, poultry seasoning and pepper; mix well. Stir in bread cubes and eggs and mix well. Makes enough stuffing for one 8 to 11 pound turkey.

Use a pretty casserole dish for stuffing that bakes outside of the turkey

Use a pretty casserole dish for stuffing that bakes outside of the turkey

Crumbly Bread Stuffing
For stuffing cooked outside of the turkey, prepare as above but use only 3/4 cup butter and omit the eggs. Cook in a lightly buttered casserole dish on 350 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes.

 

pistachio torte

IMG_5898
This year in particular, it seemed like “pumpkin fever” took hold before I could finish licking the Labor Day barbecue sauce off my fingers. If an item wasn’t pumpkin flavored, it was pumpkin infused, laced or scented from bagels to pudding to chocolate and beer.

If you happen to be on pumpkin overload and want an alternative for your Thanksgiving dessert table, try the Torta Di Pistacchio. This particular recipe is from a cooking class at one of our favorite Italian restaurants, Canaletto Ristorante Veneto. And by “cooking class,” I mean that we sat at a beautifully set table and watched two talented and highly entertaining chefs whip up three delicious courses. Our job was to drink wine, converse and eat. The chefs always finish the meal with a dessert and an appertif sized-glass of homemade limoncello, an Italian liquer.

Limoncello pairs perfectly with the torte to finish off your meal

Limoncello pairs perfectly with the torte to finish off your meal

This Thanksgiving, if you want to forego the traditional, serve this beautiful torte with chilled Limoncello to cap off your holiday.

Ingredients (sponge cake)
7 whole eggs
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 ounces cornstarch
1/4 Tb baking powder
1/4 Tb vanilla extract

The torte displays beautifully on any table

The torte displays beautifully on any table

Ingredients (filling and topping)
3/4 cup pistachios, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup Mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate, grated finely (I used a zester)

The rich creamy filling softens the cake layers

The rich creamy filling softens the cake layers

Bagna mixture (to wet the sponge cake before frosting)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. Triple Sec
Fresh mint, if desired.

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine eggs, vanilla extract, and sugar until the mixture becomes fluffly and rises to almost double. Mix the flour, baking powder and cornstarch together in a separate bowl.

Very slowly, incorporate the flour mixture into the fluffy egg mixture until well mixed. Pour batter into a springform pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes. *The sponge cake will rise into a fluffy dome but will settle down once it cools.

Assembling the cake
Cut the sponge cake into three even layers. I used a perforated bread knife and it worked fine. Don’t worry if your layers aren’t perfect – that’s why we have filling/frosting.

Combine the water, sugar and triple sec in a glass bowl to make the Bagna. Wet the sponge cake layers with the Bagna using a pastry brush. Be sure to cover the entire surface of each layer.

Mix the heavy cream, Mascarpone cheese and sugar in a blender until firm. Gently blend in the grated chocolate until mixed. Spread the cream in equal parts on the three layers, one on top of the other and save some for the top. Finish the top of the sponge cake with the creme, pistachios and chocolate shavings. Add mint for aesthetics if desired.

Top the torte with pistachios and chocolate zest and embellish the sides with fresh mint

Top the torte with pistachios and chocolate zest and embellish the sides with fresh mint

Serves 8-10

Buon Appetito

Compliments of Chef Moises Mendoza and Antonio Guarracino

Canaletto Restaurant, Fashion Island Newport Beach, California

And if you’re curious, check out this list of best and worst pumpkin items this holiday season.

soppressata and cheese in puff pastry

Soppressata Lead PictureIt’s the day before Thanksgiving which, in my house, means we are probably ordering Chinese take-out or indulging in Mexican food. If you have a house full of guests, you might have the same idea. Or, you may want to serve something quick and easy, curl up in front of the fireplace and have a movie night.

I’ve made this dish several times and it’s always delicious. Cut the pieces smaller and you have an appetizer. Cut the pieces a little bigger and you have a main course. Serve with a side of tomato bisque and create the perfect comfort meal.

Ingredients
1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farm, defrosted
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
12 thin (not paper thin) slices soppressata salami (3 1/2 inches in diameter)
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Soppreseta collage

Directions
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan.

Lay one sheet of puff pastry on a floured board and lightly roll into a 10-inch square. Place it on the sheet pan and brush the pastry with all the mustard, leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange the soppressata in overlapping layers on the mustard and sprinkle the grated cheese evenly on the soppressata, also avoiding the border. Brush the border with the egg wash.

Lightly roll the second piece of puff pastry into a 10-inch square. Lay the pastry directly on top of the first square, lining up the edges. Brush the top with the egg wash, cut three large slits for steam to escape, and chill for 15 minutes.

When the pastry is cold, trim the edges with a very sharp knife to make a clean edge. Bake the pastry in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, turning once while baking, until puffed and brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes, cut in squares, and serve hot or warm.

Serves 8 for cocktails or serves 6 for main course

WOW4

Recipe from 2010, Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?