Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gobble Gobble, Happy Thanksgiving!

This year is our first Thanksgiving in warm Texas, and our first Thanksgiving meal without turkey. Two years ago, Michele's dad roasted a Turkey with amazing sausage stuffing, and baked a raspberry jam cake. Last year in Chicago, we had some friends over and made spinach stuffed Turducken, baked pasta and chocolate pumpkin muffins.

This year, although no turkey, we had an amazing meal nonetheless. Consider this Thanksgiving as our ode to Emeril Lagasse, as Michele made a Baked Acorn Squash with Italian Sausage and Rigatoni, and a Roasted Cornish Hen Stuffed with Oysters, both recipes inspired by Emeril. What's Thanksgiving without a tasty seasonal desert? I was responsible for making a Apple Crostata, a sweet desert I have recently fallen in love with.

Our whole three course meal took close to 4 hours to make, and I snacked on several amaretto cookies ( baked by Hsinmei). The pasta sauce was perfectly savory, a tomato base with strong hints of fennel and spices from the Italian sausage.

While enjoying our feast, I started to think about what thanksgiving really is about, other than a good excuse to pig out...

So, we give thanks to all those who supported us throughout the year, and give thanks to everyone near and dear to us. We give thanks to having a healthy, happy life; and a happy belly of poultry, pasta, and mele crostata....

Baked Acorn Squash with Italian Sausage and Rigatoni
4 medium acorn squash, halved and cleaned
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound rigatoni pasta, cooked until tender, tossed in olive oil and cooled
1/2 pound mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Season the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet, flesh side up and add 1/2 cup water to the pan. Cover with alluminum foil and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
Incorporate the ragu ( see below) with the rigatoni. Spoon the pasta mixture into the cavity of each squash. Sprinkle with mozzarela on top. Place the filled squashes on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake until the squash is heated through and the cheese melts, about 20 minutes.
Place the filled squash in the center of each plate. Garnish with parsley and serve.
For the Ragu:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 pound italian sausage, broken into pieces
4 cups of tomato sauce
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 1/2 cups chopped, peeled tomatoes with juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chicken stock
Black pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet and saute onions, garlic, salt, and white pepper 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and basil; cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add sausages, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in stock, tomato sauce, remaining ingredients; cook for an hour and half

Roasted Cornish Hen stuffed with Oyster Dressing
1 pint shucked oysters and their liquor
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
2 cups (1-inch cubes) French bread or homemade-style white bread
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
4 Cornish hens
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Drain the oysters, reserving the oyster liquor. Set aside.
Heat the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, the cayenne pepper, and saute, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the bay leaf, garlic and basil, and saute for 1 minute. Add the stock and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the green onions, oyster liquor and the bread cubes. Stir to mix well, and remove from the heat.
In a large mixing bowl combine the bread and vegetable mixture with the oysters and cheese. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix thoroughly. Set the stuffing aside as you prepare the hens. Season each hen, both inside and out, with1/4 teaspoon salt. Place 3/4 cup of the stuffing into the cavity of each bird and use toothpicks and twine to tie the hens so that the cavity is shut and the legs are tucked in. Twist the wing tips behind the backs of the hens and place in a large casserole dish.
Drizzle each bird with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and place in the oven to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the cavity of the hens registers 165 degrees F, about 1 hour. Remove the hens from the oven and serve immediately!

Apple Crostata

For the pastry:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 pound (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
1 1/2 pounds McIntosh, Macoun, or Empire apples (3 large)
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough becomes a solid mass. Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Flour a rolling pin and roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet.
For the filling, peel, core, and cut the apples into 8ths. Cut each wedge into 3 chunks. Toss the chunks with the orange zest. Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.
Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Gently fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle.
Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature, a la mode with vanilla ice cream.

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