I say Stuffing… and you say Dressing

And so the perpetual battle rages on:  Stuffing vs. Dressing.  Which is it?  The customary side dish to the Thanksgiving Turkey really can be either; depending from where you hail.  Most folks from the Northern states call it stuffing.  The Southern states call it dressing.  And those in the Midwest and Western states pretty much just go along with what it was traditionally called down through the generations.  But regardless of where you’re from and whichever you call it, the traditional Turkey Sidekick is almost always a savory recipe prepared with seasoned bread croutons or cornbread and mixed with vegetables such as carrots, onions and celery.  Depending on where you are,  nuts, dried fruits and herbs also make an appearance.

So why call it stuffing or dressing?  Who still stuffs the turkey, anyway?   Is it called dressing if it’s not stuffed inside?  Why do we make a dressing and stuff it inside a turkey, which then becomes a stuffing for the turkey?  Can I make a stuffing without stuffing it into the bird?  Or would that be called dressing?  But didn’t you just ask if the dressing BECOMES the stuffing?   WHY IS THIS SO COMPLICATED? 

Relax, people.  Please.

We call it stuffing (but for those of you who want to think of it as dressing, be our guest) and bake it in a dish to serve with the turkey.  We do not serve anything that’s been stuffed inside a turkey.  Stuffing a turkey  with stuffing/dressing increases the turkey’s cooking time — which might lead to over-cooking the bird (have you ever choked on dry breast meat?) or undercooking the center.  Either way, over-cooked turkey or salmonella-laced stuffing/dressing are two avenues we’d rather avoid this holiday.

Try our cornbread stuffing.  Make the cornbread in a jiffy, using the famous blue and white box!  This heart-warming, food-coma-inducing stuffing recipe is a hands-down winner in our recipe box. The toasty fennel seeds add a spicy sweetness that the tart apple and dried cranberries pick up. Make sure to make extras – there are almost no leftovers from just one dish.

*Be sure to hit the blue links to see the helpful videos we’ve made to guide you through the recipe.  As always,  subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Apple, Fennel Seed and Cornbread Stuffing

Serves 6 to 8

1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon unsalted butter for buttering casserole, + 2 tablespoons to saute
2 yellow onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
6 cups prepared cornbread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries, optional
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup low-sodium chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 small pieces for dotting the casserole

In a small skillet over medium-low heat, toast the fennel seeds until they are warm and fragrant, about three minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter the inside of a 13×9-inch gratin dish with 1 tablespoon butter and set aside.

In a large sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of butter and sauté the onions over medium heat until translucent, about 7 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, celery, apple and fennel seeds and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and set aside to cool.

Toss the vegetable mixture with the cornbread, parsley and cranberries in a large bowl.  Season stuffing with salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning to taste as necessary.  Stir in the eggs.  Add as much stock as needed to moisten the stuffing but not make it soggy (you may not need all of the stock).  Place stuffing in prepared gratin dish and dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter on the top.  Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until warmed through.  Remove foil and continue baking an additional 5 to 10 minutes until top of stuffing is golden brown.

To Make Stuffing Ahead: Bake cornbread 2 days before Thanksgiving.  Assemble stuffing the day before in the baking dish, then wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before baking. To bake, remove stuffing from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.  Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until warm through.  Remove foil and continue baking an additional 5 to 10 minutes until top of stuffing is golden brown.


Creative Additions:
Add one or more of the following

1 cup chopped chestnuts,

1 cup chopped pecans,

½ cup roasted garlic cloves,

2 tablespoons chopped sage,

½ pound mushrooms, sliced and sautéed,

½ pound cooked bulk Italian sausage, crumbled

2 tablespoons brandy

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Crown for Queen Mom

It’s Springtime and here at DearMartini, that can only mean ONE THING:  Lamb is on the menu!!!!  WoooHooooo!  One of our favorite lamb dishes is a crown roast – it’s delicious and dramatic and oh, so satisfying to create and serve to guests.  When served with some freshly shelled English peas or sautéed asparagus, it’s a dish that’s fit for a Queen (or King)!

It’s a great idea for a Mother’s Day dinner — gather the family around and serve up this impressive main course that you learned to prepare with your helpful friends at DearMartini!

We’re going to challenge you this time:  while we think this frenching technique is pretty basic, it might be more appropriate for the intermediate home cook.  If you’re up for the challenge, bring home the racks and french them yourself.  If you’re not yet up for that, just ask your butcher to prepare the racks for you – you can still assemble the crown yourself.  Either way, it’s an impressive and stunning centerpiece for any springtime celebration!

Crown Roast of Lamb (serves 6-8 people)

2 racks of lamb, frenched

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Fresh herbs, for garnish

Special Equipment:

Cotton kitchen twine

Roasting pan

Instant-read thermometer

Paper frills

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Remove the racks of lamb from the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Rub the racks on both sides with the garlic, salt, pepper and oil.  Form the crown by  standing the racks up, ribs facing out, and arrange them in a circle.  Tie cotton kitchen twine around the base to secure the crown.  Tie another length of twine near the top, just where the meat begins.  Transfer the crown to a roasting rack.

Roast the crown in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350°F and continue to roast for 15 more minutes.  Check the internal temperature of the meat by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the roast, avoiding any bone.  If the internal temperature is between 120 – 123°F, remove the roast and tent it with foil.  Let the roast rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Garnish the roast on a platter with fresh herbs and paper frills.  You can also present the roast with stuffing in the center of the crown (very traditional).  To serve, spoon out the stuffing into another serving dish, remove the twine and slice individual lamb chops by slicing in between each rib.

Serve with roasted new potatoes and fresh springtime veggies like asparagus or fresh peas.

CHOCOLATE SOUFFLÉ FOR VALENTINE’S DAY!

Here at DearMartini, the chocolate soufflé is a recipe that is near and dear to our hearts.

I mean, who DOESN’T love a chocolate soufflé?  So sweet and warm… so rich and soft… so decadent yet light…and SO EASY TO MAKE!  

When we ask around, the general consensus is that soufflé-making is difficult and should be as feared as waking a sleeping dragon.  The truth is, it’s easy.  You only need to arm yourself with a few techniques and understand the basic principles of soufflé-making.

The chocolate soufflé also holds a special significance in DearMartini history.  It was the first thing Chef Mia ever asked Chef Terri to make when Terri was trying out for an intern position at Draeger’s Cooking School  (oh so many years ago…).

It was also the recipe that served as inspiration for the DearMartini library of bite-sized videos.  Check out this little video we made a while back — when we thought this might be a good idea for an iPhone app.  How quickly things change.

As a dessert for Valentine’s Day, it’s perfect; and almost fool-proof.  Want proof?  Watch this video.  Tom didn’t know what he was doing, but he followed the recipe instructions and they came out beautifully!  We can’t guarantee you’ll have Chef Terri by your side, but if you need some extra help, hit the helpful links to watch a short video.  To guide you, we’ve created this video portfolio which holds all of the how-to videos in one place for you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Long Live the Chocolate Soufflé!

Chocolate Souffle

Makes twelve 4-ounce individual soufflés

2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus an additional tablespoon for greasing ramekins
9 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs, separated
½ cup sugar, plus an additional 2 tablespoons for dusting ramekins
pinch of salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Prepare the ramekins by generously butter soufflé dish and sprinkle with sugar, knocking out excess.

Melt butter and chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the yolks and sugar until the mixture reaches the ribbon stage (when it is pale and thick and ribbons, when lifting the whisk, the mixture will fall back into the bowl, leaving a trail before sinking in).   Stir in the chocolate mixture.

Beat whites with a pinch of salt in a large bowl until they just hold stiff peaks. Stir about 1 cup whites into chocolate mixture to lighten, then add mixture to remaining whites, folding gently but thoroughly.

Spoon into a ramekin until it comes over the top and use a straight-edged spatula to level off.  Run your thumb around inside edge of the ramekin (this will help soufflé rise evenly and create that elegant “Top Hat“).

Bake in middle of oven until puffed and crusted on top but still jiggly in center, 14 to 16 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Chef Mia’s Souffle Basics:

1)  Every soufflé is made from two basic components:

  • Egg yolk base – provides the flavor
  • Whipped egg whites – whites provide the “lift”

2)  Whether you are making a sweet or savory soufflé the basic sequence is as follows:

  • Bring all ingredients to room temperature.
  • Preheat the oven.
  • Butter a straight-sided soufflé dish or individual ramekins.  Remember, now is the time to be meticulous, make sure bottom and sides of dish are completely covered with a thin layer of butter. 
  • Sprinkle dish with sugar, breadcrumbs, cheese, or flour depending on your recipe.
  • Make egg yolk base.  Be sure to beat to the ribbon stage.
  • Beat room-temperature egg whites to stiff peaks.  Perfectly whipped stiff peak whites are firm, shiny, and moist, not crystalline.  Copper bowls work the best as the albumen reacts to copper and gives the fluffiest whites, but copper is not requisite and a clean stainless steel bowl works well.
  • Lighten the base with about a half-cup of fluffy whites.  Then fold in the remaining whites in two or three additions.
  • Cook the soufflé low in the oven.
  • Serve soufflé as soon as possible between removing the soufflés from the oven and their consumption.  Soufflés will begin to sink almost immediately once  removed from the oven.

Remember, kings wait for soufflés; soufflés do not wait for  kings!

And be fearless and cook with confidence . . . “They fall if they know you are afraid of them”,  James Beard