side dishes

Christmas is a time of festivities. One such tradition in our home is baking  Cornish game hens with HB’s fabulous stuffing! Forgive me if I use the term Gamish Corn hens. Unfortunately I made that tongue slip the other day and it seems to have be sticking. HB even suggest we “stew our duffing” after preparing the birds! Very funny, my mister main culinary expert!

This year we plan to enjoy dinner with our son and his family on Christmas day, so we thought individual tiny hens with stuffing baked in these adorable Le Creuset mini cocottes would be just perfect for the two of us! The red and green mini baking dishes work perfectly with our Christmas theme.

Cornish game hens are so easy to bake.  We suggest you thaw them under cold water – season to taste, bake in 350 degree oven and baste with melted butter.  Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted in breast reads 180 degrees (approximately 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours for four hens).

 Stuffing ingredients:
Note 1: You will need less stuffing depending on the number of guests. We adjusted our original turkey stuffing to fit a smaller quantity. In addition, baking the stuffing in the individual mini cocottes enhances the celebratory mood of our Christmas Eve dinner!
  • 1 lb. fresh chestnuts (not indicative of end quantity; often times some chestnuts are unusable after roasting)
  • 1-8oz can sliced water chestnuts
  • 1 cup shelled pine nuts
  • 4-oz (1/2 stick) butter
  • 2  lbs. Jimmy Dean “regular” sausage
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 8 cups dry French bread cubes, unseasoned
  • 1/4 cup snipped parsley
  • 1-1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 qt. half and half 
  • Salt
  • To roast chestnuts, slash shells in an X pattern with a sharp knife to avoid exploding. Roast on a baking pan in a 400° oven for 24 minutes, cool. Peel and coarsely chop. Set aside. Note: The amount used in the recipe will depend on your taste for chestnuts. Suggested quantity: 1-1/2 cups.
  • Roast pine nuts on baking sheet at 300° for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
  •  In skillet, sauté mushrooms in butter until liquid completely absorbed. Set aside.
  • Break sausage into small pieces, in large skillet cook until completely brown. Reserve at least one tablespoon drippings.  Cool sausage, transfer to food processor, chop coarsely. Set aside.
  • In same skillet cook garlic, onion and celery in reserved drippings till tender but not brown. Remove from skillet.
  • In large bowl combine the chestnuts, water chestnuts, pine nuts, sausage, vegetable mixture, bread cubes, the parsley, poulty seasoning, thyme, pepper, and dash salt. Drizzle light cream over mixture, toss lightly until blended and well moistened an and mixture holds together.
  • Spoon mixture lightly into neck cavity of turkey; pull the neck skin to the back of the bird and fasten securely with a skewer. Lightly spoon remaining mixture into body cavity, fasten with skewers.  (Bake any additional dressing in casserole during final 45 minutes of roasting time.) Tie turkey legs to the tail. Brush turkey with melted butter. Place bird breast side up, on a rack in a shallow baking pan. Roast, uncovered, in a 325°F oven until internal thermometer registers 180°F. When turkey is done cover lightly with foil and let stand 20 minutes before carving.
Note 2: The dressing recipe quantities is adequate for stuffing an 18-20 lb. turkey.  Be sure to use a large (covered) circular casserole dish to bake any excess amount in during the last 45 minutes of roasting of the bird. Follow separate commercial poultry roasting instructions.

And now, I want to put in a plug for the lovely Mini Cocotte Cookbook that is available through Le Creuset. I promise you, it will not disappoint!

HB and I wish you a very Merry Christmas… a Happy Hanukkah… a Happy Kwanzaa… or whatever you may be celebrating during this marvelous time of year when we try just a bit harder to love our fellow man. It’s this spirit of caring and giving, that  becomes a true mark of our humanity! I’m grateful to each of you, my readers!  

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Recently I returned from the awesome EVO ’12 blog conference in Park City, Utah. One of the highlight workshops, sponsored by the California Avocado Commission, was fabulous. Let me give you a twenty second review: high winds… power outage… stuck on a chairlift… back-up power on chairlift-only… The Too Hot Tamales (Top Chef Masters/owners of Border Grill, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger) and their unforgettable demonstration… my cell flashlight put to good use… a 10-minute guacamole contest (hysterically funny in the dark)… avocado lovers’ dream meal… chairlift down the mountain in total blackness!

Jan Delyser, VP of Marketing for the California Avocado Commission, was a wonderful hostess. She gave a most  informative opening presentation and history of the California Hass (rhymes with bass). The California Hass avocado has black bumpy skin on the outside and the creamy, green luscious flesh on the inside. Most of us know that an avocado is a fruit… but did you know that every Hass avocado can be traced back to the one mother tree? I invite you to check out this fascinating history on the commission’s website at http://www.avocado.org/california-avocado-history/.

Jan shared a little secret with me about how easy it is to grill avocados. When I saw her the last day of the conference, I wanted to thank her once again and tell her how excited I was to try grilled avocados. It’s so quick and easy; it will complement any meal.

Cut the avocado in half (or quarters if you prefer), remove the pit. Brush the flesh side with olive oil. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

Place flesh side down on hot grill (375 degrees), grill for 3-5 minutes. We placed ours on the diagonal, then reversed for criss-crossed grill marks.

The fruit was warm, soft and absolutely heavenly! If you’re looking for a fast, huge-YUM  way to serve avocados – you have got to try this!

It’s healthy, tastes great and easy to make – a perfect combination! I’d love to hear any comments.

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basil infused grilled asparagus

by jani on May 25, 2012

One of my favorite veggies is asparagus; I’ve loved it from the time I was just a child. That’s before I found out all about it’s great nutritional value. I’ve always steamed asparagus in just a very small amount of water, adding about a tablespoon of olive oil and covering it with a lid. But my favorite way to eat these tasty spears is grilling!

asparagus ingredients 1

Ingredients:

  • one bunch of fresh asparagus (this should be consumed within 48 hours as it is more perishable than other veggies- keeping a damp paper towel or cloth wrapped around the bottoms, while in fridge,  helps retain their freshness)
  • Emeril’s original essence seasoning (we love the flavor of this seasoning and a bonus? less sodium than salt!
  • Sciabica’s Oil of the Olive-Basil (this is a more expensive olive oil, but the infused basil just enhances the flavor… so worth it!)

A trick to getting the most tender of spears, is to hold it in your hand; if it’s flimsy and doesn’t snap, toss it down the disposal. We never cut the end off our asparagus… if you want them to be the same length, cut them after they’ve been snapped. To snap, you hold the asparagus and gently breaking off the end.

Place the asparagus on a cookie sheet (you can use a gallon ziploc baggie if you prefer) and then drizzle Sciabica’s olive oil liberally over all spears, turning to make sure they are evenly coated.

Sprinkle Emeril’s Original Essence seasoning on both sides of asparagus spears, making sure all spears are coated.

Grill asparagus at 350-375 degrees for about seven minutes per side or until they have an even dark brown grill pattern on each side. You need to watch them closely, turning them with your tongs.

asparagus on grill 1

Asparagus w grilled chicken 2

We enjoyed ours with grilled chicken tenders and fresh tomato slices, it tasted great and was healthy too!

With asparagus now in season, this is a great time to complement your summer table! Lots more grilling coming your way… thank you, HB!

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