Category Archives: Thanksgiving

Chicken Pot Pie…sort of…

Ah January, the time of year when everyone tries to eat better, exercise, and hit the gym. Those New Year’s resolution guilt us into at least a few weeks of behaving. While I certainly understand the need for some less decadent options for dinner, with the cold weather and hopefully threat of snow, comfort food still seems necessary. One of my favorite comfort foods on a cold night is chicken pot pie.

There is definitely a debate around chicken pot pie. Sure, there is the Marie Callender’s version that I would beg my mom to buy, which never happened by the way, with the delicious pie crust and succulent burning-hot filling. But, perhaps since I’m from Pennsylvania and not far from Amish country, there is another version that I find far superior. The Amish style chicken pot pie is more like a stew with floury, tender noodles in a rich broth, and it’s delicious.

Of course, for chicken pot pie, you need chicken. I already had a stock to use, so I roasted about 2 lbs boneless chicken breasts with just salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and some chopped rosemary. Roast at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes until cooked through. If you don’t have a stock made, you can make stock with bone-in chicken parts then use the cooked chicken in the pot pie.chickencookwsFor this recipe, you want a rich broth. I had turkey stock from my Thanksgiving turkey, but feel free to use any chicken stock you have or make your own. You’ll need 10 cups chicken stock. To start, heat a stock pot over medium heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Chop 1 medium onion, 4 stalks celery, and 4 peeled carrots. Cook in the oil for about 10 minutes until they are all softened and beginning to turn brown. Add 1 cup white wine and deglaze the pan, scrapping up any cooked or browned bits from the pot. Boil for a few minutes then add the stock. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. This is what you’ll use to cook the noodles.olive oilonionscelerycarrotswinestockOn a recent trip to the grocery store, I saw these ready-made chicken pot pie squares from San Giorgio and thought I had to try. The end result was not exactly what I was hoping for, more like an egg noodle than dough, but they were easy. Next time, I’ll make the noodles instead. Either way, you’ll want to add the noodles to the boiling stock to cook. The bagged noodles I found cooked for about 10 minutes, but if you want to do it the right way, make the noodles.pot pie squaresStart with 2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt. Add 1 tablespoon shortening or butter, cut up into pieces. Use a fork to combine so you have small pieces of shortening in the flour. Combine 1 egg and 2/3 cup water. Stir into the flour mixture and form a dough. Divide in two and roll half the dough on a floured surface until about 10 inches square. Cut into 2 inch squares. Repeat with the remaining dough. Add to the boiling stock and simmer for about 15 minutes until cooked through and tender.noodles cookedOnce the noodles are cooked, add the cubed chicken. And don’t forget to add all of the juices that are left in the pan from the chicken…delicious! Check the seasoning, and add salt or pepper if needed. Ladle this delicious mixture into big bowls and enjoy! Happy Winter!adding chickenliquid gold

Pumpkin Pie for the Holidays

Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. It’s a great way to end the holiday meal.  And, if we listen to the songs, pumpkin pie works for Christmas as well:

I met a man who lives in Tennessee
And he was heading for Pennsylvania
And some homemade pumpkin pie 

shellSo, it’s no surprise that I’ve made my share of pumpkin pies. I’ve also made several for friends and family. After tasting the pie, many people have asked me for my recipe, and I always chuckle. For me, the tried and true recipe is Libby’s. That’s right, I use the recipe right off the can, but it works! This year, like every other, I made Libby’s famous pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

To start, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon cloves in a large bowl. Add 2 large eggs to the mixture and whisk to combine. Add 1 15 oz can pure pumpkin. Next, add 1 12 oz can evaporated milk and whisk to combine.sugar and spiceeggspumpkinevaporated milkall combinedFor the pie crust, I use my standard pie crust recipe. I roll out the crust the crust before making the filling.  Line a greased 9 inch pie plate, and crimp the edges. Place in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

ready for the ovenPlace the pie plate on a cookie sheet close to the oven. Pour the filling into the shell, and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees, and bake 40-50 minutes longer until a knife comes out clean from the center. Oh, and one trick to cover up the knife holes, cut out some extra pie dough using a festive cookie cutter (leaf or pumpkin), and bake for about 10 minutes until golden. Just place it on top, and your pie looks perfect.

If you haven’t tried this simple recipe, give it a try. It’s so easy, and so good. I’ve also tried making the pie from fresh pumpkin, and it just wasn’t worth it. Go for the can, and enjoy.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and are ready for a fabulous Christmas season!

Perfect Pie Crust for Thanksgiving!

This Year's Pies!Thanksgiving is one of those tough holidays as far as the menu. Sure, everyone wants to try new recipes and experiment, but there is so much tradition wrapped into the holiday, it’s often hard to do. Thanksgiving is all about nostalgia and family, and nothing else can bring back memories like food. One of those traditions in many houses, and certainly ours, is ending the meal with pies…delicious pies. The fillings may vary, but you always need a buttery, flaky pie crust, and that’s another place tradition comes into play for me.

ingredientsSeveral months ago, I shared a recipe for crab quiche, and mentioned I used my Aunt Angie’s recipe for pie crust. I know several were not thrilled about my withholding, but it just felt right to talk about pie crusts before Thanksgiving. Aunt Angie was my grandmother’s sister, and she was the pie maker. No matter what occasion or holiday, she brought the pies. From lemon meringue to coconut cream, from apple to cherry, and everything in between, they were amazing. Sadly, I don’t have many of the recipes for the fillings…well… that’s not completely true, I have the recipes, but it’s really a list of ingredients, making it a little hard to follow. J But, thankfully, I do have her pie crust recipe.

flourThere’s always lots of talk about pie crusts and how difficult they can be. I have to tell you, I think it’s pretty easy, if you follow a few rules. Keep the butter and water cold, work quickly, and chill often. Several years ago I started making pies using a food processor, and I have to admit, it makes the process even easier. But, don’t worry, you can still follow the recipe without a food processor.

Start by adding 2 cups all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon baking powder to the bowl of a food processor, or any bowl if butteryou don’t have one. Stir to combine. Next, cut 2/3 cup butter into small pieces, and add to the flour mixture. Pulse a few times to combine and integrate the butter thoroughly, or use a fork to mash the butter into the flour. You want to end up with tiny pieces of butter all throughout the flour. This is how you get a flaky crust. And you want the butter cold. I find if you’re combining by hand, cut the butter into very small pieces before adding to the flour, almost slivers, so it’s easier to combine.butter addedbutter combinedNext, you want to add about 9 tablespoons ice water. Don’t add all 9 to start. I usually start with 6, give it a whirl then add more if needed. Depending on the humidity and moisture in the doughflour, you may need more or less. For the food processor, just run until the mixture forms a ball. It should happen in a few seconds. If it doesn’t come together just add more water. If by hand, just stir with the fork until it sticks together but isn’t too wet.

Divide the dough in two, wrap in plastic, and store in the refrigerator. I usually make the dough the night before I’m going to use it, but you can refrigerate for an hour or two to cool it down. In a pinch, I have been known to stick it in the freezer for a little while to speed things up, but don’t forget about it!

dough readyRoll out the dough about an inch or two bigger than your pie plate. Also, spray your pie plate liberally. You don’t want the crust to stick. Then just fold it to transfer to the plate, and you’re set. I like to refrigerate the dough again once in the plate to firm it up before baking, especially if it is a 1 crust pie. Just stick it back in for a little while as you prepare the filling.

dough rolledplatein plateready for crimpingNo matter what the filling, this one is a keeper, and I think Aunt Angie would be proud her crust lives on. This year, her crusts will be filled with caramel apple, pecan, and, of course, pumpkin. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sausage Stuffing for Thanksgiving!

celery onions pepperIt’s almost here, and I can’t wait.  Thanksgiving!  It’s my absolute favorite holiday.  I know, I know, people love Christmas, or can’t get enough of Halloween, and I like them too.  However, as someone obsessed with food, you shouldn’t be surprised that the food fest is my favorite. And for me, one of the crown jewels of that Thanksgiving table is the stuffing.

Growing up in an Italian-American household, there was only ever one type of stuffing. There was no chestnut or cornbread, no pecan or, heaven forbid, Stove Top. Instead, butterit was always sausage stuffing. Amazing, delicious sausage stuffing. I know for some, that may seem strange, however, if you’ve never had it, give it a try. The sausage adds incredible flavor, and the addition of plenty of onions and some green peppers only enhances it. It has ruined plain stuffing for me.  It seems so, well, plain without the sausage.

To start, melt 1 stick butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add in 2 medium to large red onions, chopped. Saute for about 5 minutes until they start to soften and have some color.oinionsAdd to the saute pan 4 stalks celery, chopped, and 1 large green bell pepper, chopped. Stir to combine, and continue cooking for 5 more minutes, until the vegetables are cooked. Pour everything into a large bowl, and return the pan to the heat.celerypeppercookedCook 1 lb mild Italian sausage. If you can get loose sausage meat, get that. However, I can never find it at Wegmans, so, instead if just cut the casing and add it to the pan loose. Cook for about 5 minutes, breaking up as you go until thoroughly cooked and no longer pink.sausage

breakingI’ll let you in on a little tip here. When I make this stuffing, I can never seem to break the sausage up small enough while cooking it. You really want small pieces that get incorporated into every bite of the stuffing. Once it’s cooked, I add it to a plate to cool, then I just break it up with my hands into the bowl that has the vegetables. It’s so much easier than trying to break it in the pan. So break it up and add the sausage and any fat or juice from the pan to the bowl.

breadNext, you want to add the bread. I use bagged cubes of bread for my stuffing. I find it much easier then cutting, and I get the Martin’s potato bread that stands up well to the moisture. If you prefer, you could cut up white bread, or get a loaf of Italian bread or even ciabatta would be nice. Feel free to experiment. In total, you’ll want about 24 oz cubed bread, which is about 22 cups, or two bags of the pre-cut stuff.

I add the bread in stages. As it absorbs the liquid, it will start to shrink and some will even fall apart, so I find it much easier. Add half the bread, then add about 2 cups chicken stock. If you have it, use homemade. On Thanksgiving, we always have holiday soup…or you may stuffingknow it as Italian Wedding or Escarole…so I always have stock on hand. If you’re buying it, that’s fine, just get a low sodium variety. The Wegmans store brand is great, and it’s lower in sodium than many others. Also add 1 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Stir to combine, then add the remaining bread. You may need a little bit more stock to make sure everything is moist, but you don’t want it too wet. Pour into a greased 13×9 pan, and cram it in to fit. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes until hot throughout, and ready for the ovenbrown on top.

One note, for Thanksgiving, I usually make the stuffing the night before and just cook it on Thanksgiving. If you’re doing that, take it out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you’re putting it in the oven, and it may take up to an hour to cook through. You want it hot all the way through.

Well, there you have it, my tried and true, favorite Thanksgiving stuffing. Oh, and you’ll notice I didn’t stuff the bird. You certainly can with this stuffing, but I love the crunchy top, and you get much more when you cook it in a pan. However, if you’re a stuffer, go for it!