Friday, October 29, 2010

How I Know I'm Not Young Any More
What’s cooking? Cornbread-Sausage Stuffing with Apples and Grapes

I lost my cellphone a few months ago. There’s hardly anything more disruptive to your life, but once it’s gone, there’s not much you can do about it but start reconstructing your contacts from scratch. I decided to make the best of the loss, and upgrade to one of those phones that actually has a real keyboard on it, rather than the phone pad I’d been limping along with for so long. I’m sure it’s an age thing, but it made me completely understand the need for abbreviations. (“Let’s see, the O is on the 6, so that’s three touches...beep beep beep beep – oops, not FOUR touches...arggghhh.”) Making matters worse, one of my sons is a voice-mail-avoider, so pretty much the only way to get a message to him is via text.

I’m a Verizon customer, so no iPhone for me, as much as I covet the design. So I chose a new LG model, with a nice, large iPhone-ish screen on the front. You can open it up and type on the little tiny keys, or you can leave it closed and turn it on its side, and  – voilà! – a full keyboard appears on the screen. Magic. The sales girl who helped me suggested that I would want to get a cover for the screen – a clear film that protects the screen from scratches. They were two for some outrageous sum, given that what you’re getting is a couple of wafer-thin pieces of plastic film. But she assured me it was a good idea, well worth the price. And to cement the credibility factor, she offered the following testimony: “It’s okay, though. They last like forever. Like I’ve had mine since November.”

Like, call me crazy, but isn’t November, like, less than a year ago? Ah, well...

So, speaking of November, it is in fact almost here. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I was browsing through my recipe box and came upon this really good stuffing. Several years ago, when my younger son was a senior in college, he was living in an apartment building that was owned by the university, so all the inmates were also students. A group of them decided they would cook a Thanksgiving dinner before scattering to their respective homes, and my son volunteered to make the stuffing. He called to tell me this – one of those breathless calls that sounds like an emergency until you figure out that the emergency is just that the dinner is that night and he has to know NOW what the recipe is.

“I said I’d make that great stuffing you make with the grapes and apples in it,” he said.

My flattered feelings gave way quickly to confusion. “But I don’t have a stuffing recipe with grapes and apples,” I said. I could hear his disappointment across the miles, and I couldn’t stand to squash this budding interest in cooking. So of course I did what any other mother would do – I faked it. “I’m sure I know what you’re talking about, so give me an hour and I’ll have it for you.”

Here’s what I came up with, and I must admit, it’s quite tasty. It was a big hit in the dorm, too.

Kitchen Goddess note: It’s been years since I actually put the stuffing into the turkey. I much prefer it cooked separately. But don’t let that stop you, if you like it in the bird. And for the casserole, if you can get enough broth from the turkey to use instead of chicken broth, go for it.

Cornbread-Sausage Stuffing with Apples and Grapes

12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) of sweet (unsalted) butter
2½ cups chopped yellow onions
1 cup chopped celery
3 tart apples, cored and cut into small chunks (like ½-inch cubes)
2 cups red or green grapes, cut in half
1 pound sausage
3 cups crumbled cornbread (or Pepperidge Farm Cornbread Stuffing)
6 cups Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup Italian parsley, chopped
1 cup chicken broth (or more as desired)

To assemble:
1. Melt half the butter in a skillet. Add the chopped onions and celery, and cook over medium heat, partially covered, about 25 minutes (they should be tender and lightly colored). Transfer everything in the skillet to a large bowl.

2. Melt remaining butter in the same skillet. Add apple chunks and cook over high heat for 5 minutes, then add the grapes and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently to keep the fruit from sticking. Transfer everything in the skillet to the large bowl.

3. Cook the sausage in the skillet over medium heat until lightly brown, using a fork or spoon to crumble it. Add the browned sausage to the large bowl.

4. Add remaining ingredients to the large bowl and combine gently. (You may find it easiest to use your hands for this.)

5. Spoon the stuffing into a casserole dish – or two if you don’t have one large enough. Pour about a cup of chicken broth evenly over the stuffing, cover it (with aluminum foil if you don’t have a top to the casserole dish) and bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes.

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