This post first appeared on USA Today Happy Ever After Blog on November 10th. Click here to see the original post.
Raine: Hey, what’s up? Glad you could swing by to see what’s cooking in the Roost. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I decided to share the centerpiece of my Thanksgiving dinner — my absolute favorite stuffing of all time. I cook it outside the bird in a pan. I don’t stuff my turkeys, so I can’t offer any advice there.
Last month, fall was just gearing up, but now it’s in full swing here. We have maples, and there’s nothing more spectacular than those deep-red leaves. If I look out our kitchen window, we’ve got a palette of red, yellow and green that’s out of this world. For those who read last month’s post (see all my recipes and more here), I’m happy to report that the gas fireplace is fully installed. The whoosh of a fire is only half a knob turn away, and we’ve been rocking some good flames every night this week. Best. Thing. Ever. Also from last month, I’m not so happy to report that we still have 18 pounds of Halloween candy left. Lesson learned: Don’t send Raine to buy the candy.
Since this is November and, for all intents and purposes, a Thanksgiving post, I figured I’d share my first Thanksgiving with Jillian. When Jillian’s kitchen was still her kitchen and not my exclusive domain. Before the Roost was the Roost. The very first time Jillian volunteered to be my sexy sous-chef.
Enjoy, and meet you on the other side …
(Disclaimer: The passage below mentions the Food Network — L.G. took some literary license for the book. My recipes don’t come from there. Other than that, this scene is an accurate depiction.)
EXCERPT from Caught Up in Raine
I’m running around the kitchen like a lunatic with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV in the background. Underdog and Hello Kitty float by on the screen, keeping me company while I scramble around, hyperventilating. Why did I think it was good idea to invite Jillian’s family to her house for Thanksgiving? The bigger question is: Why on earth did I think I could make the whole meal from scratch?
The turkey is safely in the oven, but the counter is covered in the ingredients I need for stuffing, cranberry sauce, apple and pear pies, and a sweet potato puree that I thought looked good. My laptop is open to the Food Network, and all the bookmarked recipes I found earlier this week are lined up in memory.
My fingers are woven into my hair, and I’m wearing a look of panic when Jillian comes into the kitchen. I’m about thirty seconds away from screaming at the top of my lungs.
Her face screws up in a frown. “Raine, are you okay? You look like you’re about to snap.”
“I need help,” I say, feeling like a drowning man clutching for a life preserver.
She comes over to me and places her hands on my shoulders. Her golden eyes lock me in her gaze. “Relax. I’ll help you. Take two deep breaths.”
I blow my breath in and out twice. “Done.”
“Sit.” She chuckles and points to the stool.
I sit. She walks over to get a pen and paper and then settles down beside me.
“Calmly, tell me the temperature of the turkey and how long it takes,” she says.
“350 degrees for six hours,” I say, wringing my hands and bouncing my knee nervously up and down on the stool. “I put it in at eight a.m.”
She jots it down. “Okay, tell me what else you’re going to make, include the time it takes and the temperature.” I recite my list of side dishes and desserts including the specifics she asked for with the help of the recipes on my laptop.
Done, she hands me the list. Thank God for double ovens. There’s a grid of both ovens with start times, end times, and prep times all calculated.
“This is amazing,” I say as I watch her roll up her sleeves and wash her hands.
“I’m going to be your sous-chef,” she says. “Let’s start on the sweet potatoes first, since they take the most prep.”
My eyebrows fly up. “Have you been holding out on me?”
She chuckles. “My planning is great; it’s my food that tastes like crap. Together, I think we’ll be a kick-ass team and make a decent meal. Ready?”
I pull her into my arms and growl into her neck. “I love you.”
“Hey, that tickles.” She giggles, and clenches her shoulders up to protect her neck. “Love you, too. Now, let’s get crackin’.”
So there you have it folks, my maiden Thanksgiving voyage. By the way, the meal turned out great. It’s what happens afterward that will make your hair fly. Catch our whole story, which released Oct. 28, the Caught Up in Raine Collection, at any online retail site.
Time to get cooking …
Chestnut, apple and sausage Stuffing, Raine-style
12 oz. bag, Martin’s soft cubed potato bread OR any other unseasoned croutons
½ lb. bulk chicken or pork sausage
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, chopped (King’s diced onions in the produce aisle save me the tears.)
3 large stalks of celery, chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and chopped (I use the thing that sections and cores at the same time, then cut each section into 3-4 pieces.)
3 Tbs. fresh thyme, chopped
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
15 oz. jar of prepared chestnuts, roughly chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten and blended in a bowl
Preheat oven to 325 degrees, and grease a 9 x 13 glass or ceramic pan.
Dump the bread cubes into a large mixing bowl (I use the largest one I own — trust me, you’ll need the space).
Cook sausage in a large frying pan over medium heat, stir occasionally, until browned (10-12 minutes).
Add sausage to bread cubes in the bowl.
Melt butter in a large sauté pan, add chopped onions and chopped celery, stir occasionally, until tender (6-8 minutes).
Add apples, thyme and chicken broth to pan. Cook 2-3 minutes, scraping up any browned bits.
Add pan mixture to bowl along with chestnuts, parsley, salt and pepper to taste, stir to blend.
Add eggs and mix again (if it looks a little dry, I add ¼ cup more broth to it).
Spoon mixture from bowl to pan, cover with foil
Cook for 30 minutes, remove foil and cook for another 30 minutes.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving! See you back here in December. Tweet me at @Raine’s_Roost if you want to let me know how it turned out … As always, feel free to drop by any time at www.CaughtUpinRaine.com.
Excerpt from Caught Up in Raine, copyright © 2016 by L.G. O’Connor. Used with permission.
Find out more about author LG O’Connor and her books at www.lgoconnor.com.