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Posts Tagged ‘semolina bread’

I know Thanksgiving’s over. I also know you probably already have a favorite stuffing recipe—maybe a treasured heirloom, passed down through generations, or lovingly learned at your grandma’s knee, or clipped from Good Housekeeping, circa 1978.

Abandon it. This is all there is.

I could break down the elements of this stuffing to determine the science behind why it’s so yummy, how its unapologetically rich and salty ingredients come together to make it so addictive. But I think I’ll let it speak for itself.

My family used to make shovelsful of this stuff every year because we knew we were going to be eating it all morning and afternoon while we prepped the rest of the food. It sat in two enormous, low earthenware bowls on the oven’s warming plate, and we stuck our fingers into it every time we passed to watch the parade. To this day, I associate Mighty Mouse with the smell of toasted pignoles.

The greatest thing about this recipe, aside from the taste, is how quickly it comes together. It takes maybe half an hour, usually less. And it’s what Sara Moulton from Gourmet magazine would call ‘a dump recipe’, meaning it all ends up together and then you stir it and say ta-dahh.

My father invented this at least 40 years ago, and we have never, ever had any other stuffing. When I was a little kid I hated it because it was too spicy. Now I eat it like a stoned Rottweiler,  figuring it’s okay since I lost out on all of those years.

My sister wrote down the recipe for me maybe ten years ago. She was the one who made it in latter years. I’d come through my parents’ kitchen door and she wouldn’t say hello; instead, she’d walk up to me with a forkful of the stuff and say, ‘Tell me what this needs. I can’t taste it anymore.’ Once everything’s in the pan, you taste and tweak until it sings just right for you.

Go:

Semolina bread with sesame seeds, stale and broken into pieces, about 1.5 long loaves (I think it tastes better when pulled apart with your fingers rather than chopped, but we’ve established that I’m a heathen)

1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage with fennel seeds, uncooked

4-5 tablespoons Italian seasoning (it’s a bunch of dried herbs like rosemary and basil and others, all in one container. Get the kind without salt and pepper added.)

Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1/2 pound, grated

Pignoles (pine nuts), 1/4 pound

6 eggs

2-3 good splashes of olive oil

Black pepper

In a big skillet, on medium heat, break up the sausage and partially cook it. In a big bowl, mix the bread, seasonings, 1/4 lb cheese, and eggs, and mix to blend.

Throw the stuff into the skillet with the sausage and mix to let it start soaking up the sausage drippings. Let it sit a couple of minutes, then use a spatula to turn it. The underside of the mixture should be nicely browned, thanks to the eggs. Break it up and let it sit another couple of minutes, turning it as needed, until it’s all browned.

Taste and add whatever it needs more of. I find it usually needs more cheese, and sometimes more pepper. (It doesn’t usually need salt because the cheese is salty.) If it gets too dry, add more olive oil or a bit of healthful turkey stock (even though you’re about to blow it with the diet today). Turn off the heat.

Put your pignoles in a shallow, heavy little pan over medium-low heat. Watch them and shake the pan every 15 seconds or so until browned. Toss them into the skillet with the rest of the stuffing and stir.

This is pretty much an all-purpose recipe—good hot, good cold, good room temp. Delicious stuffed in a turkey, in which case it gets soft and tender, delicious even if it never sees the inside of the bird. Really really good the next day, per my family’s tradition, on one of those sandwich-sized toasted English muffins with cold sliced turkey, lavish amounts of mayonnaise, hot bacon cooked extra crispy, and cranberry sauce.

One New Year’s Day my parents asked me over for dinner. I was a little under the weather and declined. They called back a few times, and each time I said no. Then my sister got on the phone.

‘Mom made stuffing.’

There was a pause.

‘THE stuffing?’

‘Yep.’

What can I say? I grabbed my box of Kleenex and got in the car.

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the italians have come up with some of the most scrumptious stuff the world has ever known. the 599 GTO, the world’s fastest road-going ferrari. rudy valentino and his smolder. patent leather gabriella rocha pumps. this sandwich.

it’s called mozzarella in carrozza, which means mozzarella in a carriage. it’s fried grilled cheese, which, to my mind, is enough to want to eat it without the extra hyperbole. and it’s ten minutes in the kitchen, tops.

dig out two slices of ordinary white bread or slices of a pullman loaf. you want the pieces to fit well together to prevent oozage. add a slice of firm mozzarella (not fresh). for this, I like mozzarella with a little bit of salt added to it. otherwise the sandwich is too bland. buy a square block of it. don’t try to cut up narrow slices of string cheese for your sandwich unless you are exceptionally patient or have a degree in acrobatics.

take out a wide shallow bowl. put in 1/2 cup milk (any kind), 1 egg, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. mix it up with a fork. scatter 1 cup all-purpose flour in another wide shallow bowl. a pie pan works great here.

put a couple of tablespoons of butter into a pan on the stove top, set the heat to medium high, and spread the butter well across the bottom of the pan.

place your sandwich in the milk/egg mixture and then flip it over to soak both sides. then plop it onto the flour plate and flip. knock off any excess flour.

by now your butter should be sizzling cheerfully. put your sandwich into the pan and don’t mess with it for at least a minute. flip when it’s your favorite shade of brown. I like it hard-core mahogany.

grilled cheese of any ilk is no fun unless hot, so waste no time dishing it up and tucking in. the bread should have crackled up nicely and give at the slightest nudge to cheese that should be warm and deliriously gooey. a fragile crunch giving way to the salty unctuousness of the cheese. it’s comforting, indulgent—simplicity at its most delicious.

if you are ambitious, you can add rinsed capers, or use sliced semolina bread, or prep yourself a tomato sauce for dipping.

if you are not, then we’re done here.

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