My friend Elizabeth Roth's mom Joanne was an ok cook until she hurt her back. Opting for bed rest over surgery, she laid in front of the TV for weeks at the same time that a little thing called the Food Network came into being. She binge-watched and emerged with a much improved back and a deep understanding and inspiration for the culinary arts. It wasn't long before her husband John handed her the Thanksgiving issue of Gourmet magazine and told her that this year he wanted things to be different.
Like religion, cooking is always there for you. Some folks find it in childhood, and others learn to cook later in life. I fell in love with cooking as a child, but Thanksgiving was my mom's holiday, and I never wanted to get in her way. You see, my mom's a bit of a control freak. And I know that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. So, here's where I could the share insights that I've gleaned from years of therapy for having become my controlling Jewish mother (I'm Liz and I'm a control freak. Hi Liz!). But we're not going there. I love my mom for who she is and how she is in the kitchen. She taught me a love of cooking and eating. But as it pertains to Thanksgiving, it was more about eating than cooking.
Every year on Thanksgiving Day I would roll out of bed and onto the couch for hours of TV time. It started with the local news which, in Miami, is rather spectacular. And then it was time for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. My dad would pick up Velvet Creme doughnuts and make strong coffee, which is also pretty spectacular in Miami. In fact - Miami is pretty much perfect at Thanksgiving. It's warm and the trees are ripe with avocados. It's great to watch blustery New York City on TV, but balmy Miami is Thanksgiving heaven for me. After my couch time, I would head outside for a run or bike ride, dive in the pool for a quick swim and then pick up the grandparents and bring them back for dinner.
Over the years, not much changed from my routine. That was until five years ago when my dad died. Just like that, everything changed. The "new normal" dictated a shift in the family dynamic. It was unspoken, but there was a clear call to action - you show up for the ones you love. What emerged was my new role in the kitchen, cooking Thanksgiving dressing. I showed up with two great recipes, fresh ingredients and all my love.
We're still figuring it all out. Last year my mom refused to buy sausage for the sausage and apple dressing, insisting that she wanted the dressings to be vegetarian. Looking back, I'm pretty sure she just forgot to buy it. But she was adamant that the dressing would be meat-free -- even though we use turkey broth. After dinner, she told me that it was lacking something. The sausage, perhaps? She would never admit it. This year she's already agreed to buy the sausage. But she wants to tweak my recipe. She thinks it's too dry. I think it's awesome. See for yourself. For this dressing and all of my friends, family and beautiful Miami - I am thankful.
Sausage & Apple Dressing
1 loaf Ciabatta, cubed
2 large eggs, beaten
1 hot sausage, casing removed
1 sweet sausage, casing removed
1 onion finely chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 C white wine
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
1 Q turkey or chicken broth
1 T thyme, rough chopped
handful parsley, rough chopped
Preheat the oven to 350. Mix the eggs and cubed bread and eggs in a large bowl. Set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, saute the onions and sausage in olive oil until the onions are soft and the sausage is brown. Add the carrots, celery and apples and season with salt and pepper. Continue to saute for about 10 minutes until the carrots are soft. Pour in the white wine, turn to high and bring to a boil for about five minutes scraping up the brown bits. Pour in the broth and stir to incorporate. Add the thyme and pour the contents of the pan over bread and egg mixture. Mix well. Pour contents into a greased roasting pan and top with parsley. Bake for about 45 minutes until brown on top.