SMALL-SCALE HOLIDAY: A PAIR OF RECIPES
Sausage, Apple and Spinach Dressing with Roasted Chicken and Cranberry Gastrique
I grew up in a family that believed in big gatherings, especially at the holidays. We’d huddle together in my Grandmomma’s house and howl stories at each other for a couple of days. There’d be around twenty of us packed onto her porch. It was a joyous cacophony harmonizing with the glow of tree lights reflecting off of the hastily scattered silver tinsel that draped over the beautifully crooked tree that my grandfather had maybe ‘illegally’ harvested just a few hundred feet from Highway 55 in Mississippi.
When my first child was born, we had complications. She was a fragile child in those first few years and it became hard to travel. We began spending the holidays as a young and tiny family. It wasn’t an easy adjustment for me in many ways. I wanted to be with all of my cousins and my aunts and uncles. I wanted to eat everything on grandmother’s table, and I would try to recreate it at home with just the few of us. I never really got it right and it really never felt the same. Which made me realize that sometimes, in absence of tradition or additional family members, it’s best to find a new dish more suitable to the size of the gathering. Which is why I developed this recipe. It’s special enough for a holiday meal, but not so complicated that you won’t have time for all the other joyous tasks the season brings.
This dish is simple and elegant and perfect for a small group of people.
ROASTED CHICKEN WITH SAUSAGE, APPLE AND SPINACH DRESSING AND CRANBERRY GASTRIQUE
1 pound pork sausage
1 loaf(16 oz) ciabatta or sourdough, cubed and dried (either day old or in a 250 degree oven for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally)
8 oz Spinach, fresh
2 apples, peeled and sliced
2-5 cloves garlic, minced, depending on your preference
1 Medium onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
6 T butter, divided
2 C chicken stock
2 t Thyme, minced
1 T parsley, chopped
2 T Fresh Sage, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 C Fresh cranberries, or just cranberry juice, no sugars added
1 1/2 C Rice vinegar
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 star anise pod
4 allspice berries
Juice and zest of one orange
Salt the chicken with a couple of tablespoons of kosher salt—both inside and outside cavity—and let it sit, refrigerated, over night.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place oven on a roasting pan inside the oven and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature of 160 is reached in the thigh, away from the bone. Leaving the chicken to rest in the oven will allow it to carry over to perfect doneness at 165 degrees. Let the chicken rest in the oven for about an hour before carving.
Drop the temp to 350 degrees to cook the dressing.
For the dressing, in a large skillet, brown the sausage. Once the sausage is almost finished browning, add the onion. Cook the onion until tender and then add the apple. Once the apple is cooked to al dente, add the spinach. Once the spinach is wilted, toss in the bread cubes and stock and herbs. Season to taste , drizzle with the rest of the butter and then bake for about 35-45 minutes, until done.
For the gastrique, combine all of the ingredients in a medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and strain out all of the solids. Drizzle over the entire dish for an altogether delicious experience.
Enjoy the holidays with your friends and family, no matter how big or small your group may be.