Thursday, October 7, 2010

Spinach Stuffing

A couple of months into culinary school, we learned how to debone a chicken. I got pretty good at it, and decided to debone the Thanksgiving turkey and stuff it.

Took me two hours. Structurally, a turkey is just a really big chicken. However, when you go to debone anything, make sure it's completely defrosted. Plus, it was a Butterball. The reason they're called that is because they inject something resembling butter between all the muscles. I had to get a bowl, because every time I pulled out my hand, there was a hunk of half-frozen butter in it.

Finally, the monster was boneless. Time to insert stuffing. I made the spinach stuffing out of the Bible and refilled all the empty spaces. After trussing it up, the bird looked like it had been on a diet, but it still looked like a turkey.

The really cool part comes after it comes out of the oven. You slice it like a loaf of bread. You can still serve the wings and drumsticks separately, because they are also stuffed. It's the most amazing thing to put on the holiday table, and I am never doing it again unless there is a lot of money involved.

Since then, I've made the stuffing several times. It is an excellent side for any poultry or fish. I've also bought boned turkey breast, butterflied it, stuffed it, and made a turkey roll. That takes about 20 minutes.

I have made several alterations to the original recipe. Most of it is in the spices, because I didn't like the original mix. I did cut down a lot on the bread crumbs. I know it's stuffing, but I don't like using bread crumbs if I can help it. Most of the time, I substitute matzah meal, but not everyone keeps that around.

Whether you decide to stuff something with this or bake it like a casserole, make sure the center bakes to 165º. There's an egg in it. You'll notice from the picture that I skipped the mushrooms today. I've had more than enough of those to last me several months. I served it with pesto chicken and fusili, creating a plate with almost no contrast. Bad Smurf. You always want to compose a meal with various colors, to keep the eye moving and so it won't look boring. Flavor-wise, it worked.

1 10-oz package frozen, chopped spinach
2 Tb butter or margarine
1/4 lb mushrooms, sliced (or a 4 oz can of sliced mushrooms)
1 C diced celery
1/2 C chopped onion
1 C bread crumbs (unseasoned) or coarse matzah meal
1 C ricotta or cottage cheese
1 egg
1 Tb dried parsley flakes
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp pepper

1. Cook spinach and let drain thoroughly.

2. In saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and cook mushrooms, celery, and onions until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid burning the onions. Remove from heat.

3. Add remaining ingredients and spinach. Combine well.

4. May be stuffed into poultry cavity or baked as a casserole. For the latter: 350º for 20 minutes, or until center registers 165º.

Makes about 5 cups

Difficulty rating  π

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