Twists on classic Thanksgiving recipes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If you're sick of the classic Thanksgiving dishes, chef Toby Freeland of L'Ecole Culinaire has come up with a few recipes you'll likely enjoy. Whether you're looking to add some flavor to your sides or desserts, there's an option for both.

Sausage, Sage & Cornbread Stuffed Acorn Squash

Ingredients:

• 4 to 6 acorn squashes
• 1 Tbsp. olive oil
• 1 large onion, diced
• 3 ribs celery, diced
• 1 pound spicy or sweet Italian sausage, ground
• 3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
• 1 Tbsp. sage leaves, chopped
• 1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
• 5 cups croutons or stuffing cubes
• 5 cups cornbread crumbled or cornbread stuffing cubes
• 1 cup dried cranberries
• 3 to 4 cups chicken stock
• Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the tops off of the squash and scoop out all of the seeds. Rub the squash with oil inside and out and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil, add the onions and celery and sauté over to medium heat. Season with salt and cook until the vegetables start to become soft and are very aromatic. Add the sausage and cook until the sausage begins to brown. Stir in the garlic and sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the walnuts, sage and rosemary and cook for another minute, then remove from heat. In a large bowl mix together the cornbread, cranberries, and the sausage mixture. Add chicken stock and knead with your hands until the bread is very moist, actually wet. Taste to check for seasoning and season with salt, if needed. Fill each squash with the stuffing. Bake until the squash is soft, it is hot all the way through and is crusty on top, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Pumpkin Budino with Apple Streusel

Ingredients:

Pumpkin Budino

  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar divided
  • 2 large whole eggs
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 oz. cornstarch
  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbsp. Honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground clove
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom

Cinnamon Oat Streusel

  • 3 oz. unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 1/2 oz. dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 oz. granulated sugar or vanilla sugar if you have it
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3 oz. all-purpose flour
  • 2 oz. rolled oats
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda

Cider Braised Apples

  •  2 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 lemon zest & juice
  • 1/2 orange zest & juice
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 4 apples honey crisp, pink lady, granny smith or Macintosh all work well

Directions:

Pumpkin Pudding

1. In a large pot, combine the buttermilk, heavy cream, salt and 1/2 of the brown sugar. Give it a whisk and turn the heat on high. Keep an eye on it, meaning don't go too far away. Heavy cream has a way of boiling over all too easily.
2. Right after the heat is turned on, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, other half of the brown sugar and the cornstarch. Whisk until it's smooth and thick and a lot paler in color. I usually keep whisking until the liquid is ready to add. You can also whisk this in a stand mixer if you want.
3. When the heavy cream & buttermilk comes to JUST under a boil, turn the heat off and drizzle in a little bit of the hot liquid into the egg mixture. While it's going in, be sure that you're whisking. You want to add it all in small amounts and whisk rapidly otherwise you'll end up with some scrambled eggs. If you're nervous, I'd recommend using a stand mixer. Finishing adding in the hot liquid and whisking until everything is in and combined. If you think you made some bits of scrambled egg, strain it.
4. Pour the whisked contents back into the bot. Turn the burner on high and whisk constantly. There will be a lot of bubbles on top. This is normal. As the heat and eggs work their magic to thicken everything, the cornstarch will also be getting to work. Soon, those bubbles will give way and you'll see it's all getting very thick. Stop whisking for a couple seconds to see if it's all bubbling. If it is, keep whisking for another 30 seconds. You want to be sure to boil the starchy taste out and also make sure the heat make the cornstarch do its thing.
5. The last step is easy. Remove from the heat. If you're worried about burning, scrape the contents into a clean bowl. But it's not necessary. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk until smooth. Chill until ready to use.

Streusel

1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, sugars and cinnamon. Attach the paddle and let it cream away. Let it go until it's nice and fluffy.
2. Turn the mixer off and add in the flour, oats and baking soda. Mix on low speed until everything is incorporated.
3. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Break up the dough by hand and scatter over the pan. Try not to have too many big clumps. If it feels too crowded, split the streusel up over two sheet pans.
4. Bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, until the streusel is browned and no longer soft and doughy. It will dry out more as it cools, so a tiny bit of softness is ok. After it's cooled break up by hand or smash with a rolling pin. Using a food processor will make it too fine.

Braised Apples

1. Add everything to a large pot except for the apples. Bring to a boil
2. While the liquid is coming to a boil, peel and core the apples. Cut them into a 1/4-inch dice. (I sometimes wait to start bringing the liquid to a boil until I'm at the dicing stage.)
3. When the liquid is boiling, add the diced apples in and stir. Turn the heat down to medium and stir occasionally until the apples have started to soften. These will take about 5 minutes, maybe less, maybe more, depending on the apples you use. Don't let it go too long otherwise you'll end up with apple sauce.
4. Find a large chunk of apple and test it. If it's holding the shape but a little soft, it's done. The residual heat will continue to cook the apples. So turn the heat off the stove. Place a strainer over a bowl and dump the contents of the pot into the strainer. Give it a stir every now and then until liquid stops dripping off. (Save both things. You can cook more apples in the same liquid or thin out with water or more cider and add it to drinks.)

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