Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Turkey Stuffing Muffins

What's on your Thanksgiving menu? If it's the same old same old in the name of tradition, give your guests a break and shake it up a little. My email inbox is deluged with food magazines touting new types of pies, new takes on turkey, new styles of stuffing. Surely, you've seen these, too. But at a class I just took at the Art Institute in San Diego as part of its new GetCreative series for the public, I learned how to make Turkey Stuffing Muffins. And I fell in love.

Now, I love and adore my mom's chestnut stuffing. Thanksgiving isn't the same for me without it. Even though we'll be going to a friend's for the holiday, I've ordered a turkey for Friday and Mom will make her family famous stuffing so we can have "leftovers." But these muffins, well, they are kind of rivaling this tasty tradition; and I can even see how to adapt them to get that nutty, sweet challah flavor into them for a new version of her stuffing.

One of the benefits--perhaps, really, the true reason for attending cooking classes--is to get schooled on technique. In this Thanksgiving Sides class, chef instructor John Miller, offered a series of terrific tips, addressing everything from efficient ways to peel and dice ungainly winter squash to how to puree hot soup in a blender so it doesn't explode.

For this recipe, which calls for dicing and browning bacon to render the fat, Miller, a CIA graduate, showed us that by covering the bacon in the saute pan with water and then heating it, you can extract the fat evenly and avoid burning pieces.

That's the kind of class this was--filled with aha moments that will stay with me for years to come when I'm in my kitchen. The seven students made five dishes--and all turned out beautifully. But this muffin is the one I knew I had to share.

Turkey Stuffing Muffins
The Art Institute of California-San Diego
(printable recipe)

Yield 6 to 8

4 ounces of bacon, diced
1 cup onion, diced
1 Granny Smith apple, 1/4-inch dice
4 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
 salt and pepper to taste
1 day-old baguette, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place diced bacon in a saute pan and just cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and let water evaporate as the bacon cooks. Saute until bacon is crisp. If necessary, you can add additional neutral flavored oil to continue rendering the fat.

Add the onions and apple and continue to cook until translucent. Transfer to a bowl and let cool until it's under 180°F.

Whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, poultry seasoning, parsley, and salt and pepper. Place bread in a large bowl and pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes. Gently fold ingredients together and let rest in bowl for 15 minutes so the bread can absorb the liquid. Add the cooled bacon mixture to the bread and eggs. Don't over mix.

Lightly grease the cups of a muffin tin with butter or use a non-stick pan spray. Using your hands, fill the muffin tins with the stuffing mixture (squeezing out excess moisture) to slightly mounded muffins.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the tops are browned and crisp.

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