Dried fruit packs a punch

  • Tue Nov 22nd, 2011 7:28pm

<b>FOOD FINDS | </b>Herald staff

The noble emotions that Thanksgiving stands for soon give way to celebrating what we have by seeing how much we can eat. Roasted, mashed and scalloped potatoes, gallons of green bean casserole followed by mass amounts of ambrosia and pounds of pumpkin pie all make their way to the larder board.

What stands alone, the crown jewel of the table, is the turkey. And when there is turkey, stuffing cannot be too far behind.

It is with that stuffing that the squabbling begins. Stuffed inside the bird or cooked separately is the question.

Food safety specialists claim that stuffing can pose hazards. Culinary experts contend that unstuffed turkeys are easier and faster to cook and suggest the casserole-style cooking method instead.

Chef Michael Felsenstein, of the Lynnwood Convention Center, prefers that style and uses dried fruit to pack a palate-pleasing punch of flavor to the seasoned bread base. That flavor concentration causes him to use dried fruit in different ways that he would use fresh fruit.

“I really like using dried fruit not so much as a shortcut, but for the flavors and textures that they bring to stuffing or a salad,” he says. “Drying the fruit really makes it a whole different ingredient as the flavors are more concentrated.”

Apricot-Cranberry Stuffing

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

6-8 ounces butter

1/2 pound dried apricots, julienned

¼ cup dried cranberries

1 onion, ¼ inch dice

1 medium red bell pepper, small dice

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced

2 medium orange, juiced

1 crusty baguette or quarter sheet of focaccia

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped (dry can be substituted if necessary)

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

12 ounce heavy cream (chicken or vegetable broth may be substituted for a lower fat option)

2 eggs, beaten

4 ounce grated Asiago cheese (parmesan cheese can be used instead)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon white pepper

Directions

1. Cut the bread into half inch cubes and dry in the oven for 5-7 minutes.

2. Melt the butter in a medium sauce pot. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, red peppers and dried spices and sweat over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Stir in the apricots, cranberries and thyme.

3. Add the bread to the vegetable and fruit mixture and stir so that the bread cubes are coated. Add the cream and orange juice and gently cook all of the ingredients together, stirring frequently until the liquid is absorbed and the bread has softened. It might be necessary to use some additional liquid. Cool slightly.

4. Add the eggs, cheese, salt and pepper.

5. Place mixture in a well buttered or sprayed medium sized casserole dish, taking care to press the mixture in evenly.

6. Cover with a lid or foil and bake for 40-45 minutes in a preheated 325 degree oven, removing the lid or foil to brown the top of the stuffing for the last 10 minutes.