Welcome Newbies!

Today, I had 7 Newbies in my cooking class!  That might be a record, pretty sure that it is.  At Cook With Mary, there are 3 types of participants: Newbies (at their first or second class), Regulars (in attendance at routine intervals, and Groupies (these guys will come to almost any type of class, love to eat and have fun).  Occasionally, we might be able to say we have a ‘Stalker’  or two. 

Today’s class was on Quick Chicken Dinners, and we made three easy dinners in about 2 1/2 hours.  Rosemary Roasted Chicken Quarters (see New Year’s Day post), Chicken Fried Rice (last Monday’s post) and Easy Chicken Parmesan (coming up soon).  The chemistry in the room today was great.  Lots of conversation, great questions and good food. 

One thing you’ll learn as a Newbie is that you’d better come to class hungry. The 7 put a pretty good dent in the supply of food, but there was plenty of Roasted Chicken leftover.  Before the group left, I had made my decision about the family dinner tonight – I was making stuffing to go with the chicken.  My daughter was around with her new digital camera to grab onto the steps in the stuffing making process and to keep the dishes washed up. 

We rounded the menu out with lima beans and steamed broccoli.  But the stuffing – I love it.  Looking back over the prior posts, I can’t believe that I haven’t posted a recipe for stuffing.  Some may think that it’s too late, stuffing is for the holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter.  NOT!  Stuffing is comfort food.  So I vote that stuffing should be served when the temperatures outside reach the lower double digits and when you happen to have the ingredients on hand.  Bingo!  Today is my lucky day (no one else in the house complained, either).

So begins our stuffing making process.  First, you melt a stick of butter and saute up some celery, onion, and today (since it’s on hand), some diced fennel too.  This is perhaps an unusual addition, but once while cooking for Williams-Sonoma, it was called for in their recipe and it was great!  Once the veggies are softened, I add chicken stock, herbs, check for seasonings…

Sauteed celery, onion and fennel

Next, we make and toast the cornbread while the veggies are getting soft.

Cornbread

Toasted Cornbread Cubes

I added the vegetable and stock mixture to the waiting white bread cubes, added in the corn bread and thoroughly blended everything so that the bread was uniformly moistened. 

Adding liquid to the dry bread

I add two beaten eggs to the mixture for extra moisture, flavor and loft, then scoop up fist-sized balls and place in a buttered pan.  Once all the ‘stuffing balls’ are arranged in the pan, I cover the pan and bake it till it is heated through, about 30 minutes.  Uncovering the pan for the last 10 minutes or so results in lots of crispy edges. 

Finished Stuffing

The only thing left to do now is to make some gravy and plate our yummy dinner.  Thanks to my Newbies for providing me with the opportunity to walk you through three distinctly different Chicken Dinners, and for the inspiration to use the leftovers for a scrumptious dinner!

Mary’s Cornbread Stuffing

About 6 cups of torn or cubed white bread (today I used dried French)

4-6 cups of toasted cubed cornbread

1 stick butter

1 large onion, diced

3-4 ribs of celery, diced

1/2 -1 cup diced fennel (optional)

4-6 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

fresh or dried herbs to taste (today, I used sage, savory and tarragon)

2 eggs, beaten

Follow the directions, above.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, uncovering for the final 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

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