Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Fall Feast Fit for the Food Network

Hey, ya'll! I know that sounds a little funny coming from a born-and-raised New Englander, but I'm feeling especially inspired by Ms. Deen these days, so you'll have to forgive me. It just so happens that the Queen of Southern Cuisine is holding a talent search for the next Deen Team blogger, and as soon as I found out, I knew I had to whip up a fall feast that would make Paula (and Jamie, Bobby, and the whole Deen clan!) proud!
You see, Paula might not know it yet, but I happen to think we're soul sisters. We have so much in common and often times when I'm watching one of the many delicious episodes of Paula's Home Cooking, I imagine how much fun we'd have if we were ever able to spend a day together. 

Paula and I share a passion for creating and enjoying delightfully uncomplicated home cooking with our family and friends. I just love Paula's fun, cook-from-the-heart style that she infuses into every recipe. As someone who takes special care to appreciate the "little things" in life, I love Paula for reminding us all to appreciate life's most simple pleasures (like inviting the girls over for brunch, tending a garden, or sharing a laugh with grandchildren). Paula is one of those special people that we all hope to know at some point in our lives -- always lifting spirits and bringing a smile to everyone's face. She really is the epitome of a sweet, southern belle! And, as those close to me know, I have some serious southern aspirations of my own. I'd love to (and am planning to!) make the big move across the Mason Dixon soon. So, I've been taking some notes from Savannah's southern sweetheart when it comes to real, down-home cookin'! 

In true Paula fashion, I rounded up one of my best girlfriends, Sumi, to help me create a fabulously seasonal meal that I think the Deen's (or anyone, really!) would love. We kicked off the night with some fun and festive cocktails (don't you just love the napkins?!) and appetizers. We paired a fruity and floral Riesling with a few whole wheat crackers topped with fig butter and herbed goat cheese. So simple, but dangerously delicious!

Please, excuse the "iPhoneography." ;)
It's no secret that I could spend hours innovating and reveling in the magic of a kitchen, but something about teaming up with good friends makes the process so much more fun. Sumi and I balance each other out perfectly in more ways than one, but especially when it comes to creating an amazing meal -- Sumi loves savory and I love sweet! From shopping for ingredients to sitting down to dig in, we had a ball designing this meal and I can't wait to share my recipes with you!

Are there any two more famously spectacular fall ingredients than apple and pumpkin? With it's slow roasted, richly spiced flavors, this meal features the dynamic duo in all its glory! The Roasted Pumpkin Spice Glazed Chicken packs perfect pumpkin sweetness with a punch of spice from the peppers and soy sauce. Paired with my Apple Sausage Corn Bread Spicy Stuffing (is there any better southern staple than corn bread?!), the two make a match made in autumn heaven. 

And, of course, the grand finale of this fall feast does not hold anything back! When one is crafting a dessert to earn Paula's seal of approval, it is no time to skimp on rich and decadent flavor. I think my Honey Apple Butter Pecan Crusted Cheesecake with Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce is sure to impress folks at your next dinner party, and I certainly hope Ms. Deen feels the same! Something about the words "honey," "butter," and "pecans" makes me think she might love it. :)

My favorite part of fall is the amazing inspiration for entertaining that it brings. Beautiful, burnt hues of fall foliage, vibrant, freshly-harvested apples and pumpkins, and spooky Halloween decor surround and bless us with unlimited ways to interpret such seasonal elegance in your own home. I'd love to join the Dean Team bloggers to share my own fun, affordable and creative adventures in making the most of life's simple (and delicious!) pleasures. After all, as the Deen's have so kindly taught us, there is nothing more special than the joy of good food, good friends and good family.

Roasted Pumpkin Spice Glazed Chicken


For Chicken:
1 5-pound roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh rosemary
1 large yellow onion, large chunks
4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
5 to 7 small potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks
Olive oil

For Pumpkin Spice Glaze:
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the chicken giblets (discard or save for a future endeavor - like gravy!). Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the outside of the chicken. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt, pepper and rosemary. Tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken so the tips do not burn while roasting. 

Place the onions, carrots, and potatoes in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, rosemary, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top. Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Baste the chicken with butter and pan juices every half hour. 

Meanwhile, prepare the pumpkin spice glaze by combining the pumpkin puree, cinnamon, garlic, brown sugar, soy sauce, red pepper, maple syrup, salt, butter and chicken stock in a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow to simmer and reduce. 

Remove the roast from the oven, baste with pumpkin spice glaze, and cover with aluminum foil. Let the juices in the roast rest for about 20 minutes before transferring the chicken and vegetables to a platter to carve and serve. Enjoy!

Apple Sausage Corn Bread Spicy Stuffing

2 cups cubed corn bread
1/2 pound ground spicy sausage
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the corn bread cubes in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes in the preheated oven, or until evenly toasted. Transfer toasted bread cubes to a large casserole dish.

In a large skillet, cook the sausage and onions over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the lumps until evenly browned. Add the celery, salt, pepper and rosemary; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to blend flavors.

Pour sausage mixture over bread in casserole dish. Mix in chopped apples. Drizzle with chicken stock and melted butter, and mix lightly. 

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes to combine flavors. Enjoy!

Honey Apple Butter Pecan Crusted Cheesecake with Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce


For Pecan Crust:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup ground pecans
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold butter
8 to 9 tablespoons ice water

For Cheesecake:
3/4 cup honey apple butter
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup Fleur de Sel caramel sauce

For Apple Garnish:
1/2 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced thin
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, pecans, sugar, and salt. Mix well. Add the butter and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water and let sit for 1 minute. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out on the floured surface into a circle about 9-10 inches in diameter and 1/8-inch thick. Gently place the dough in a 9-inch springform pan. Aerate the dough with a fork before baking at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

In a large bowl, combine honey apple butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth then add eggs and mix well. Pour over crust.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes, or until center is set. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Remove the sides of the springform pan and set cheesecake on a serving platter. 

Heat caramel topping in a small saucepan for about 1 minute. Spread caramel sauce evenly over the cheesecake. 

Sautee apple slices in a small frying pan with brown sugar, cinnamon and sugar. Let cool and garnish the cheesecake by placing them around outside edge. Chill until ready to serve. Enjoy!


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