Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Thanksgiving Bacon Bourbon Burger Stuffing with White Castle Sliders

I have received monetary compensation from White Castle for the writing of this post. All opinions stated are my own and have not been influenced by or represent those of White Castle.

I've been doing "Friendsgiving" since before it was a buzzword. My very first Thanksgiving in Chicago was spent watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with my roommates while preparing an epic feast for all our orphaned city friends. It was the first time I'd ever spent Thanksgiving away from my mom, but also the first time I'd ever cooked a turkey on my own. It was thrilling and sad and joyful and raucous all at once. After that, I started a tradition of doing an all day Thanksgiving potluck for anyone who needed or wanted a place to be. I would spend the whole day cooking various side dishes and desserts so that anyone who had to work that day (a lot of my friends were employed in the service industry) could stop by for a plate of food, a glass of wine, and a hug.

These days, I like to carry on that tradition of cooking up a storm of turkey and carbs with friends as well as practicing my newest tradition; doing a virtual Thanksgiving with my mom, where we FaceTime and eat our traditional meal together while watching Netflix. What can I say? I'm a modern kinda gal!

While I can get pretty protective about my Thanksgiving menu choices, I've always thought that Friendsgiving is my time to get a little weird. What better way to work out a new recipe than to experiment on your friends and either revel in the gastronomic success, or laugh about the failure for years to come (nary a year goes by that I am not reminded about the "Caramel Carrots" incident)? This sort of experimentation has brought great new things onto my Thanksgiving table, like loaded baked potato mashed potatoes, chestnut and butternut squash risotto, and crispy parmesan brussels sprouts. But the one thing I've never been able to create a satisfactory version of myself is stuffing/dressing.

Recently, a very interesting email landed in my inbox. White Castle, sovereigns of the Slider Kingdom, wrote to me with a challenge: turn their iconic sliders into Thanksgiving stuffing. At first, I shook my head in bewilderment, but as I started to mull it over, I realized it was actually pretty genius! People put sausage in stuffing, right? So how different would seasoned ground beef be? The buns obviously would serve as an excellent bread base. And the signature grilled onions that top White Castle's burgers would definitely not be out of place. Everyone I talked about this idea with had the same reaction as me; initial skepticism, and then a dawning realization of just how good it could be. A few herbs, some chicken stock, and boom! Slider Stuffing!

My homeland of Arizona only got their first White Castle last month, so my first experience with the slammable tiny burgers was fittingly during an East Coast college road trip with friends. I have such fond memories of snacking on burgers as we drove into New York City for a weekend of fun, and it was those memories that flooded back to me as I plotted out my stuffing recipe.

White Castle's base recipe is pretty simple: 10-12 sliders (fresh from the restaurant or the grocery store freezer isle), sage, thyme, pepper, celery, and chicken stock. Not being a big fan of celery, I decided to swap that out for some diced green apple. I also decided to add some crisped bacon in honor of my breaded bacon recipe, which I literally have to make for every celebration or party. And what goes with bacon and apples? Bourbon! Thus was born the Bacon Bourbon Burger Stuffing, my newest Friendsgiving success story and the best stuffing I've ever made that didn't involve a box or a canister!

Want to try making this stuffing for your own holiday? Keep an eye on my Instagram, because later this week I'll be giving away a White Castle gift card to one lucky follower!

You can find White Castle's stuffing recipe here, or scroll down for my version!

Bacon Bourbon Burger Stuffing 

10-12 White Castle® Original Frozen Sliders, let to thaw for an hour before use (you can also use fresh, but make sure you ask for no pickles)
1 large green apple, cored and diced
6 strips thick cut bacon
1 1/4 teaspoons thyme, ground
1 1/2 teaspoons sage, ground
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup bourbon
1/3 cup of halved pecans for garnish

Cut the bacon into small pieces and saute over medium high heat until crispy. Remove the pieces and drain them on a paper towel. In a large mixing bowl, tear the Sliders into small pieces and add the diced apple, crisped bacon, and seasonings. Add the chicken broth and bourbon slowly while tossing the ingredients. Add everything to a casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Top with pecans and serve.

To stuff the ingredients into the cavity of the turkey, prepare ingredients as noted above, but reduce chicken broth to 1/4 cup and the bourbon to 1 tablespoon, then cook as you normally would. 

Makes about 9 cups (enough for a 10-to-12-pound turkey). Note: Allow 1 Slider for each pound of turkey, which will be equal to 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Raw Spice Bar Re-vamp Review

Some products mentioned in this post were provided by Raw Spice Bar for free in exchange for an honest review.

A few years ago, I was contacted by a wonderful subscription service called Raw Spice Bar. I was so impressed with the quality they offered that after sampling one month's worth of their spices and recipes, I purchased a year's subscription for my mom as a Christmas present. Now, with the holidays fast approaching, I was excited to hear that they had recently revamped their service and custom spice blends.

Previously, Raw Spice Bar would send subscribers mystery spice blends in small portions along with recipes that showcased the spices. The only problem was that the spices generally came packaged in small resealable bags, which weren't the most convenient way to store them for later use.

Raw Spice Bar has now re-vamped their service and packaging to be more user friendly and customizable. Customers will be prompted to take a culinary personality test of sorts, and from there will be recommended various spice blends that would be most useful to them from the 150+ varieties they carry. Then, there are options for how frequently you would like to receive the spices (once a month all the way up to once a year). The spices now come flat tins that are easy to open, close, and store, which are clearly labeled, and have clear lids so as to see the contents. Don't want to commit to a subscription? You can also buy the spices a la carte from their shop! You can pick up any number of spices, herbs, or blends in sizes ranging from 1 oz to 10 lbs.

I was lucky enough to try three of Raw Spice Bar's most popular spice blends: the Apple Pie Spice, the BBQ Pork Rib Dry Rub, and the Taco Seasoning. Of course, I had to experiment with these blends using some classic brunch dishes.

For the Apple Pie Spice, I decided I wanted to do some stuffed pancakes. I used an English style pancake (a recipe for which you can find in one of the oldest Bunny and Brandy posts) and then set about making my filling. I peeled and cut 4 Honeycrisp apples into one inch chunks and the tossed them in a generous amount of the spice blend. One unique thing about this spice blend is the addition of grains of paradise, a small peppercorn-like spice that not only added flavor, but texture to my apples. I sauted the apples in some butter until they were soft all the way through. My apples were particularly sweet, so I didn't need to add any sugar to the mix. I then took a block of room temperature cream cheese and whipped it with a little vanilla extract and sugar to make a topping for the pancakes. Since English pancakes are pretty pliable, I was able to stuff them with the spiced apples very easily. I really enjoyed this spice blend because it gave the very sweet apples an almost savory quality, and was definitely more complex than adding just standard cinnamon and nutmeg.

For the Pork BBQ Dry Rib Rub, I wanted to re-create a dish I made when I first tested out Raw Spice Bar's products; spice roasted root veggies. I cut up some small yellow potatoes, rainbow carrots, cremini mushrooms, and a red onion, then coated them in vegetable oil and the BBQ spice blend, then I roasted them for about 45 minutes at 450. The result was outstanding. This particular spice blend has a nice subtle heat that really worked well with the hearty veggies, but it also had a sweetness that was complimented by the onions and carrots. Again, very complex and not your average BBQ seasoning.

Lastly, I decided to use the Taco Seasoning somewhat conventionally by adding it to some ground beef. One thing of note is that these spice blends are salt free so that you can add salt to your own taste. I cooked up a quick omelette and sprinkled it with a Mexican cheese blend. I then topped it off with the seasoned beef, some fresh tomato, and diced white onion to create what I call a White People Taco Omelette, a loving tribute to the Tex Mex style tacos, covered in orange cheese, sour cream, and shredded lettuce that I grew up around in Arizona. I was surprised with how subtle this spice blend was and actually wished I'd added a bit more to the meat. But the flavor was definitely much better tasting than the chemical tasting taco seasoning one can buy at the grocery store. I tasted mostly the coriander, but the addition of several different kinds of chilies gave it a really well rounded flavor over all.

For me, Raw Spice Bar is still killing the spice game, and I really appreciate their new stackable storage containers. The thing I love most about this kind of service is that it really encourages me to step outside my flavor box and start thinking creatively. And for someone like me, who gets nervous about how to properly season their food, that's really saying something!