A few years ago I went on a sausage-making binge. My family far preferred this to my Sweet-Potato-‘Fly’-fermenting binge and my Saint Marcellin-cheese-aging binge and my Takuan-pickle-under-the-kitchen-sink binge. Those strange forays into the kitchenolocial unknown were largely unsatisfying and often resulted in a gurgling mess, a heap of inedible sludge, and an unexplained case of hives for somebody or other.
Homemade sausage, however, is a thing of beauty – nearly all family members agree.
So how might I segue this into Cornbread Stuffed…um…Neck Roast, you ask?
While the following description may be doing a great disservice to what is actually a complex and ancient artisan food, what I learned through my binge is that sausage is (sorry, Bruce Aidells) pretty much just good tasting junk stuffed into a food-tube of some sort.
During my 2009 Thanksgiving Day (TD) food prep work, I found myself with:
1. A few extra wallops of cornbread stuffing, and…
2. A distinctly casing-like few inch tube of extra turkey neck skin.
I tilted my head sideways, nibbled a few of the spicy pecans meant for the guests, and got an idea:
I stuffed that neck skin tube within an inch of its life with the stuffing I had leftover. I put a few stitches in here and there with those little “sew up the turkey” kits you buy at the store, and roasted the whole little mess alongside the turkey.
Perfectly browned and shatteringly crispy on the outside, it took every inch of willpower I had (plus another handful or two of spicy pecans) to keep me from chowing down on my golden TD masterpiece right then.
If you are lucky enough to find yourself with an extra plunk or two of stuffing (of any sort) and a turkey with an extra flappy…um…neck, then you have to try this, even just for a little secret stash of snacking before dinner.
I love to use this cornbread stuffing recipe because it’s ever-so-slight sweetness and dense texture works perfectly. If you’re not into the whole neck thing, then it’s a great “wow” stuffing that’s easy to make necklessly ahead of time. Last year (these photos) I just used some spare chestnut stuffing, which wasn’t as perfect at holding its shape as well as the cornbread.
This is a Saveur-meets-Muddy-Kitchen recipe. On TD, nothing I do (or anyone does for that matter) is entirely original. The following is for stuffing for the whole bird and serves 10-12. You will only use a cup or two of it for the actual roast.
CORNBREAD STUFFED…UM…NECK ROAST
The cornbread part (which I make 1 – 3 days ahead of time):
7 tbsp. butter, melted
2 cups yellow or white cornmeal
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. sugar (optional)
1 2/3 cups buttermilk
4 eggs, well beaten
- Preheat oven to 400°. Grease a medium cast-iron skillet or baking dish with 1 tbsp. of the butter and set aside. Mix cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar (if using) together in a large mixing bowl. Add buttermilk and eggs and beat with a wooden spoon until thoroughly mixed. Add remaining butter and stir until just mixed.
- Pour batter into prepared skillet or dish and bake until golden, firm to the touch, and cracked on top, about 30 minutes. Set aside to let cool.
The stuffing part:
1/2 lb. butter
3 medium yellow onions, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 head celery, finely chopped
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. pork sausage, removed from casings
6 cups crumbled Corn Bread (from the previous recipe)
1/2 bunch parsley leaves finely chopped
1/4 cup sweet Madeira
- Preheat oven to 350°. Melt butter in a large cast iron skillet over low heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Add celery and rosemary; then generously season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.
- In the same skillet, cook sausage over medium heat, breaking meat up with a fork, until just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer sausage to onion–celery mixture. Add corn bread, parsley, and Madeira, adjust seasonings, and mix well. Allow the sausage to cool a bit making sure the consistency is moist but still dense enough to hold a ‘snowball’ when compressed.
- To stuff the neck, spoon stuffing into the tube of neck skin being very careful not to tear it. You’ll be surprised how large this little roast will get. For a normal family meal, this alone would feed everybody. Once the neck is filled to capacity, it may need a bit of trussing here and there to hold it all together.
- Transfer this mini roast onto a small baking dish. It can go right in the over alongside the turkey. It’s done in about 30 – 40 minutes but overcooking it won’t kill it because it simply bastes in its own yumminess.
When the roast is done, let it cool for at least as long as the turkey then slice it up into beautiful circles. Make sure to try one before it leaves the kitchen – these are always the first to go.
Take your boots off before you come in here!