This year was my third year to host Friendsgiving here in Kansas City. The first year, we had 11 friends and no kids gather in our small home and bring an amazing assortment of food…including jello shots. Over the years, some friends have moved away and others have moved in. We love welcoming new friends into our hearts and home. This year was much bigger with 15 adults and six children, as many of our friends have become parents. No jello shots this year. Womp Womp. Although the dynamic was slightly different, the joy and love was tremendous.
Time management is key to hosting a low stress and enjoyable holiday party. By organizing my dishes and using slow cooking techniques, I was able to enjoy the beautiful day and amazing friends that came to our home.
I spent the day preparing for a full house in my tiny space. Since my kitchen and my oven is quite small, I chose to roast a 7-lb pork shoulder in a roasting oven (life saver), roast a 4-lb free range chicken in my oven, and cook my cornbread dressing in my slow cooker. During the great cooking adventure, I did lose a breaker and a fuse a few times (and ended up placing my slow cooker with the cornbread dressing in a spare bedroom!). But it all turned out great and I kept my wine glass FULL.
So let’s get to this Cornbread Dressing, shall we?
Apples, Fennel, and Pecans! Yeeeeeeaaaas. And don’t forget sage!
There are several parts of this dressing that can be made ahead of time. The Gluten Free Old Fashioned Cornbread can be made up to 2 days ahead. The aromatics in the dish (onions, celery, and fennel) can be braised in a little olive oil up to two days ahead of time as well. I mixed everything together and placed into my slow cooker and allowed to cook while I was getting other things together. This also kept the cornbread dressing warm until it was time to eat.
Slow Cooker Apple, Fennel, and Pecan Cornbread Dressing (Gluten Free)
- 1 batch of old fashioned skillet cornbread
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 stalks of celery, diced
- 1 bulb of fennel, slivered
- 1 sweet onion, chopped
- 2 medium apples, chopped
- 1/2 cup of chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Prepare cornbread at least one day ahead of time. Crumble up cornbread and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Allow to sit out at room temperature and dry out. Alternately, preheat oven to 250F and scatter cornbread in a single layer on the rimmed baking sheet and bake (stirring often) for about 1 hour or until the cornbread is dried out.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add fennel, onion, and celery and cook, stirring often, and beginning to soften. Add apple, pecans, and herbs. Cook for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and gently stir in dried out cornbread and 1 1/2 cups of broth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon cornbread dressing mixture into a large slow cooker or crock pot. Cook on low for about 4 hours. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Some days can go by without me noticing what the date actually is. But August 8th and August 9th never go by without me knowing. These dates creep up every year with a solemn presence to signify a defining moment.
Twenty six years ago, on 8/8/88, was the last day that my father was alive. As most dads do, he was a man that carved out a significant spot in my life despite being present for only 8 years of my life. I wanted to be just like him…loud, smart, athletic, intuitive, mechanical, reckless, thoughtful, artistic, funny, and tenacious.
This year, instead of focusing on his death, I want to celebrate his life. I want to celebrate his last day, August 8th. I want to put a positive spin on these dates instead of remembering them morosely and feeling as though these dates also signify the death of my childhood.
Sorry to put a downer on today’s parade, but I’m hoping to bring it quickly up with an Ice Cream party. A BOURBON Butter Pecan Ice Cream Party to be exact. Butter pecan ice cream was my father’s favorite flavor. We would take long summer drives to the local Braum’s ice cream store in Oklahoma and share a butter pecan mix. This flavor gives me INSTANT childhood love and gratification.
So what better way to improve on any ice cream party than with BOOOZY ice cream. I think my dad would have approved of the boozy bourbon addition…in fact I KNOW he would have doubly approved. He probably would have even drizzled more on top like a bourbon float…hooooyah! Come and get it. So grab a spoon and dig in. Raise your ice cream goblets and glasses to THE man, Jimmy “James” “Jim” Hinman!
Cheers to you, Jimmy Hinman, and the brilliant and quick-burning roman candle life that you had. You touched so many lives in the short amount of time that you were alive. I’m jealous of those that knew you longer than I did, but thankful for the time that I did have. You are missed every minute.
Bourbon Butter Pecan Ice Cream
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 Tablespoons bourbon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast pecans for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add butter and turn off heat. Stir until butter is melted and pecans are coated. Sprinkle salt over pecans. Remove buttered pecans to a plate and allow to cool. Once they are cooled, store pecans in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Place a large sealable container in the freezer. The ice cream mixture will go in this container when it is ready.
- Combine cornstarch with a few tablespoons of milk in a medium to large bowl. Whisk together until the cornstarch is completely dissolved and there are no more clumps. Add the egg yolks and whisk mixture together. Set aside.
- Heat milk, cream, and maple syrup in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes just to a boil. Remove saucepan from heat. Ladle a little bit of the milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly because you do not want to scramble the eggs. You are tempering the egg mixture. Add a few more ladles at a time of the milk mixture until the egg mixture is warmed and thoroughly combined. Now add the warmed egg mixture to the milk mixture in the sauce pan, whisking constantly for about 2 minutes. Do NOT allow to boil. The mixture will become thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (170 to 175°F ).
- Pour custard mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and stir in vanilla and bourbon to taste. Place syran wrap on the surface of the custard in the bowl and allow to cool in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
- After the mixture is completely cool, process it in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions until almost firm. Pour in the buttered pecans and allow to process in the ice cream maker for about 5 more minutes. Transfer the ice cream to the pre-frozen airtight container and store in the freezer. Prior to serving, remove from freezer and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 5 minutes.