Are you ready for a true confession?
I rarely cook from a recipe. The first time I made this Pumpkin + Homemade Chicken Sausage Pasta there was no script. I tell you this so you understand my process of getting a recipe from my brain to your screen-- one that I know will work for you at home and that you can trust. A recipe that will hopefully make it onto your table.
A new recipe concept starts with thinking and dreaming about the flavors, colors, scents, and textures of ingredients. This work happens when I'm asleep and when I'm awake-- all the time! All that I have learned in over 50 years of cooking and eating informs how a new recipe idea comes together.
Intuition led the way when I first made this marigold Pumpkin + Homemade Chicken Sausage Pasta, like with most things I cook. I found it warm and comforting. It was delicious enough to share, and didn't take a fortnight to make, and so on to trial number two.
The second run is where I pay keen attention to quantities, timing, and cooking nuances you might want to know that will ensure success. Paper and pen are right next to me noting details as I work it through. At this stage I ask myself some hard questions: Is this really the kind of recipe you might want. Does this recipe create a solution for you? Will it delight you and your family and guests? Is it a thing you might really make at home? How can I instill confidence and cheerlead you through the steps?
When I agreed with my initial idea that you might really like this recipe, I moved on to a third Pumpkin + Chicken Sausage Pasta trial. Once again I prepare the recipe again from my notes, writing down any new thoughts or learnings that come. This is the step where I photograph the process using natural light and no filters-- no spin or tricks. Then off I go to write up the recipe in standard format for you.
Lastly and most importantly, I invite your feedback. If a recipe step is unclear, if there is something that you loved or that didn't go right, or if you have an idea that you tried that made it even better, I'm all ears! Please email me at email@example.com. I warmly welcome your comments on the post, too. Every time you leave a star rating on the recipe you help others find it through the Google maze. I value that, as well. In short, you are at the center of my work.
Please don't let the idea of making sausage intimidate you. It is as fast and easy as adding a few herbs and spices to some purchased ground meat. Try it with ground pork or turkey if you prefer. I just happen to like the lightness of the chicken with this ample portion of pasta. Casings or fancy techniques are not called upon. This particular spice blend was borrowed from a recipe I wrote about years ago.
The sausage recipe is versatile. Roll it into meatballs. Brown it and use it on pizza, salad or in other pastas. Form it into patties to snuggle into a bun or next to your breakfast eggs.
Pumpkin puree is easy to do at home. Click here for link to a Facebook Live video of me explaining the easy process of making pumpkin puree from scratch. Laugh along with me at my very first and awkward Facebook Live tutorial! However, feel free to use canned pumpkin puree if that works best for you. The recipe uses two cans of solid-pack pumpkin puree (just one if you want to cut the recipe in half.) Recipes that aren't scaled to use an entire can of something that will otherwise go to waste are simply annoying.
When you are looking for a wine-friendly autumn dish, Pumpkin + Homemade Chicken Sausage is it. A light Italian or Rhone red would be lovely, or any number of dry white wines. Award-winning Abacela Albarino 2020 from Oregon's Umpqua Valley is just lovely with the dish. You'll find this light and dry Albarino with no residual sugar and just 13% alcohol, to be a beautifully complimentary weight for this lighter pasta. Fresh fruit and floral aromas and a nice acidity bring the experience into graceful balance.
Parsnip Poutine + Rich Mushroom Gravy involves roasting quartered parsnips until partly chewy, partly crispy. A brown gravy smothers all good poutines. This one is a rich mushroom gravy redolent with shallots and herbs. Top the poutine off with Beaver Classic cheese curds, a project of Oregon State University's College of Agricultural Sciences, or any cheese curd or melting cheese you chose.
This recipe is designed for a very special group of people who started out as neighbors and became dear friends. Ever since we moved to the 101-Mile Kitchen we gather frequently to relax, shoot the breeze, eat and drink. This recipe is a thank you to these amazing souls who have kept my heart from drooping during the last 20 months of living in an upside down world, and to the universe for putting us in each other's paths.
Besides being funny, smart, and caring, our neighbors all enjoy cooking great food and drinking nice wine. (There might be a splash of bourbon here and there, too.) Sometimes we have a full-on meal, but most often we meet over easy noshes, charcuterie, spreads and dips, and casual dishes. I can't wait to make this poutine for them.
While it makes a terrific main course at its heart poutine is bar food and doesn't need a precious pairing. I'd suggest a Southern Rhone style blend. This time I served the poutine with a very inexpensive ($13) 2017 Château Saint-Estève Cuvée Classique Corbières Rouge-- a nice old world 60% Grenache- 40% Syrah blend. It is lively, with whispers of herbs and deep fruit that compliment the umami and herbal flavors in the gravy.
Of course most ales and beers are also delightful with poutine.
Parsnip Poutine + Rich Mushroom Gravy is another of those one-hour wonders. It takes maybe ten minutes to prep the ingredients, 16 minutes in the oven to get the parsnips on their tender and crunchy way while the mushrooms rehydrate, and another 15 or 20 minutes to make the gravy while the parsnips are finishing off. A foil-lined sheet pan, a large pan, a knife, and a bowl are the only tools used so clean-up is speedy.
Parsnips and shallots grow just about anywhere, so they should fit in to most people's imaginary 101-mile sourcing radius. You can find dried Porcini mushrooms at many groceries and online. My favorite source is Pistol River Mushroom Farm in Southern Oregon. Dried mushrooms seem expensive until you realize that one ounce of dried mushrooms is equal to 8 ounces of fresh. The dark color of the soaking liquid becomes the intensely flavored broth for the gravy-- something a fresh mushroom just can't do.
As an aside, tuck this mushroom gravy recipe away to use in many other ways. I can't wait to ladle it onto a split and fluffed baked potato one cold winter's day.
I consider Curried Salmon Cakes with Mango Chutney and Coconut Rice my springtime signature dish. Do you have a show-stopping dish in your cooking bag of tricks?
You'll know the recipe. People lean forward over their plates to inhale its aroma and turn their focus to their fork or spoon. A hush falls over the table. An eater's brow becomes furrowed in concentrated curiosity, quiet little sighs or hums bubble up as a delicate soundtrack to the moment. Time becomes momentarily suspended.
All of a sudden, that focused calm breaks into cheery chatter and conviviality brighter than before. Life goes on with this one subtle experience tucked into it. And this is when you know.
That's my signature recipe.
And this is why you cook.
Today's signature recipe joins one I shared years ago-- Winter-Spiced Molten Chocolate Cakes. Both are no-fail winners.
Credit for this curried salmon cake recipe goes to our friend Larry Deck. He once served it as a late-night New Year's Eve dinner and I was transfixed. The brightness of the homemade chutney and light curry notes in the salmon cakes was a sunny counterpoint to that dark winter night.
It highly likely that I let out a long, deep hhhmmmmmmmm that night.
Curried Salmon Cakes, Mango Chutney, and Coconut Rice is a heavenly match with any of King Estate's Pinot Gris. I am especially fond of their Domaine Pinot Gris with its pear, tangerine and Meyer lemon peel aromas and flavors, clean minerality, and silky texture. My husband and I featured the Domaine Pinot Gris at our wedding day brunch.
Just like today's recipe trio, this wine is full of happy memories.
The salmon cakes, chutney, and rice make an all-season dish, but I most often make it in late spring when the market is flush with fresh ripe mangoes and Copper River salmon are making their first run. The gingery coconut rice got added over the years and creates a truly perfect flavor and texture triad.
Good to note is that the mango chutney is fantastic with roasted pork and on a cheese platter, and the chartreuse-colored rice will make its way into your rotation apart from the salmon cake and chutney elements.
Any type of salmon you can access is just right for this dish. You're really in luck if your fish market sells salmon trimmings by the bag at a discount, which are perfect since a filet gets chopped anyway. With all of the flavorful ingredients added, the subtleties among salmon varieties can be lost. Go with what you've got.
There is nothing technically challenging about producing this meal. I suggest, however, that you plan it on a long afternoon devoted to zenning out in your kitchen, or when you have a pal available to help with the chopping. All three meal components need quite a bit of chopping!
What is your show-stopping signature dish? If you yet don't yet have one, what would you like it to be?
Roasted Chicken + Autumn Bread Salad (adaptable to all seasons): Get recipe here.
Mediterranean Chicken + Artichokes: Get recipe here.
Sweet + Spicy Salmon Bowls: Get recipe here.