The Big List of Side Dishes, Part 2
As the holidays close in, we're all rushing to get our ingredients. Since it's such a drive just to get to a grocery store, I have a standing pantry rule: One to use, one for backup. It saves time and since I buy at my discretion, it saves money too. (I only stock up when it's on sale.)
This year, prices are all over the place. I found turkeys at a reasonable price, but not many small birds, which is what we prefer. I bought the smallest I could find and put them in the freezer for later in the year. For this Thanksgiving, we're deep frying duck.
Check last week's post for other side dish ideas. This week, we're continuing the list.
Kale Salad: This is one salad you want to prepare at least a couple of hours before you sit down to eat. Kale is a hearty, fibrous green and I like to let it sit in its dressing. You can also massage the chopped kale in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and half a lemon. Massaging it for 2-3 minutes breaks down the fibers.
Add dried cranberries, chopped apple, sunflower seeds or pecans. Dress with a vinaigrette or poppy seed dressing.
Stuffed Mushrooms: Okay, this is probably more of an appetizer, but I serve it as a side dish. My friend, Mel, introduced me to this dish.
You'll want 10-16 large mushrooms (depending on how many are at the table). Take off the the stems, coarsely chop, and set them aside. Crumble 1/2 pound of sausage (hot or mild) and fry until cooked through. In the same pan, cook the chopped-up mushroom stems, and thinly sliced scallions until soft. In a bowl, toss the crumbled sausage, onions, mushroom stems, and half a cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Mix. Scoop a teaspoon of mix into each mushroom cap, and top with grated Parmesan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until the tops are crusty and the cheese bubbles.
There are a lot of variations, but this is the way I make them.
Roasted Cauliflower: You can roast a whole cauliflower and it would be pretty on the table, but I prefer to cut mine into florets. Cut them into uniform pieces so that they cook evenly. I also roast the stalks, sliced. Bathe the florets in olive oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and a tiny bit of red pepper flakes. Roast at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until fork tender.
Green Beans: I know a lot of people like to serve a green bean casserole, but that just buries the flavor of good green beans. My favorite way to serve fresh green beans is to boil them for five minutes. Drain, run cold water on them to stop the cooking. Drain again. Set aside.
In a dry skillet, toast a handful of sliced almonds. Remove from skillet. Add a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté sliced green onions until soft, add 2 cloves of minced garlic, sauté for 2 more minutes. Add the green beans and toasted almonds and mix thoroughly.
Stuffing/Dressing: No matter what you call it, it's a standard with any turkey dinner. My mother-in-law was a terrible cook. I had to force myself to eat at her table. But that woman knew how to make the BEST turkey dressing I ever ate. I never got her recipe.
Over the years, I've tweaked what I think she put into it. I don't know if it rivals my mother in law's recipe, but this is one that guests always go back for seconds.
Maria's Best Guess Thanksgiving Dressing
pounds sweet Italian sausage cooked and drained
1 ½ large onions, finely diced
7-8 celery ribs, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
6 slices of thick, smoky bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
6 cups day-old, finely diced French bread
3 cups crumbled cornbread
½ cup butter, cubed
1 tablespoon ground sage
1½ tablespoons poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry skillet
4-5 cups chicken or turkey broth
bacon until crisp. Remove from skillet and crumble.
• In the same bacon grease, cook onion and celery until translucent. Add minced garlic and cook until aromatic (another 2 minutes)
• Mix together the diced/crumbled French bread and cornbread and ¾ cup toasted pine nuts in a large mixing bowl. Add cooked sausage and dried seasonings.
• Add the cooked onions and celery with drippings.
• Add chicken (or turkey) stock and stir until thoroughly mixed. This is the tricky part. Use your better judgment on how much stock to add. You want it very moist, but not wet.
• Taste test it at this point. Salt and pepper as needed.
• Fold into a 9x13 inch greased pan.
• Dot the top with the cubed butter and cover with foil. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes.
• Remove the foil and bake another 10-15 minutes or until the edges get crusty.
• Sprinkle with the last of the toasted pine nuts. Grate Parmesan cheese over it just before serving.
That's it for this edition of side dishes. I hope you get to make some of them. I've made them all and these were the favorites of guests and family alike.
If you're in the US, I hope you have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving. Talk to you next week!
Do you have a favorite side dish?