Side dishes to round out a Thanksgiving feast

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The first Thanksgiving must have been a joyous occasion celebrating the abundant harvest. We have come a long way since the 1600s, when virtually everyone was involved in producing enough food. Today, only about 3 percent of the population produces food for everyone in our country and enough extra for exports. That alone is enough to be thankful for. I will pass along to you today a few side dishes you might want to try for your Thanksgiving feast.

Very Special Brussels Sprouts

6 ounces pancetta, big dice

4 tablespoons capers, drained

2 pints brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup currants

1/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium pan over medium heat cook the pancetta and capers. Remove from pan, reserving a little of the pancetta fat in the pan. Add the brussels sprouts to the pan and cook over medium heat to begin to brown. Dress with balsamic and olive oil, a little salt (capers and pancetta are salty) and pepper. Place into the oven and roast, tossing a couple of times, until nicely caramelized, about 15 to 20 minutes. Put the pine nuts in a small, dry, saute pan and toast over a low flame, tossing a couple of times, just until lightly browned, 3 or 4 minutes. Once the sprouts are ready, remove them from the oven and put into a big serving bowl. Add the pancetta, the capers, pine nuts, currants and raisins. Toss and check for seasoning.

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

12 small to medium sweet potatoes

3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup light brown sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup toasted pecan pieces

1 cup miniature marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the sweet potatoes, scrubbing them well to remove any dirt. With a fork, prick the sweet potatoes in a couple of spots and place them on a sheet pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center goes in easily. In a large bowl, mix the butter, brown sugar and flour together until it's crumbly-looking. Add the cinnamon, salt, pecans and marshmallows. Fold the streusel topping together to combine. Slice the sweet potatoes lengthwise down the center and push the ends toward the middle so it opens up. Stuff the sweet potatoes generously with the streusel topping and return to the oven. Bake for another 20 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and brown.

Potato, Parsnip and Rutabaga Mash

8 cups quartered red potatoes

4 cups chopped and peeled parsnip

1 rutabaga, peeled and chopped

1 onion, chopped

3 tablespoons salt, divided

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 stick butter

Freshly ground black pepper

In a large Dutch oven, combine potatoes, parsnips, rutabaga, onion and 2 tablespoons salt. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender. Drain well. Add remaining salt, cream cheese, butter and a dash of pepper. Mash together.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup 100 percent cranberry juice, not cocktail

1 cup honey

1 pound fresh cranberries, approximately 4 cups

Wash the cranberries and discard any soft or wrinkled ones. Combine the orange juice, cranberry juice and honey in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cranberries and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens. Do not cook for more than 15 minutes as the pectin will start to break down and the sauce will not set as well. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Carefully spoon the cranberry sauce into a 3-cup mold. Place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to overnight. Remove from the refrigerator, overturn the mold and slide out the sauce. Slice and serve.

Risotto with Butternut Squash

1 quart chicken stock

1 cup water

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, grated or chopped

2 cups Arborio rice

1 cup dry white wine

1 (10-ounce) box cooked frozen butternut squash

Nutmeg, grated, to taste

2 tablespoons butter

7 or 8 leaves fresh sage, slivered

1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Bring 1 quart stock plus 1 cup water to a simmer in a sauce pot then reduce heat to low. Heat a medium skillet over medium to medium-high heat with olive oil. When oil ripples, add the onions and garlic and soften 2 to 3 minutes. Add rice and toast 2 to 3 minutes more. Add wine and cook it out completely, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes. Ladle in stock in intervals, a couple of ladles at a time. Allow liquids to evaporate each time. Risotto will cook 18 minutes, total, from the first addition of liquid. Defrost the squash in your microwave in a dish to collect any liquids and stir in squash the last 3 minutes of cook time, season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. In the last minute of cooking time, stir in butter in small pieces, sage leaves and cheese, serve.

Have a very happy Thanksgiving and may your abundance be fully celebrated with those you love. Have a great week and until next time, happy cooking.

Susan McClanahan is administrator at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. Send recipes to her at or by mail at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63701. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by Southeast Missourian staff.

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