Today we are focusing on some of the side dishes for your Thanksgiving dinner. Let’s start with the recipe for my Cranberry Sauce that I have made since the 1980’s. It is absolutely foolproof and a knock out! Make sure you set aside a beautiful glass serving dish so the stunning color of this sauce can sparkle on the buffet or table.
If you have only had the jellied cranberry sauce in the can, the one that wiggles when you serve it, you haven’t really tasted cranberry sauce. I never liked it until I made if for myself from scratch. Now it is my favorite part of the meal and what I look forward to the most! And it couldn’t be easier. You throw everything into a pot, cook it for 10 minutes and it is absolutely the most delicious thing you’ve ever tasted! If you haven’t made it before, this is the year to try!
Fresh cranberries are sold in the produce section of grocery stores during the holiday season. I always buy an extra bag so I can have some during the rest of the winter. They freeze beautifully. You will need to pick through the berries and throw out any that are mostly white, squishy, or shriveled. You will still have plenty for the sauce. Also look out for their tiny little stems and remove those as well. Rinse thoroughly in a colander and the cook as directed below.
An immersion blender, also called a stick blender, allows you to puree directly in the pot you cooked in. They are not expensive and are perfect for making this cranberry sauce as well as pureeing soups and smoothing out gravy. I have had mine for years and it is one of my favorite kitchen tools.
Now here is some trivia for you. Do you know the difference between stuffing and dressing? No this is not a trick question – they are not synonymous. While made nearly the same, stuffing is cooked inside something else (in this case the turkey) while dressing is cooked alongside in another container. Now you can dazzle your guests with this Thanksgiving trivia!
These days there are very few chefs who would suggest you stuff the turkey because it just isn’t safe. Bacteria grows so quickly and you don’t want anyone to get sick. Besides, by the time the stuffing has reached its safe temperature of 180°F, the turkey will be overcooked and dry. So no matter how tempted you are, please cook your dressing on the side!
Besides how you cook it, there is another important difference. That is the addition of eggs. Hotly debated, I believe the answer lies in the moisture content. Because stuffing is cooked inside the bird and absorbs some of its juices, you don’t need the eggs to bind the ingredients together. However, if you are cooking it in a dish separate from the turkey, it can definitely benefit from the additional binding, moisture, and richness that come from adding the eggs. The biggest challenge is how to evenly distribute them. That is why I suggest you whisk them into the stock before tossing it with the other ingredients.
For a fun alternative way to serve the dressing, try baking scoops of it in muffin cups. There is a lot more of the crunchy top for everyone to enjoy. Everyone will love their individual servings and they are just so darned cute!
And finally, there are two camps when it comes to dressings … bread and cornbread. I have included recipes for both types, but in the spirit of bipartisanship, I also have a variation that combines the two! It is my favorite and makes a wonderful option when you have a lot of people coming for dinner. That way you don’t have to make two different kinds!
- 2 fresh oranges
- 2 tsp grated orange peel
- 3/4 cup orange juice, fresh if possible (if using prepared juice, reduce sugar to compensate)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 lb fresh cranberries, picked over and rinsed well (one bag sold in the produce section)
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups sugar (depending on the sweetness of berries)
- Dash of vanilla extract, dark rum, or bourbon, optional
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup lightly toasted sliced almonds, optional
- Wash and dry fresh oranges. Grate the zest (orange part only) into a small bowl.
- To Section the Oranges: Using a sharp knife, cut the top and bottom off the oranges. Cut down the sides, removing the peel and white pith, following the curves of the oranges. Cut peel and pith off both oranges before continuing.
- Working over a bowl and using a sharp paring knife or grapefruit knife, cut along both sides of the membranes that separate the orange sections, freeing the sections. This is very simple when the orange is whole, but gets progressively more challenging as you go along. Be very careful as you get toward the end not to cut yourself! When you are done, squeeze all the juice you can from the part of the orange left when you have removed all the sections.
- Strain the orange juice into a measuring cup and add additional juice as needed to reach 3/4 cup juice. Add 1/4 cup of water to juice.
- Combine all ingredients except almonds and orange sections in a non-stick saucepan and stir until sugar has dissolved. Cook over medium-high until cranberries pop open, about 10 minutes. As they cook, using a long handled spoon, skim the foam from surface and discard. Remove from the heat and, using an immersion blender, lightly puree mixture, leaving some cranberries solid.
- Stir in nuts and orange sections. Transfer to a serving dish. Sauce will thickens as it cools. When cool press plastic wrap directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Can be made up to 3 days ahead; will hold an additional week covered in the refrigerator.
- 12 cups 1/2-inch sourdough bread cubes (cut off crust before cubing) about 1-3/4 lb (you can use any artisan bread)
- 8 slices bacon, chopped, optional
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 1-1/2 cup chopped celery
- 3 large Gala or Fuji apples, cored and diced
- 3 cups pecans or almonds, toasted and chopped coarsely
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves, optional
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh sage
- 2 tsp dried sage
- 1 tbsp poultry seasoning, optional
- 3 lg eggs, beaten slightly
- 3 cups turkey stock, plus more if needed
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish. Set aside.
- Toast bread cubes on baking sheet until crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a very large mixing bowl.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until golden, about 8 minutes. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. When cool add to bread cubes in mixing bowl.
- In the same pan, melt butter in add onions and celery; sauté until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add apples and sauté 2 minutes. Pour mixture over bread and bacon. Add herbs. Toss well to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. (Can be made and refrigerated 1 day ahead to this point). Stir in pecans.
- Mix eggs into stock and whisk until completely incorporated. Add to dressing, tossing to blend completely. Add more stock if needed to have it thoroughly moistened. Spoon into lightly greased baking dish. Cover and bake 20 minutes. Uncover, bake until top is crisp, about 20 minutes longer.
- Yield: about 8 servings
- VARIATION: What I love to do is substitute toasted cornbread cubes for half the bread in this recipe. You get the earthy flavor of the corn and tang of sourdough bread in every bite and the bright yellow color is a beautiful contrast to the other ingredients. Be sure to lightly toast the cornbread cubes on a baking sheet until golden and then let cool. This helps remove some of the moisture and ensures that they won’t fall apart as easily. This is the dressing I now make every year - it has become our newest heritage tradition!
- 1-3/4 cups buttermilk
- 5 large eggs
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1-1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
- 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 2-1/4 cups cornmeal
- 3 tbsp melted butter
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously butter 9×9×2-inch metal baking pan.
- Whisk buttermilk, eggs, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in cornmeal, then gently stir in melted butter. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Set aside to rest for 20 minutes.
- Bake cornbread until top is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool cornbread in pan on rack.
- To prep for stuffing: Remove from baking pan. Trim and discard tough edges. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Store in a zip-top plastic bag.
- Yield: Makes about 12 cups of 1/2-inch cubes cornbread
- DO AHEAD: Cornbread can be made 1 day ahead. Cool completely, cover, and store at room temperature.
- You can serve any leftover cornbread with whipped honey butter the next day at breakfast or for an afternoon snack.
- Day old cornbread, crumbled (see recipe above)
- 2 cups celery, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 8 tbsp butter
- 7 cups chicken stock
- 1 tsp salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp sage (optional)
- 1 tbsp poultry seasoning (optional)
- 5 eggs, beaten
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9x13-inch baking pan.
- Place crumbled cornbread in a large bowl and set aside.
- In a large skillet, saute the chopped celery and onion in butter until transparent, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Pour mixture over cornbread. Add the stock, sage, and poultry seasoning, and mix well. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Add beaten eggs and mix well.
- Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake until dressing is done, about 45 minutes.
- Yield: 6 to 8 servings