A New Spin on Thanksgiving Favorites

A New Spin on Thanksgiving Favorites

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Three cookbook authors share their takes on traditional side dishes to amp up our favorite fall feast, inlcuding Oyster Stuffing, Eggplant Mashed Potatoes, and Roasted Sqash with Ginger Shallot Browned Butter.
    

Oyster Stuffing for American Thanksgiving

American Thanksgiving is always a big hit at our farmhouse. Each year, I carefully plan a harvest menu using as many ingredients from the farm as possible. We invite family and friends and generally serve the traditional stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, but I always like to add a few surprises depending on what is left in the garden as well.

One Thanksgiving, a fellow American expat living in Dublin joined us at the farm. She made an unforgettable oyster stuffing that we have adopted as a new Thanksgiving tradition ever since. Here’s my take on it.

Serves 8-10
    

Ingredients

  • 11 cups crusty bread cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 6 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 6 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced
  • 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 40 medium (about 1 lb) oysters, shucked, with 1 cup of the liquor reserved
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • ¼ cup sherry
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp. chopped thyme leaves
  • 2 tbsp. chopped sage leaves
  • 1 tsp. sweet marjoram, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp. hot pepper sauce
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

   
Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Butter a 2-quart oval baking dish; set aside.
        
  2. Arrange the bread cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake, stirring occasionally, until dried but not browned, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
        
  3. Cook the bacon in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until it is crisp and the fat has rendered, approximately 10 minutes. Add 4 tablespoons of the melted butter. Add the shallots, leek, and celery; reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, approximately 10 minutes.
        
  4. Add the oyster liquor, chicken stock, sherry, parsley, thyme, sage, marjoram, fennel seeds, hot pepper sauce, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl, and stir in the bread cubes and oysters. Set aside to allow the flavors to come together for 10 minutes.
        
  5. Raise the oven temperature to 400°F. Transfer the oyster mixture to the prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, drizzle with the remaining butter, and continue baking until golden brown and crusty, approximately 15 minutes more.
        
  6. Serve immediately.

   
Scullery Notes

Fresh oysters are best, but if you are in a pinch, canned or jarred oysters in liquor will work as well.

The Farmette Cookbook by Imen McDonnell From The Farmette Cookbook, © 2016 by Imen McDonnell. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boulder, CO. roostbooks.com

 
    

Eggplant Mashed Potatoes

Eggplant mashed potatoes? Sounds a little crazy, right? Trust me—they’re not! This recipe is perfection, as well as a wonderfully creative way of hiding extra veggies in a well-loved dish. The inspiration for this was sort of random: I once had a comment on my blog about putting tahini in mashed potatoes. Months and months later, while I was cooking, my mind jumped back to that comment. My taste buds and brain went from tahini to hummus to babaganoush to eggplant to “Hey! That might not be too bad!” And it wasn’t bad—in fact, it was awesome! Just make sure you roast the eggplant to complete creaminess, and you’ll have yourself a surprisingly delicious side dish featuring a double dose of vegetables!

Serves 4 as a side dish
    

Ingredients

  • 1 small eggplant, halved
  • Olive oil for roasting
  • 1 tsp. salt, plus more for baking eggplant
  • 3 medium creamer potatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. dairy-free butter
  • Splash of dairy-free milk
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

  
Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
        
  2. Brush the flesh side of the eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt.
        
  3. Place the eggplant halves peel side down on a baking sheet and cook for 30-40 minutes (depending on the size), until the insides are very, very tender. Pierce through the top to test the inside; the softer, the better.
        
  4. While the eggplant is roasting, place the potatoes in a medium pot and cover them with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are soft.
        
  5. Drain the water from the potatoes and place them in a large bowl. Remove the peel, if you prefer.
        
  6. Scoop out the inside of the eggplant and place it in the mixing bowl with the potato. Discard the peel.
        
  7. Whip the potatoes, eggplant, butter, and salt together until smooth and creamy. Add a splash of milk, if necessary.
        
  8. Season with salt and pepper.


A Note About This Recipe: While I don’t like to rely on “hidden vegetable” meals, since I think kids should learn to love every vegetable on its own (okay, well, maybe not every one), sometimes they are the quickest way to get your kid to start eating less-palatable veggies. This dish works like a charm.

Tip: Garlic mashed potatoes? Yes, please! Since you’ll be heating up the oven to cook the eggplant anyway, consider roasting a whole head of garlic, too, and mixing it in with the potatoes. 

Kid-Friendly Tip: Nutritional yeast, always and forever. A sad day for Marlowe (the author’s daughter) involves mashed potatoes without it. Throw in a tablespoon when you whip the potatoes.

The Plantiful Table by Andrea Duclos Recipe from The Plantiful Table: Easy, From-the-Earth Recipes for the Whole Family, copyright © Andrea Duclos, 2015. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. theexperimentpublishing.com

 
    

Roasted Squash with Ginger Shallot Browned Butter

I could happily eat plain roasted squash on a regular basis. Its natural sweetness paired with a sprinkle of salt and wrapped in a crisp-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside bite is near perfection. But since I like to make it easy to spice things up, I often dress my roasted squash in ginger shallot browned butter. And boy, is it mouthwateringly good.

Serves 4


Ingredients

  • Approximately 6 cups peeled, seeded, and cubed butternut squash, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces (from one medium-size squash or two 20-ounce packages of precut squash)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh ginger
  • Chives, chopped, for garnish (optional)

   
Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a large bowl, toss the squash with the olive oil, the ¼ teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Spread the squash in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet (set the empty bowl aside to keep cleanup to a minimum) and roast until tender all the way through and caramelized in spots, approximately 40 minutes. (Make sure that the squash can hold its shape well enough to be handled without getting mushy.)
        
  2. In the meantime, in a small pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted completely and begins to foam, start swirling the pan continuously. Watch carefully as the butter cooks and turns color: once you see it turn chestnut brown, remove the pan from the heat and add the shallots and ginger. Swirl the pan a couple more times and return to the heat.
        
  3. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the ginger is fragrant and the shallots are soft and caramelized in spots, approximately 3 minutes. Take off the heat for good and set aside.
        
  4. Remove the squash from the oven and carefully transfer it to the bowl you’ve set aside. Pour the ginger shallot browned butter over the squash and gently toss. Season with more salt and pepper to taste, if desired, and garnish with chives, if using. Serve immediately.

   
Make It Easier: Get help from the store—or a very sharp knife.

Let’s be honest, dealing with butternut squash can be a total drag. Although you don’t always get the same vibrant flavor out of the precut kind you can find in most supermarkets nowadays, I find the shortcut totally worth it, especially when roasting will coax out so much delicious flavor. If you can’t find or just refuse to buy precut (hey, we all choose the hard path for something!), make it easy by using a sharp knife and sharp peeler.

Start by cutting off each end of the squash, then peel—with a peeler, not your knife. Once you’ve removed all the skin, stand the squash upright on one of the cut ends. It should be stable so that you can cut the vegetable in half lengthwise. Once split open, you can scoop out the seeds with a spoon and cut each half where the neck meets the body. The neck will be solid; cut it into slices at whatever thickness you like (1½-2 inches is good), then cut each slice into strips and, after that, cubes. Cut each remaining half in slices and each slice into cubes. You did it.

Make It Easy by Stacie Billis Excerpted from Make It Easy: 120 Mix-and-Match Recipes to Cook From Scratch—with Smart Store-Bought Shortcuts When You Need Them by Stacie Billis. Copyright © 2016. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.


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