Sunday, November 18, 2018

Do-Ahead Thanksgiving Sides

Thanksgiving week is upon us, it's only Sunday, so relax and start cooking now so that on Thanksgiving you can just roast the turkey and relax with your family and friends.  For years I've taught my Do-Ahead Thanksgiving classes to sold out cooking schools.  Although the menu has never changed (you can find the recipes in my book Perfect Party Food) this year, I've decided to give you a few more ideas for sides which are really my favorite part of the meal.  Dr. C, our son and I are in Maui for the NCAA basketball tournament, and I will be cooking dinner here in a condo on Kaanapali on Thursday. 
Brussels sprouts had never been a favorite until I tried this recipes, now it's a go-to.  Roasting the sprouts brings out the sweetness in in the vegetables, pancetta provides crispy salty nuggets and the balsamic vinegar balances the whole thing.  Make sure to buy an aged balsamic from Modena. 

Holiday Brussels Sprouts
Serves 6

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
one 1/2-inch slice pancetta, cut into a fine dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, cut into quarters
salt and pepper
1/3 cup aged balsamic vinegar

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with silicone, aluminum foil or parchment.
  2. In a bowl, combine the oil, pancetta, garlic, sprouts, salt and pepper.
  3. Spread the sprouts onto the baking sheet in an even layer.  
  4. Roast for 10 minutes, turn, and roast another 5 to 7 minutes until the sprouts are just al dente.  
  5. Remove from the oven, transfer to a serving bowl, and drizzle with the vinegar, tossing to coat.  
  6. Serve warm.  
  7. Do-Ahead:  When roasting, in step 4, roast for a total of 13 minutes, 10 to begin, turn and roast another 3 minutes.  Cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.  Reheat in a skillet before proceeding.  

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 6 to 8
This is a delicious soup to keep warm in your slow cooker.  Refrigerate the finished soup for up to 4 days, or freeze it (without the cream) for up to 2 months.  

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped peeled and cored Granny Smith apple
8 cups cubed butternut squash
2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup heavy cream
8 strips bacon, cooked crisp, and crumbled
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, line 2 baking sheets with silicone, aluminum foil, or parchment.  
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oil, onion, apple, squash, thyme, and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 15 to 20 minutes until the squash is soft when pierced with the tip of a sharp paring knife.  
  3. Transfer the mixture to a Dutch oven, add the broth and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  
  4. Puree the soup with an immersion blender, add the cream, and bring to the soup to serving temperature.  
  5. Garnish each serving with crispy bacon.  
  6. Do-Ahead:  Prepare the soup through step 3, puree the soup, cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.  Reheat on the stove top add the cream and bring to serving temperature.  

Do-Ahead Cornbread Dressing
Serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 pound prosciutto, finely diced
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 firm pears, peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
8 cups crumbled cornbread (use your favorite recipe)
4 to 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper

  1. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cups of the butter, and saute the prosciutto until it is crispy.
  2. Add the onion, celery, pears, thyme and sage leaves, and saute until the vegetables are softened, about 4 minutes.  
  3. Put the cornbread into a large bowl, add the onion prosciutto mixture, adding 3 to 4 cups of chicken broth,until the dressing holds together.  
  4. Coat the inside of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Transfer the dressing to the casserole, melt the remaining butter and drizzle over the dressing.  At this point you can cool, cover and refrigerate the dressing for up to 3 days.  
  5. Bring to room temperature and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes until the dressing is golden brown.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.  

One of my favorite desserts, that's easy and delicious is my mother's apple pie cake.  Basically apples seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, covered with a buttery pecan pour over crust that baked up into crispy topped apple pie.  This can be made the day before serving, or you can make the components and then bake while you are eating Thanksgiving dinner.  The photo doesn't do it justice, just trust me here that it's worth peeling the apples.  My favorite gadget peels cores and the apples in no time, or you can have your kids do it for you---it's endless entertainment!

Mom's Apple Pie Cake
Serves 6 

For the Apples
1 1/2 pounds apples, cored, peeled, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1.      To make the apple mixture, toss together the apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and lemon juice in a large bowl.
For the Batter

3/4 cup unsalted butter melted
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup pecan halves

1.      Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray.  Transfer the apples to the prepared pan.
2.      To mix the batter, combine the melted butter, flour, sugar, eggs, and pecans, stirring until blended. Pour over the apples and bake until the top is crisp and golden, and the apples are bubbling underneath, 45 minutes to 1 hour. 

3.      Serve the cake warm or at room temperature with unsweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday.  I'm grateful to all those
colleagues who have worked with me over the years, as well as the students who 
keep coming back for classes.  You make my days when I am on the road.  
Aloha and mahalo.  

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