The holidays are upon us, and it’s time to get cooking. Along with our main course or meat courses in our house we need a lot of sides. For some of us, the pressure can make the decision to grab a can of cranberry sauce or box of stuffing mix an obvious choice. This does not have to happen! While we all know it’s harder to make everything from scratch don’t we owe it to ourselves as cooks and our families to make them the good stuff? After all, these are the most important meals of the year, perhaps of our lives in some cases. Do we really want to remember the tin-flavoured green bean casserole or the canned candied yams? The answer is no.
This week, I wanted to share a couple of quick and easy side dishes that will hopefully take some of the stress out of your holiday meal planning. Along with these recipes I would also like to share some tips from a few of my other posts. Think of this post as a holiday montage show. giving us the chance to think back over all the other epic meals we have prepared. Armed with these tips and a little bit of luck, you can surely make your holiday meal go off without a hitch.
Let’s get started! Planning and organization are key as mentioned in my earlier posts “Mise-En-Place Part 1” and “Part 2”. There is no substitution for working and thinking ahead. For example, if you want to make your stuffing from scratch you can make your croutons weeks in advance, the same is true for chicken, veggie, or turkey stock. You can freeze and store stock when ever you make a batch to be used later in a number of dishes. Practicing and perfecting recipes in the weeks leading up to the big day can also be a great way to grease the wheels. Your family and friends will not complain about a roasted turkey dinner believe me. Plus, this gives you a head start on preparation as you can pre-make some ingredients for certain dishes, as I mentioned earlier.
4-5 cups fresh cranberries, washed and picked through for stems etc.
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest (optional)
1 cup white sugar
Combine all ingredients in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir frequently and cook for 10-12 minutes or until the cranberries have all popped and sauce is slightly thickened. If you like a thicker sauce you can take it a little further at this point. Carefully pour into your serving vessel while relatively hot and allow to cool to room temperature before serving. This can be make ahead of time/covered and refrigerated for up to three days.
Roasted Root Vegetables Medley
2 parsnips washed, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large golden beet washed, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large turnip washed, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 large carrots washed, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium sized yam peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large yellow onion diced 1/2 inch
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil, plus some for garnish
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Pre-heat oven to 350°F
In a large mixing bowl, add all of your veggies, herbs, onion, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil to coat well. Season well with salt and pepper. Move all ingredients into a large baking or casserole dish and cover with foil. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes to an hour, or until your veggies are fork tender. Allow to cool and place into a serving dish. Garnish with a little olive oil and more herbs if desired.
This is a classic, whether you are making it as a side or stuffing your bird with it. I also add mushrooms, sausage, oysters, chestnuts, and a number of other items on occasion. Feel free to experiment and make it your own.
12-14 cups croutons (recipe follows)
1/2 cup celery diced 1/4 inch
1/2 cup celery diced 1/4 inch
1 cup sweet white onion diced 1/4 inch
1 bunch of parsley finely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh thyme finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
3 cups chicken, turkey, or veggie stock
1/8 cup white wine
Heat stock and white wine in a sauce pan and hold warm.
In a large skillet melt your butter over low heat. Once it is melted add celery, onion, and carrots along with a pinch of kosher salt. Sweat your veggies in the butter for 1 minute or until they are just starting to soften around the edges. You don’t want to cook them all the way at this stage since you will be baking the stuffing/dressing.
Combine your croutons, vegetables and herbs in a large mixing bowl and gently toss. Slowly spoon in your stock/wine mixture until your stuffing is very moist. This is where a lot of us will worry about making the stuffing too wet. While there is a fine line here, go ahead and trust your judgement, but remember nobody likes dry stuffing/dressing.
Place your stuffing into a casserole dish and bake at 350°F for about an hour or until it’s very hot. Remove foil and allow to bake for an additional 15 minutes if you like a crust on the top. When stuffing into a goose, duck, chicken, turkey, or tofurkey follow the directions in the recipe for the entrée protein as these cooking times may vary.
2 good sized baguettes cubed 1/4 inch (you can use any kind of bread you would like)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
A small pinch of Kosher salt
Coat the inside of a large mixing bowl with olive oil and sprinkle in your chopped parsley. Toss bread cubes gently to lightly coat with oil/parsley.
On a large baking sheet arrange in a single layer. Making sure not to crowd your cubes. You may want to use more than one pan if they all wont fit. Season lightly with kosher salt and toast, stirring carefully every few minutes until completely dry this should take 10-15 minutes. Allow bread to cool and set aside. You now have croutons to use in your stuffing.
Looking for a great Holiday event to attend? Here are just a few of the ones listed through Brown Paper Tickets!
Saturday, November 23rd | Thanksgiving and Bees! With Michael Theile – Healdsburg, California There is more to bees than meets the eye. Beyond fulfilling the critical role of pollinating crops and providing honey, a bee colony can offer a glimpse into a world with its own social order, its own rhythm and its own sense of interconnectedness. In this class, Michael Thiele contemplates and honors the world and wisdom of bees, encouraging gratitude for bees and all of life.
Sunday, November 24th | Face Your Food Pre-Thanksgiving Poultry Processing Workshop – La Habra Heights, California Urban homesteader Jollen Gibbs leads the third annual hands-on Whittier Time Bank poultry butchering workshop with birds raised on her La Habra Heights farm. You will learn how to kill, de-feather, and process a chicken or turkey cleanly and efficiently.
Sunday, November 24th | Sunday Supper: Let’s Give Thanks! – Healdsburg, California As Thanksgiving approaches, we celebrate the bounty of the season, grateful for the earth’s nourishing gifts. Fortunate as we are, we also recognize that there are others who lack access to the good food we enjoy, even in a world of plenty. One organization that’s working to change that is Farm to Pantry, local volunteer gleaners who harvest surplus, sometimes forgotten, produce from backyard gardens, orchards and farm fields to provide fresh, healthy food to those in need. This Sunday Supper will honor their efforts to make the most of the seasons’ bounty, gleaning the harvest to feed us all, for the good of all. In gratitude all proceeds from this dinner will be donated to help support this inspiring and necessary organization.
Sunday, November 24th | Thanksgiving wine tasting – Alexandria, Virginia Nothing is more appropriate for this all-American holiday than an all-American wine sampler. This special holiday wine tasting will feature six wines from small independent wineries across the country that will stand proud on your Thanksgiving table. An array of Thanksgiving inspired food and snacks also will be served
Tuesday, November 26th | SAN DIEGO VEGAN THANKSGIVING – San Diego, California Don’t miss out on this special Vegan Thanksgiving Feast! The delicious menu includes: Faux Turkey or Fried Chickun, Organic Creamy Mashed Potatoes, Organic Southern Dressing (Stuffing), Organic Glazed Squash, Organic Mac N’ Cheeze, Organic Greens, Organic Gravy, Organic Biscuits and Organic Pumpkin Cheezecake.