Did I mention before that I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for fourteen Thursday night? I did indeed – and it went smashingly, thank you thank you =)

We had the turkey, of course, baked with lemon and sage and cracked pepper. And we had sides like you would not believe. So I thought I’d share the best ones with you, dear readers. Recipes below the cut.

I decided this year that I was not going to serve that green bean casserole that shows up at every occasion we ever have that involves a large piece of meat to be shared by multitudes. Not only am I sick to death of green beans wallowing in mushroom soup, but when I tried to jazz it up last year (with fresh mushrooms and tiny pearl onions, no less), it was totally gross. Which is to say, it sat in my refrigerator and putrified while I tried to ignore it. In the end I threw it out, container and all. There was some swearing involved*.

This year, we went with onions. Creamed onions with bacon and chives (tho’ I forgot to put the chives on in the end). Smitten Kitchen has become one of my favorite sites lately, even if some of her recipes are a tad challenging. This one I followed pretty close to the letter, but used frozen onions from Trader Joe’s instead of the fresh ones she used.  They were incredibly yummy.

Stuffing has always been miffling for me. The last few years I’ve done a few permutations of stuffing with chestnuts and wild rice, but as the ingredients have become harder and harder to come by (no one seems to make plain croutons anymore, have you noticed?) and I’ve substituted to make it, the quality has fallen considerably. The year before last was terrible and mad dense, and last year I just put the chestnuts and rice into some Stove Top, which was fluffy, but wicked salty and processed tasting. This year? I went running to Martha. She knows a thing or two about cooking, you know.

I started with Martha’s recipe for Whole-wheat Stuffing With Turkey Sausage, and played with it a little, first to accommodate the number of people (hers serves only eight), second to please the Mendelstahm and Moskowitz palates. Here’s what I came up with:

Sausage Stuffing – serves 12-14

~12 thick slices of bread,** left to dry out for a few hours, and cut to cubes
2tsp extra virgin olive oil
3 links Italian turkey sausage, casings off and broken up
6 celery stalks, diced
half a head of garlic, minced
2 1/2c chicken broth, low sodium
2 eggs, beaten
4tsp fresh thyme, chopped finely
4tsp fresh sage, chopped finely

1. Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in a big pan over medium heat, brown the sausage.  Stir in celery, garlic, onion. Lower heat and saute until the celery gets soft and pretty bright green, roughly 10 mins.

2. Combine the mixture in the pan with everything else, and pop it in a casserole dish. I mixed in half the bread at a time, because when you add the broth, the mixture will get dense. Adding half before the broth and half after leaves fluffy chunks – mmmmmm.

3. Bake with the lid on for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes to crust the top.

Cranberry sauce I also wanted to be different this year. I generally make a cold cranberry and orange relish, but I consistently end up with a lot of leftovers. Also, I wanted something warm this year. Last year I made a pear and star anise compote that I thought was pretty good, but no one else really liked it. Looking through my recipe file I found a half slip of paper with an intriguing recipe on it, and decided to go for it. It turned out to be outrageously good:

Cranberry-Ginger Chutney – makes just under 2c

1 1/2c fresh cranberries
25-30 dried apricots (our apricots were bitty – I used 30)
3/4c packed light brown sugar
1/3c raisins
2Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2Tbsp apple cider
3/4tsp ground cinnamon
1/4tsp cayenne pepper
juice of 2 clementines

Put it all in a pot over medium heat. The sugar will dissolve, and the whole thing sort of jams up. It gets very fragrant and the cranberries will start to pop (no, really! It’s totally cool).  When all the cranberries have popped (ok, well, split), it’s done. Wait till it cools to taste it or you will burn your mouth. Hot sugar is hot.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes – serves 14-16

~7# russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4″ rounds
2 heads of garlic, roasted the night before***
1 1/2 stick of salted butter
some whole milk
Montreal Steak Seasoning**** to taste

1. Boil the potatoes until soft enough to fork mash. Drain and put back in the pot with the butter, broken into chunks, and the garlic cloves squeezed from their heads. Cover and let sit for a few minutes until the butter melts.

2. Mash with a ricer (or if you really want a workout, a fork). Add milk until the consistency is how you like it. Add Steak Seasoning until it tastes the way you like it. Voilá!

Sweet Potato Pie – serves 6-8

1 big can of yams, drained
1 small can of crushed pineapple
nutmeg and cinnamon to taste
about half a bag of tiny marshmallows
1 prepared graham cracker crust

1. preheat oven to 350. Combine yams, pineapple, and spices in a bowl, and mash with a ricer.

2. Put it all in the graham cracker crust. Cover with marshmallows. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the marshmallows are browned.

All around, dinner came out great. Our Small Person was a fabulous sous chef, and we totally had a good time cooking together. Daniel and Jaquelyn were out of town for the weekend, so we had their oven as well as the oven in the basement to work with while the turkey cooked in our oven, so everything was hot at the same time. Afterwards we had the traditional  piepocalypse, and the next day I turned the turkey carcass into some pretty stunning soup (more on that in another entry).

Which is to say, I’m done with turkey for another year. But next year I’ll be using some of these new recipes again – om nom nom!

***

*When I foolishly opened the tupperware, thinking I could wash it out.
**I used the Amish white bread that I like to bake for everyday use (that stuff makes a hella sandwich, btw).
***Cut the tops off so the cloves are all exposed, discard any loose skins. Drizzle olive oil over the top, and wrap in foil. Bake at 325 for an hour or so, until the edges of the cloves are browned. You will (once it cools! wait ’til it cools!) be able to squeeze the cloves out. Seriously, no matter what anyone tells you, it is that simple.
****This stuff is so osm, I cannot even explain. It’s good on pretty much everything.

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