Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Sides

Every year, I am torn between whether to stick to the basics or to try new Thanksgiving items.   There are inspirations and recipes everywhere.   I recently took a Thanksgiving sides cooking class and there were two recipes that I am definitely going to make this year. 

Cranberry and Pomegranate Sauce
Cranberry and Pomegranate Sauce

Makes 4 servings


  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 package fresh cranberries (can also use frozen)
  • ¾ cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
  • Zest of one orange
  • 2 Tbsp. butter


  1. In a large saucepan, bring pomegranate juice, cranberries, and cherries to a simmer.
  2. And remaining ingredients and continue to simmer for approximately 10 minutes, until sauce is slightly reduced.
  3. Transfer sauce to a stainless steel bowl to cool.  Chill for 2 hours of overnight.  
  4. Serve at room temperature. 

  • If you used frozen cranberries, they have been partially cooked so the cooking time is less.   The fresh berries take longer but they hold up better (i.e. less mushy texture).
  • You can use any sweetener, such as honey, agave nectar, brown sugar, etc.
  • Feel free to play, you can use other dried fruit or add apples.  

I am not normally a fan of cranberry sauce; I think the cranberries are too tart and let’s be honest; a lot of my cranberry sauce experience has been that blob of cranberry from a can.   However, I liked this sauce.  I love the pop of color it provides on the plate and it is a great palate cleanser.   

Dried Apple Wild Rice Pinenut Dressing
Dried Apple Wild Rice Pinenut Dressing

  • 3 cups chicken stock, divided
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 3 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. thyme, minced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 cups onion, ¼ inch dice
  • 2 cups celery, ¼ inch dice
  • 1 cup toasted pinenuts (or pecans)
  • 1 cup dried apples, chopped (or any dried fruit that you prefer)
  • 2 cups pre-cooked wild rice
  • 6 cups of sourdough or whole grain bread
  • 2 eggs

  1. Preheat oven or grill to 400F.   Coat a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  (That’s right if you don’t have room in your oven, you can bake it on your grill.)
  2. Combine 2 ½ cups of stock, milk, herbs, salt & pepper in a large sauce pot and bring to a boil.  
  3. While waiting for the stock to boil, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the butter, onion, and celery.   Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the pinenuts, wild rice, and dried apples, mix to combine.  
  4. When the stock comes to a boil, ad the bread and cook over a simmer until the liquid has been absorbed.   Remove from heat and add the onion mixture to bread and stir to incorporate.  
  5. Whisk the eggs and remaining ½ cup of stock together.  Slowly stir into the onion and bread mixture.
  6. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.   Grill or bake until set, about 30-40 minutes

  • If you use fresh apples, make the dressing the day of (not the day before, which you can do).
  • Don’t try to be healthy and use olive oil instead of butter; the butter helps with the balance between soggy and dry.
  • Feel free to add mushrooms (sauté first) or raisins or anything else you think would be good.
  • If there are walnuts in the whole grain bread you use, beware that the walnuts will turn purple.
  • For the wild rice…. I would recommend hand harvested rice because you can cook it the same day and it has a more delicate flavor.   In contrast, cultivated rice has to soak over night and has a stronger nutty/burnt flavor.  
  • If you decide to use your grill, here are some tips:  1) make sure the dish isn’t directly over the charcoal; you can use a heating stone to help or put it off to the side, 2) use a ceramic baker that is cast iron + ceramic porcelain, and 3) make sure the dish is freezer to oven safe verified.    These tips will help ensure that your dish doesn’t shatter. 
  • Don’t stuff the turkey!   There is no flavor benefit, and there is an increased chance of bacteria due to the raw juices.   The internal temp of the dressing has to get to at least 165 which is hard with everything else going on in the oven.    I also think it is soggy; baking it gives it a little bit of a crispy topping.  
This stuffing was delicious.  It was rich, creamy, and hearty.  I loved the flavors and the textures and I can't wait to make it.

STUFFING SIDEBAR: I am going to have to tell you what I have done to cheat for stuffing in the past – it is the easy way and it is good; my husband is actually disappointed that I’m not making it this year.  Basically you buy Stove Top stuffing and make it according to the directions with the following tweaks: 1) use chicken broth instead of water, and 2) sauté onions, celery, garlic, apples, and raisins to add to the stuffing (be creative - there are lots of things you can add to make it seem homemade).   This stuffing is really good and really easy; and since it can be done on the stove top, it is not taking up space in the oven.  Although, you could bake it for a bit if you wanted to.
Easy Stuffing

While we are talking about Thanksgiving, I also thought I would share my favorite gravy recipe.  Anything with a splash of sparkling wine has to be good, right?  A cup of bubbly for the gravy and the rest of the bottle for me (okay, maybe I’ll share - it is Thanksgiving after all).   

Champagne Gravy


  • 5 cups turkey drippings
  • 1 cup sparkling wine
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary (most fresh or dried would work, such as thyme or tarragon)
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 6 Tbsp. flour
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Strain the turkey drippings through a fine mesh sieve into a large saucepan.   
  2. Stir sparkling wine, rosemary (or other herb), and black pepper into the drippings in the saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes to reduce and blend the flavors.   
  3. In a separate pan, sauté the garlic in butter and then add the flour to make a roux.   Whisk the roux into the hot gravy.  Allow the gravy to simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes.  Add salt to taste.
  • If you don't have the full amount of turkey drippings, you can add chicken stock to reach the amount.
  • If you like your gravy thicker, add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of flour.

As for Dessert….
I don’t like traditional pumpkin pie, so I usually make a creamy 2-layer pumpkin pie with a graham cracker crust that I love.  However, this year I have decided to branch out and I’m making a recipe that I found on Pinterest.  You’ve heard of better than Sex cake, right?  Well this is the pumpkin version.  Find the recipe here:
Photo from

Pairings:  I prefer to have Sparkling Wine with my Thanksgiving meal.  I feel like the bubbles make everything feel lighter.  This year I am serving a light rosé and a Prosecco. 

I’d love to hear what is going to be on your Thanksgiving menu and whether you prefer to stick to the basics or try to mix it up a bit?   Talk to me. 

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving.   Life offers a lot to be thankful for and it is important to focus on that once in a while.  


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