Thanksgiving Dinner: Picking Sides

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AnnetteBlack Friday deals, cooking way too much food and the onslaught of family can easily overshadow the true meaning of this holiday. However, the centerpiece of Thanksgiving is a large meal, generally centered around a large, roasted turkey. The majority of the side dishes are something of a ritual or a tradition.

Many people would say their meal is incomplete without cranberry sauce, dressing or stuffing and gravy. Others would argue that mashed potatoes, yams or sweet potatoes are required in their traditional meal.  When it comes to vegetables, corn on the cob, green bean casserole and carrots are some of the top prepared items. Round out your feast with deviled eggs, a relish tray complete with pickles and olives, a salad, and bread or biscuits, and you’ll definitely find yourself in a food coma. The dessert for the feast usually consists of pies, in particular apple, pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan or mincemeat.

When it comes to potatoes, mashed potatoes are the poster child of Thanksgiving side dishes. Besides butter and salt and pepper, many people today will prepare theirs with sour cream, garlic and herbs, bacon, or other flavorful additions. Alternatives to mashed potatoes include roasted potatoes, baked potatoes or sweet potatoes prepared in a variety of ways.

For some, meat pies are a staple at the Thanksgiving table. Meat pies are filled with ground pork or mincemeat, with a combination of spices and gravy. Although not real big in our local area, our Canadian friends will more than likely have a meat pie on their tables.

When it comes to vegetables, the green bean casserole is the most likely go-to for accompaniment.  The casserole consists of creamy green beans covered with crunchy fried onions or matchstick potatoes.  However, roasted vegetables make another classic yet savory side dish.  Oven roasting is a healthy way to include seasonal vegetables, as very little oil or fat is needed for cooking.  You can roast a variety of vegetables, including carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, parsnips, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts, on a large baking tray with a little olive oil and seasonings. Roast them until they’re crisp and golden brown.

Turkey and Sides

No Thanksgiving would be complete without stuffing. Whether it is cooked inside or outside of the bird, it is served alongside the turkey. Stuffing can be made from any variety of bread, including purchased bread crumbs. For a gluten-free stuffing, use homemade cornbread prepared with corn flour rather than a boxed mix. Family traditions will have additional ingredients, including pork sausage, turkey sausage, apples, nuts, broth, wine and even eggs.

Maureen Sisco, our Director of Personnel at Nino’s, states that her Thanksgiving meal would be incomplete without sweet potatoes. Her favorite recipe consists of the sweet treat served in a cored-out orange. In my home, our traditional yam recipe is simple, yet no one prepares yams like my mom.  Try as I might, I have never been able to replicate them.  My mom knows this is the one thing she will always be responsible to prepare for our family gatherings.

Chef Joe McDiarmid of Troy has a recipe for stuffing that completes his family’s Thanksgiving meal. Here is the recipe he would like to share:

Chef Joe’s Michigan Stuffing

½ loaf of rye or pumpernickel bread – large diced 1” x 1”

½  loaf of any white bread – large diced 1” x 1” – day old is preferred
½ cup of cream
1 cup of chicken or turkey broth
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
2 cups dried Michigan cherries
1 cup of pine nuts
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
2 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
½ pound of butter, medium diced

  1. Saute celery and onions until translucent.  Add stock, cream, sage, and parsley, and bring to a simmer.
  2. Mix in both kinds of bread.
  3. Let rest about 20 minutes.
  4. Mix in butter, cherries, pine nuts, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Place in casserole dish, and bake in 350-degree oven for 30 minutes covered and then uncovered for 10 minutes.

 Interesting Turkey Trivia

  • Turkeys can have heart attacks. Entire fields of turkeys have been known to drop dead from the loud noise of Air Force jets breaking the sound barrier while on test flights.
  • The long, loose skin that hangs down on a turkey’s neck is called a wattle.
  • Turkeys can run up to 20 mph.
  • Wild turkeys can fly, but domestic turkeys cannot.

This holiday season,  I am thankful for the people in my life who give me the support and love I need to make a difference.  What are you thankful for?