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Thanksgiving Sides: Part One

November 17, 2015 - Radio Kitchen - Thanksgiving Sides

 I'm sure that home cooks all over Maryland are diligently poring over cookbooks looking for some fresh ideas for Thanksgiving Dinner.  Early  autumn is a great time to go shopping for fresh local produce, and Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Scola Cooking School, I think we ought to give you a few ideas to work with.

While searching the web, I came across a video by one of my favorite TV chefs, Alton Brown.  He gave us a quick lesson in constructing a good casserole, and we jotted it down.

            Alton Brown's  Broccoli-Cheese Casserole

6 cups broccoli, chopped
12 oz. sliced white mushrooms
butter for sautéing
salt and pepper
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup Blue cheese dressing
2 eggs
1 package Ramen-style noodles (with flavor packet)
1 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1.  Put a large pot of water on the boil.  Meanwhile, cut up broccoli to include florets, and stems, cut into pieces and quartered lengthwise.  As water comes to a boil, add 1 tsp salt.

2.  Cook the broccoli for about 2 minutes, until it becomes bright green.  Remove from the hot water and plunge into an ice water bath.

3.  Sauté mushrooms in butter over low heat.  Add the broccoli to the sauté.  Add in the mayonnaise, the yogurt, the blue cheese dressing, the eggs, the raw Ramen noodles, half the cheese and the noodles' flavor pack.  Stir thoroughly.

4.  Grease a casserole dish and scoop the broccoli-mushroom mixture into the dish. Pat it down smooth, dust with black pepper, and cover the top with the rest of the cheese.  

5.  Bake in a 350° oven for 45 minutes.  Remove the casserole lid for 5 more minutes to solidify the cheese crust.  Let it cool for 30 minutes, and then serve.

Sometimes a good idea is just a matter or re-packaging the familiar.  Here is a recipe that uses the well established combination of green beans and bacon.

                     From "How Sweet It Is"

1 pound of fresh green beans, trimmed and washed
10-12 slices of thick country bacon, raw
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs minced garlic
pinch of salt and pepper

1.  Pre-heat your oven to 400°.  Grease a 9x13 baking dish.

2.  Make a bundle of 6-8 green beans, and wrap a slice of bacon around the middle to secure the bundle.  Place seam down on the baking dish.  Repeat.

3.  In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over low heat along with the brown sugar and garlic.  Whisk to combine.

4.  Brush the butter mixture on to the bundles.  Cover the baking dish with foil and cook for about 35 minutes.  Remove the foil and cook briefly until the bacon is crispy.

If you're in the habit of getting your inspiration from the market, then these two next recipes will surely appeal to you.


2 late season red apples, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
4 sweet medium sweet potatoes, peeled, cut up for mashing
1 cup evaporated milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1.  Place apple pieces in a saucepan, and pour in the wine and water.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to simmer the apples until they are soft.  After about 10 minutes, remove apples and set aside.

2.  Place sweet potatoes in a large pot, covered with water and boil over high heat. After the boil is established, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender.  Drain and allow the potatoes to dry for a couple minutes.

3.  Add the apples and remaining ingredients and half the butter to the sweet potatoes and mash thoroughly.  Transfer to a casserole, top off the mixture with pats of butter and bake the dish in a 350 oven for about 15 minutes. Serve hot from the oven.

2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 cup of cubed butternut squash
1/2 cup cubed pears
2 dozen small Brussels sprouts
olive oil
salt and pepper
Herbes de Provence
white balsamic vinegar

1.  Blanch the parsnips and squash in boiling water to soften.

2.  In a large bowl, toss the softened parsnips, squash, pears and sprouts in olive oil, coating them.   Add salt and pepper.

3.  Pour the vegetables into a greased baking dish, and roast in a 375° oven for 35 minutes.  Remove from oven, and sprinkle with Herbes de Provence, and adjust salt and pepper to your taste.  Sprinkle a little white balsamic vinegar on the dish and serve.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.