RECIPES: Thanksgiving’s supporting players

The AJC's food writers have some suggestions for your Thanksgiving table, including Cheesy Squash Casserole (top), Cranberry-Fig Chutney (center left), Sausage and Apple Cornbread Dressing (center right) and Iris’s Celery Root, Apple, and Hazelnut Salad (bottom). Styling by Ligaya Figueras / Chris Hunt for the AJC
Caption
The AJC's food writers have some suggestions for your Thanksgiving table, including Cheesy Squash Casserole (top), Cranberry-Fig Chutney (center left), Sausage and Apple Cornbread Dressing (center right) and Iris’s Celery Root, Apple, and Hazelnut Salad (bottom). Styling by Ligaya Figueras / Chris Hunt for the AJC

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Though turkey is often the star, the AJC’s food writers share favorite sides and a dessert to make the meal memorable.

The biggest food holiday of the year is almost here. Turkey recipes are readily available, whether you want to roast that bird, deep-fry it or smoke it on a Big Green Egg. What turns the meal into a feast are all the supporting players — from hot rolls and salads to cranberries and casseroles to gravy, dressing and sweet endings.

This year, our team of food writers shares the recipes for the sides and pies that make an appearance on their own Turkey Day menus. And, while the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line is open (1-800-BUTTERBALL) to help you avoid epic turkey fails, our seasoned food team offers a few tips of their own for getting a turkey on the table without the stress.

ExploreThree recipes for using Thanksgiving leftovers

RECIPES

These Thanksgiving-worthy recipes for a salad, cranberry sauce, casserole, dressing and dessert are ones that the AJC’s food writers have fed to friends and family for years. Happy Thanksgiving, from our table to yours.

Caption
The recipe for Iris’s Celery Root, Apple, and Hazelnut Salad traces back to "Friendsgiving" celebrations in which Susan Puckett participated. (Styling by Ligaya Figueras / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

The recipe for Iris’s Celery Root, Apple, and Hazelnut Salad traces back to "Friendsgiving" celebrations in which Susan Puckett participated. (Styling by Ligaya Figueras / Chris Hunt for the AJC)
Caption
The recipe for Iris’s Celery Root, Apple, and Hazelnut Salad traces back to "Friendsgiving" celebrations in which Susan Puckett participated. (Styling by Ligaya Figueras / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Iris’s Celery Root, Apple, and Hazelnut Salad

Early in my newspaper career while working at the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio, some food-loving friends and I started a “Friendsgiving” tradition that lasted even after most of us had left for other cities. Our ambitions often exceeded our culinary skills — sometimes with hilariously disastrous results. Then Iris Broudy Bailin, an amazing private chef and crusader for local produce, joined our gang and agreed to host the feast. Besides tending the turkey, she introduced us to some vegetable sides inspired by her farmer friends and travels abroad. One was her celeriac (or celery root) salad, based on a French bistro classic in which the gnarly root is shredded, tossed in a mustardy, remoulade-like dressing, and embellished with other fall flavors. I will be thinking of her and those Cleveland get-togethers when I make it for visiting family this Thanksgiving. — Susan Puckett

Iris’s Celery Root, Apple, and Hazelnut Salad
  • For the dressing:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • For the salad:
  • 1 1/2 pounds celery root
  • 2 medium tart apples
  • 1/2 cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts (see note)
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra leaves for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 head red leaf lettuce, washed, torn in leaves, and dried
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, vinegar and honey. Set aside.
  • Bring a medium saucepan of well-salted water to a boil.
  • Wash and peel the celery root with a paring knife or a vegetable peeler. Grate the celery root on the largest holes of a box grater or process through the coarse shredding blade of a food processor.
  • Blanch the grated celery root in the boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, just long enough to soften a bit, then drain in a large sieve under cold running water until cool. Place the grated, blanched celery root on a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible, then place it in a large mixing bowl.
  • Peel, halve and core the apples. Cut into matchsticks and place in the bowl with the celery root, along with half the toasted hazelnuts and the chopped parsley. Fold in the dressing and season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill at least 1 hour, or overnight, before serving.
  • Serve the salad on lettuce leaves and garnish with the remaining hazelnuts and parsley leaves.
  • Note: To toast and skin raw hazelnuts, place them in a single layer on a baking pan and place in the center of a 350-degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until skins darken and lightly blister. Wrap the nuts in a clean tea towel and let steam for 1 minute, then rub vigorously to remove as much of the loose skins as you can. (A little skin left on is fine.) Let cool and proceed with recipe, or store tightly in a covered container. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 8: 234 calories (percent of calories from fat, 54), 4 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 15 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 10 milligrams cholesterol, 230 milligrams sodium.
Caption
Wendell Brock's recipe for Cheesy Squash Casserole makes mushrooms optional, and the colors of the bell peppers match the season, with yellow and orange for Thanksgiving. (Styling by Ligaya Figueras / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Wendell Brock's recipe for Cheesy Squash Casserole makes mushrooms optional, and the colors of the bell peppers match the season, with yellow and orange for Thanksgiving. (Styling by Ligaya Figueras / Chris Hunt for the AJC)
Caption
Wendell Brock's recipe for Cheesy Squash Casserole makes mushrooms optional, and the colors of the bell peppers match the season, with yellow and orange for Thanksgiving. (Styling by Ligaya Figueras / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Cheesy Squash Casserole

I’ve been taking squash casserole to holiday potlucks for decades, though I’ve tweaked the recipe over the years — for the better, I think. Where I once used a can of cream of mushroom or celery soup, I now season the veggies with aromatics and let the cheese, egg and sour cream do the binding. I somehow got the idea of decorating the dish with sliced peppers in colors appropriate to the season (yellow and orange for Thanksgiving, red and green for Christmas), and people seem to love it. Recently, I added mushrooms and leeks, and it was delicious, though not traditional. Here I include the mushrooms, but feel free to leave them out. This is a good dish to make ahead and bake the day of. — Wendell Brock

Cheesy Squash Casserole
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow or white onions, diced
  • 3 bell peppers, divided (dice 1 of them for the filling; slice the other 2 into rings for decorating top of dish)
  • 10 small yellow squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), sliced thin
  • 3 1/2 cups sliced white mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound yellow cheddar (I like extra-sharp), grated
  • 1/2 pound white cheddar (sharp is great), grated
  • 2 large carrots, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Place olive oil in a very large skillet (if you don’t have a skillet big enough to accommodate all the veggies, you may use a stockpot). Heat over medium-high for a minute or two. Toss in onion and the diced bell pepper, and cook about 3-5 minutes, until the veggies are just tender. Add squash, mushrooms (if using) and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain excess water from the pan, and dump veggies into a large mixing bowl. Stir in butter to melt while veggies are still hot.
  • Place the yellow and white cheddar in a bowl, and stir to combine. Set aside 2 cups of the cheese blend to use as topping, and mix the rest into the bowl with the squash and veggies. Add carrots, eggs, sour cream, salt and pepper, and mix very well.
  • Pour the mixture into a large casserole pan or baking dish, and spread it out evenly. Decorate the top with remaining bell pepper slices, and sprinkle the remaining cheeses all over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until golden brown. Serves 10-12.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 10: 425 calories (percent of calories from fat, 66), 23 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 32 grams total fat (17 grams saturated), 122 milligrams cholesterol, 686 milligrams sodium.
Caption
C.W. Cameron has served a variety of dressings with her Thanksgiving meal, but Sausage and Apple Cornbread Dressing is a constant on her holiday table. (Styling by Ligaya Figueras / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

C.W. Cameron has served a variety of dressings with her Thanksgiving meal, but Sausage and Apple Cornbread Dressing is a constant on her holiday table. (Styling by Ligaya Figueras / Chris Hunt for the AJC)
Caption
C.W. Cameron has served a variety of dressings with her Thanksgiving meal, but Sausage and Apple Cornbread Dressing is a constant on her holiday table. (Styling by Ligaya Figueras / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Sausage and Apple Cornbread Dressing

Thanksgiving dinner at my house often means at least two different dressings (never stuffing) on the table and maybe more. Oyster dressing, Arabic rice and ground lamb dressing, chestnut dressing, plain old bread dressing, onion and mushroom dressing have all made an appearance. But this sausage and apple cornbread dressing has to appear every year.

I use a cornbread recipe from Crescent Dragonwagon’s “Cornbread Gospels” published in 2007 and then add in traditional stuffing seasonings like sage, onion and celery, diced apple for sweetness, pecans for richness (as if this weren’t rich enough), and pork breakfast sausage. I use my dried homegrown sage, which doesn’t pack down like store-bought dried sage. If you use store-bought sage, start with less and taste so you don’t overwhelm the dressing. You can assemble the dish the day before, refrigerate it, then pop it in the oven when there’s room. — C.W. Cameron

Sausage and Apple Cornbread Dressing
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 pound regular pork sausage
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup 1/4-inch diced onion
  • Up to 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • 1 1/2 cups whole pecans
  • 2 medium apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces; do not peel
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chicken or turkey broth
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-by-8-inch baking dish.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
  • In a 2-cup liquid measure, combine buttermilk, oil, egg and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Beat with a fork until combined. The mixture will look curdled as the cold buttermilk causes the butter to form small clumps.
  • Pour buttermilk mixture into flour mixture and stir together just until combined. Pour batter into prepared baking dish and bake 20 minutes or until cornbread is cooked through and the top starts to get brown at the peaks. Do not overcook. Remove from oven and allow to cool in baking dish. When cool, cut into 1-inch cubes. Transfer cubes to a large bowl.
  • While cornbread is baking, in a large skillet, cook sausage over medium-high heat, breaking it up as it cooks but leaving it in pieces at least a half-inch in diameter. Remove sausage from skillet, do not rinse, and add 2 tablespoons room temperature butter, celery, onion and sage. Cook about 3 minutes or until vegetables just begin to become translucent. Add pecans and apples and cover skillet. Cook 5 minutes or until vegetables are completely cooked through, stirring occasionally. Add cooked sausage and remove from heat.
  • Top the cornbread cubes with the vegetable and sausage mixture and stir to combine. Lightly grease the 8-by-8-inch baking dish that you want to serve the dressing in. Put dressing into that dish and add turkey or chicken broth. One half cup of broth will lightly moisten the dressing. One cup will make a dressing that’s more moist. Cover baking dish with foil and bake 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake just until top starts to brown. Remove from oven immediately and cover with foil if not serving right away. Makes 10 servings.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 509 calories (percent of calories from fat, 61), 14 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 35 grams total fat (9 grams saturated), 73 milligrams cholesterol, 606 milligrams sodium.
Caption
Cranberry-Fig Chutney, a recipe from AJC dining editor Ligaya Figueras, could become your family's favorite version of cranberry sauce. (Styling by Ligaya Figueras / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Cranberry-Fig Chutney, a recipe from AJC dining editor Ligaya Figueras, could become your family's favorite version of cranberry sauce. (Styling by Ligaya Figueras / Chris Hunt for the AJC)
Caption
Cranberry-Fig Chutney, a recipe from AJC dining editor Ligaya Figueras, could become your family's favorite version of cranberry sauce. (Styling by Ligaya Figueras / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Cranberry-Fig Chutney

Don’t deny your loved ones their wobbly log of commercial jellied cranberry sauce, however misguided their affinity for the tinned stuff may be. Just make room on the table for a homemade version that literally pops with fresh flavor. I’ve been serving this easy cranberry-fig chutney for Thanksgiving since 2013. (It’s also great on a charcuterie plate.) Don’t omit the onion or ginger. They are key to pushing the sauce in a savory direction. — Ligaya Figueras

Cranberry-Fig Chutney
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 orange, peeled, chopped and seeded
  • 3/4 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Heat on medium-low until the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat and boil for 10 minutes, until the cranberries pop. Serve at room temperature. Makes 2 3/4 cups.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 42 calories (percent of calories from fat, 1), trace protein, 10 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, trace total fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 32 milligrams sodium.
Caption
You can give your family a change from the usual pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving by serving them Chadwick Boyd's Roasted Carrot and Chai Pie with Bourbon Vanilla Whipped Cream. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

Credit: Brooke Slezak

You can give your family a change from the usual pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving by serving them Chadwick Boyd's Roasted Carrot and Chai Pie with Bourbon Vanilla Whipped Cream. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)
Caption
You can give your family a change from the usual pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving by serving them Chadwick Boyd's Roasted Carrot and Chai Pie with Bourbon Vanilla Whipped Cream. (Courtesy of Brooke Slezak)

Credit: Brooke Slezak

Credit: Brooke Slezak

Roasted Carrot and Chai Pie with Bourbon Vanilla Whipped Cream

Every Thanksgiving, I create a new twist on pumpkin pie. I get that from my Grandma Clara, who believed tradition was important for the holiday yet it also was an opportunity to freshen up dishes to delight guests. Rather than typical canned pumpkin and pie plate, I use roasted carrots for this pie and bake it in a 2-inch-deep metal tart pan. A standard 10-inch tart pan will work, too. Just trim the excess dough along the edge. My sister-from-another-mother is Indian, so I fold in a homemade chai for bold, rich flavor and use coconut milk instead of cream. The pie is no-fuss. It uses both rolls of pie dough from store-bought pie crust. This pie is as satisfying as pumpkin pie and is a showstopper on the table. Top it with softly whipped bourbon vanilla cream before serving. — Chadwick Boyd

Roasted Carrot and Chai Pie with Bourbon Vanilla Whipped Cream
  • For the filling:
  • 2 pounds whole carrots, scrubbed and roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Flour, for dusting
  • 1 box store-bought pie crusts (2 total crusts), refrigerated until ready to use
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup coconut milk (can substitute with heavy cream)
  • 5 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger (optional)
  • For the bourbon vanilla whipped cream:
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional)
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees with a rack placed in the center position.
  • Toss the chopped carrots, butter, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, coriander, pepper and salt in a large bowl until evenly coated, then spread out in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tender, then remove and set aside to cool.
  • Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
  • Lightly flour a clean surface. Unroll the pie crusts and stack them on top of each other. Using a rolling pin, roll out to a 14-inch circle. Gently roll the dough over the rolling pin and lay evenly over the tart pan.
  • Using your fingertips, press the dough into the ungreased pan so it is firm against the flutes of the pan. The pastry should come just to the top edge. Trim any excess, if needed.
  • When the carrots are cooled, process on high in a food processor until smooth, then place the pureed carrots into a large bowl. Add the eggs, honey, coconut milk and candied ginger, if using. Whisk until smooth.
  • Pour the filling into the pie crust and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the pie.
  • While the pie is baking, make the whipped cream. Place the whipping cream in a medium-size mixing bowl along with the bourbon and vanilla. Give it a quick stir with a rubber scraper. If you have time, place the bowl with the cream mixture in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to chill — this ensures the whipped cream will come out consistent and smooth.
  • Using a hand mixer, start beating on medium speed for 1 minute. Then, turn the speed up to high and slowly add in the confectioners’ sugar. (Do not dump the sugar in all at once.) Beat on high for 5 minutes until the cream forms soft peaks, but not stiff. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with the rubber scraper. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until you’re ready to serve the pie. The whipped cream will keep for up to 3 days.
  • Remove the pie from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 2 hours.
  • Dollop the bourbon vanilla whipped cream onto the center of the pie. Smooth out to about 1 inch to the edge of the crust with the spatula. Cut with a serrated knife into 8-10 slices. Garnish with small sprigs of fresh rosemary, if desired. Serves 8-10.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 10: 529 calories (percent of calories from fat, 53), 5 grams protein, 59 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 32 grams total fat (18 grams saturated), 76 milligrams cholesterol, 420 milligrams sodium.

TURKEY TIPS

Order a smoked turkey. Roasting turkey is a stressful, unnecessary, messy hassle for us, especially when several family members don’t eat turkey. But we like the visual presentation of it and also the stock produced from the bones and the leftover turkey for soup or gumbo. Smoked turkey stock and meat are so much more flavorful than roasted! — Susan Puckett

During the pandemic, when I was only feeding one or two people, I had great luck roasting a boneless turkey breast. If you want some dark meat, add a thigh or two to the pan. Roast at 425 degrees until the temperature reads 155 degrees, or follow package instructions. Cover with foil and rest for 10 minutes before slicing. For added tenderness, brine overnight with a mixture of salt, pepper, sugar, spices and water — in the refrigerator, of course. — Wendell Brock

Forget softened butter for rubbing a turkey. Enrich the flavor with brown butter. Melt 2 sticks of salted butter in a skillet over medium heat. Continue cooking 4 to 5 minutes until it turns an amber color. Remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage. Refrigerate until solidified but not hard. Loosen the skin of the turkey breast and legs, then rub the brown butter under the skin. Generously salt the outside of the skin before roasting. — Chadwick Boyd

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