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A Very Chicagoist Thanksgiving, 2010 Edition

By Anthony Todd in Food on Nov 23, 2010 7:00PM

FreedomFromWant.jpg It's a grand tradition here at Chicagoist to share some great recipes with our readers. Sometimes, we call all the chefs we know and ask them for advice, and sometimes we raid our cookbook shelves. This year, we are keeping it in the family. Sometimes the foodie side of the staff (read: Anthony) forgets that most of the non-food-writers here at the Chicagoist home offices are just as good in the kitchen as than they are. One of the reasons we love this tradition so much is that it lets the rest of the staff have a moment at the stove, and we hope you enjoy their offerings as much as we do.

Wherever you'll be this year, at home or away, with family, friends or by yourself, we here at Chicagoist hope you have a tasty and satisfying Thanksgiving holiday.

Laura Browning's Comprehensively Stuffed Squash
from the original Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

This recipe is a satisfying main course for vegetarians, but you may have to fight the omnivores for it, as they'll be sneaking it onto their plates as a side dish. Replace the butter with olive oil and voila, it's vegan. (I never put the cheese in it anyway -- it's perfect without cheese, and that is not something I say lightly).

2 medium-sized winter squash, halved and prebaked
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup minced onion
1/2 lb mushrooms, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
lots of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup minced walnuts
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
2 cups good bread crumbs (from good bread)
6 to 8 dried apricots
1 cup (packed) grated cheddar (entirely optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add onion, and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add mushrooms, garlic celery, and seasonings, and saute about 10 minutes, until everything is tender and well mingled. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix well. Taste to correct seasonings. Fill the prebaked squash and bake, covered, until heated through (20 to 30 minutes).

Betsy Mikel's Roasted Pear Salad

This Roasted Pear Salad is adapted from one I clipped in my Sunday Tribune coupon inserts. It said to use Marzetti brand dressing, but I'm sure any kind will do.

1 cup Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing, divided
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup chopped pecans
4 ounces blue cheese
¼ dried cherries, finely chopped
3 firm pairs
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
8 ounces lettuce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix ¾ cups of dressing and sugar in covered pan over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Set aside. Place pecans in skillet and toast over medium heat. Set aside. Once cool, mix with cherries and blue cheese. Set filling aside.

Slice pears in half lengthwise and remove cores to make room for filling. Place the pears in a baking dish and sprinkle with lemon juice. Spoon filling into pears and sprinkle some balsamic vinaigrette on and around them. Bake until tender, about 30 minutes and baste 3-4 times while baking. Once finishing baking, toss lettuce with more balsamic vinaigrette and arrange with pears. Spoon brown sugar pan drippings over the top.

Carrie's Green Bean Casserole
I'm a sucker for green bean casserole but prefer using fresh ingredients and taking a few of the shortcuts out to make from scratch. Here's a recipe I'm working off of from Alton Brown. Instead of regular yellow or white onions, try shallots and add in a few more varieties of mushrooms for a greater depth in flavor. I like crimini and shitakes. Your local grocery store may also carry packaged wild mushrooms to help save some time.

For the topping:
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt

For beans and sauce:
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Combine the onions, flour, panko and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Coat a sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray and evenly spread the onions on the pan. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Toss the onions 2 to 3 times during cooking. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees F.

While the onions are cooking, prepare the beans. Bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Add the beans and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 of the onions and all of the green beans. Top with the remaining onions. Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

Caitlin Roth's Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

Problem: My vegetables are boring.
Solution: Wrap some pork products around them.

1-1.5 pounds of asparagus
Olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, pressed (or peeled and minced)
Cracked black pepper, freshly ground
10-12 thinly sliced strips of prosciutto

Clean and cut the woody ends off the asparagus. Lay flat on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the asparagus and toss until covered. Realign asparagus onto the baking sheet. Spread the garlic evenly over the top, and top with cracked black pepper.

Roast the asparagus for 20-25 minutes, or until bright green and the skin starts to wrinkle slightly. Bring out and allow to cool enough to handle. Cut the prosciutto lengthwise into thin strips. Wind the prosciutto around each asparagus spear like a Maypole. Tuck the ends under to secure.

Kimberly's Pumpkin Whoopies
For a different take on the pumpkin dessert, a Pumpkin Whoopie is a nice choice. It's a low-key homey cookie that fits in especially well at the Thanksgiving meals you might have with your friends/urban tribe.

2 cups brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin, canned pumpkin works
2 eggs
3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves

Whoopie Filling:
1 egg white
2 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup shortening

Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly grease baking sheets.

Combine the oil and brown sugar. Mix in the pumpkin and eggs, beating well. Add flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix well. Drop dough by heaping tsp. onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 10 - 12 minutes. Let cookies cool then sandwich the filling between two cookies.