On "The Early Show" Thursday, Tom Valenti, owner and executive chef of New York's Ouest restaurant, prepared some tasty sides using some of his expert tricks and tips to make your sides stress-free this holiday.
Sides, he says, can be very easy. Soups can be made ahead of time. In fact, the longer a soup sits, the more the flavors marry. Reheating soup is all you need to do on Thanksgiving Day. The below stuffing recipe can be prepped the day ahead (bake the bread, cook the sausage and veggies), by prepping the ingredients in separate plastic bags and measuring cups. Then all you need do on the day of is combine and bake. The last thing you want is for your meal to time out badly due to lack of oven space or the amount of chopping and measuring you have to do. Making your sides simple can take all the pressure out of the day.
Potatoes can be tricky. If they are totally prepped ahead of time and reheated in the microwave or oven, they could dry out. But we have a simple solution for that, too. Use a double boiler. Fill the bottom pan about half way with water, place the pre-made potatoes in the upper pan and place the double boiler over lower heat.
Check out the full recipes for more of Valenti's advice:
Sausage, Pine Nut and Oyster Stuffing
Two 1-pound loaves of sourdough bread, crusts removed, bread cut into 1-inch dice (20 cups)
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 pounds sausage meat
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, 4 tablespoons melted
6 large celery ribs, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise
2 large sweet onions, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine
2 dozen medium to large shucked oysters, halved, 1/2 cup liquor reserved
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped thyme
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped marjoram
2 1/2 to 3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1.Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 9-by-13-inch baking dishes. Spread the bread on 2 large rimmed baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes, stirring a few times, until crisp; let cool. Transfer to a very large mixing bowl. Meanwhile, spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes, until golden brown. Increase the oven temperature to 400°.
2. In a large skillet, cook the sausage meat over moderate heat, breaking it up with a spoon, until no pink remains, about 10 minutes. Continue to cook the sausage, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes longer. With a slotted spoon, add the sausage to the bread in the bowl.
3. Add the 4 tablespoons of solid butter to the fat in the skillet and heat. Add the celery and onions, season lightly with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the onions start to soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the celery and onions are completely softened, about 20 minutes. Add the wine and simmer over high heat until reduced by three-fourths, about 4 minutes. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
4. Add the vegetable mixture and the pine nuts to the bread cubes and sausage and toss. Add the oysters and their liquor, the thyme and marjoram and enough stock so that the bread is very moist but not overly soggy; season the stuffing with salt and pepper. Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dishes. Brush the tops of the stuffing with the melted butter.
5. Bake the stuffing in the upper third of the oven for about 15 minutes, or until hot. Preheat the broiler. Broil the stuffing 6 inches from the heat for about 2 minutes, rotating the baking dishes as needed, until nicely browned on top. Serve right away.
If making ahead of time, bake the bread and pine nuts, cook the sausage and veggies. Place all of these cooked ingredients in separate plastic bags. Measure out the chicken stock and herbs. Put all of the ingredients near each other in the refrigerator. Then the day of Thanksgiving, combine all of the ingredients in a baking dish and bake.
For more Thanksgiving side dishes, go to Page 2.