Actually, the stuffing/dressing (the former goes in the turkey, the latter is baked in a casserole) and side dishes are Tori's favorite part of the Thanksgiving Day menu, too, she says. But, she's noticed that home cooks can often get too caught up in producing a slew of dishes -- too many to really enjoy. So she says her philosophy is to make only a few sides -- but to make them outstanding.
Here are some of her favorite dishes:
Wild Mushroom, Chestnut and Sausage Dressing
Says Ritchie: "When the first European settlers landed on American shores, they found an abundance of mushrooms growing wild in the forests. Hence, wild mushrooms are a fitting addition to our Thanksgiving dressing. We call for dried mushrooms, which lend a wonderful texture and depth of flavor. The mushroom soaking liquid enhances the earthy character of the dish."
2 oz. dried wild mushrooms
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, warmed
1 lb. French bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 Tbs. olive oil
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 1/2 cups prepared French chestnuts, halved
12 oz. mild fresh Italian sausage, casings removed
3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
In a bowl, combine the dried mushrooms and hot broth and soak for 1 hour. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the broth. Roughly chop the mushrooms, transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
Preheat an oven to 375 degree F. Butter a baking dish or small Dutch oven.
In a bowl, combine the bread cubes and olive oil and stir to coat. Spread the bread cubes out on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden and crunchy, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the mushrooms.
In a saute pan over medium heat, melt 3 Tbs. of the butter. Add the onion and celery and saute, stirring often, until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the chestnuts and cook for 2 minutes. Transfer the onion mixture to the bowl with the bread.
Return the pan to medium heat and melt the remaining 1 Tbs. butter. Add the sausage and cook, stirring and crumbling with the back of a wooden spoon, until the sausage is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add to the bowl with the bread and stir in the parsley and sage.
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the reserved broth. Add enough broth to the bread mixture so it is moist. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the dressing to the prepared baking dish and bake until crispy and golden, about 1 hour, covering the dish with aluminum foil if the dressing gets too dark. Serves 8 to 10.
Make-Ahead Tips: Assemble the dressing and place in the baking dish up to 1 day in advance, but do not bake. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before baking.
Brussels Sprouts with Radicchio & Pancetta
Says Ritchie: "At their peak of freshness in autumn, brussels sprouts are a traditional vegetable for the Thanksgiving feast. They were first introduced to American cooks by Thomas Jefferson, who is reputed to have grown them in his garden at Monticello. Our recipe balances the vegetable's natural sweetness with radicchio, a type of chicory that adds vibrant color and a hint of bitterness. We also add diced pancetta, which provides just the right amount of saltiness and savor."
1 1/2 lb. brussels sprouts
6 oz. pancetta, diced
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 head radicchio, about 8 oz., trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 1/2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh marjoram
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth, plus more as needed
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Cut or pull off any dry outer leaves from the brussels sprouts. Trim away any brown spots and slice off the dry stem end. Using a food processor fitted with the slicing blade, shred the brussels sprouts. Set aside.
On the stovetop, heat an oval copper roasting pan or large saute pan over medium-high heat. Cook the pancetta until crispy and golden brown, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a small bowl. Pour off the fat from the pan and discard, then wipe out the pan with paper towels.
Set the pan over medium heat and warm the olive oil. Add the brussels sprouts and stir to coat with the oil. Cook until the brussels sprouts begin to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir again, then add the radicchio, marjoram and salt and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the 1/4 cup broth. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally and adding more broth as needed, until the brussels sprouts are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the pancetta and stir to incorporate. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.
Transfer the brussels sprouts to a warmed serving bowl and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.
Make-Ahead Tip: Trim and slice the brussels sprouts and radicchio and dice the pancetta up to 1 day in advance. Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator.
Apple-Orange Cranberry Sauce
Says Ritchie: "Cranberry sauce has always been part of the traditional
Thanksgiving menu. In the 1960s, an uncooked sauce of coarsely ground cranberries and oranges became a national favorite. But since then, the original quickly cooked cranberry sauce has regained its popularity, with many variations such as this one with apple, orange and a hint of spice."
2 cups water
1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, pippin or McIntosh
3 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
Squeeze the juice from the orange and set the juice aside. Remove and discard the membrane from inside the orange rind and cut the rind into small dice. In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the rind and the water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.
Peel, core and quarter the apple. Cut into 1/2-inch dice and place in a saucepan. Sort the cranberries, discarding any soft ones. Add to the apples along with the orange juice, orange rind, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan partially. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, the apple is tender and the cranberries have burst, 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the cranberry sauce to a heatproof bowl and let cool for 1 hour before serving. Or cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before serving. Transfer the cranberry sauce to a sauceboat and pass at the table. Makes 3 1/2 to 4 cups.
(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series,Thanksgiving & Christmas,by Chuck Williams [Time-Life Books, 1993]).