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Ask An OC Chef: Best Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes

(credit: istockphoto)

With turkey day just around the corner, you may be in need for one or two exciting side dishes to round out your menu. Instead of reinventing the wheel, stand on the shoulders of giants, or, in this case, a local culinary giant. The recipes below, provided by local chef Mark McDonald, executive chef at the Old Vine Café in Costa Mesa, will surprise your Thanksgiving guests and keep them asking for more.

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Chef Mark McDonald 
The Old Vine Caf
2937 Bristol St., Suite A-102
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 545-141

Chef Mark McDonald not only has a passion for food, he has a passion for continually educating himself and others about food. After graduating from Laguna Culinary Arts, chef Mark moved to Calabria, Italy to study at the Italian Culinary Institute. In 2007, chef Mark opened the Old Vine Café, where he focuses on pairing regional and seasonal fare with unique and exquisite wines. Customer service is top priority for chef Mark, as shown through his frequent interactions with customers and with the local community. He also leads the food-focused Splendors of South Italy tour each year, where visitors can cook side by side with master chefs and tour local wineries and regional agriculture. Chef Mark is changing the face of food in Orange County, and his recipes below are sure to be a huge hit on your Thanksgiving Day table.

Cornish hen with stuffing and beans on a white background.
(credit: istockphoto)

Italian Sausage Turkey Stuffing Ingredients:

  • 5 1/2 cups cubed sourdough bread
  • 1 pound ground mild Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup minced celery
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced sage
  • 2 Golden Delicious apples, cored and diced small
  • 1 cup turkey stock
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
  2. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until evenly toasted. Set toasted bread cubes aside.
  3. In a large skillet, cook the sausage, celery and onions over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the lumps until evenly browned.
  4. Add the sage and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to blend flavors.
  5. Pour sausage mixture over bread in a bowl and mix in chopped apples. Add turkey stock and melted butter, and gently mix until evenly moist.
  6. Add stuffing to your turkey before roasting.

Related: OC’s Best Specialty Bookstores

Cream of corn soup in blue bowl
(credit: istockphoto)

Creamed Corn Ingredients:

  • 8 cups fresh corn removed from ear
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • Salt & white pepper to taste


  1. Melt butter in a small stockpot.
  2. Add the sugar and flour, then whisk to form a thick roux.
  3. Add the heavy cream and stir until thickened on low heat (about 5-10 minutes).
  4. Add the corn to the creamy mixture and stir until hot.
  5. Season with nutmeg, cayenne, salt and white pepper to taste.
Squash Soup in White Bowl
(credit: istockphoto)

Butternut Squash and Leek Soup Ingredients:

  • 4 large ripe butternut squash quartered and seeded
  • 1 large yellow onion cut into 1/8 pieces
  • 5 whole cloves of garlic
  • 2 large leeks, dark green discarded, cleaned and chopped
  • 4 quarts of chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
  • Salt
  • Ground white pepper
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream


  1. Combine all of the above ingredients (except for the salt, pepper and heavy cream) in a large stockpot and bring to a boil on high.
  2. Reduce heat to a rapid simmer and leave for one hour.
  3. Bring the heat back up to high and add the heavy whipping cream. Boil for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Remove the pot from the stove and puree. After the entire mixture is pureed, strain the soup through a fine mesh wire strainer. Return it to a large stockpot and cook on high heat until it reaches a simmer, stirring frequently. 
  5. After the soup has been pureed and strained, return it to a large stockpot and cook on high heat until it reaches a simmer, stirring frequently. 
  6. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. The consistency of the soup should just coat a tablespoon. If the soup seems thick, add chicken stock until the desired texture is met. 
  7. Garnish with fried leeks and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. 

Related: Best Wine Stores in Orange County

David McDonald is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. His work can be found on


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