Thanksgiving Side Stars

Mon. November 15, 2010 12:00 AM
by Brad Mercil

When you think about it, Thanksgiving is kind of a simple meal. You could even say that it is peasant food; roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, green bean casserole and pie for dessert (pecan pie is my personal favorite). We all have memories of our Thanksgiving favorites made just right by a grandmother or aunt; simple food that tasted amazing.

Thanksgiving is the type of meal that people bring a certain set of expectations to as they like to see their old favorites sitting on the table. This year, let's rethink some of the side dishes that are traditionally served at Thanksgiving by keeping a lot of the same ingredients then applying a new fresh twist.

I'm all about practical, utilitarian recipes that everyone can make - Corn Muffin Casserole, Deluxe Green Bean Casserole, Smoked Gouda Au Gratin Potatoes and Garlic Mashed Cauliflower will bring the flavor, freshness and simplicity to your meal. These dishes are great comfort foods that will add that star quality to your dinner and will bring that "grandma flavor" to the table. They may even end up being some of your go-to recipes in the future.

Corn Muffin Casserole is a very old recipe that I remember my grandmother making. The story goes that she found the original recipe in the newspaper. Try adding a couple of different spices like dill weed, cumin, chili powder or even curry powder!

Deluxe Green Bean Casserole will bring new life to this old standard by adding some new ingredients and several new spices.

Smoked Gouda Au Gratin Potatoes is very simple. With just a little prep, you can bring a new side dish to the table that has complexity and depth of flavor yet still retains that sense of familiarity.

Earlier this month, I wrote about Mashed Cauliflower with Garlic and Cheese. This makes a terrific alternative to mashed potatoes as everyone will still be able to have their standard helping and ladle on the gravy. As I mentioned in my previous column, just "forget" to tell the kids (and maybe a few adults) that it's cauliflower and let them eat it.

So let's get started!


Corn Muffin Casserole



1/4 cup margarine
1 egg
1 can (13.5 oz) cream style corn
1 can (11 oz) whole kernel corn
1/4 cup sour cream
1 package (8.5 oz) Jiffy corn muffin mix
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
**This recipe can be doubled or tripled. You can also add extra spices to make this recipe your own.


Melt margarine in a glass mixing bowl in the microwave. Add egg and beat slightly.

Stir in remaining ingredients except paprika. Spread in 8 x 8 x 2" glass baking dish. Sprinkle top with paprika.

Bake in 350 degree oven until set, about 25 - 40 minutes.


Deluxe Green Bean Casserole



4 cans (14.5 oz. each) green beans, regular or French cut
1 can (10 oz.) cream of celery soup
1 can (10oz.) cream of asparagus soup
1 and 1/2 cups half and half
1 can (6 oz.) French's Original French Fried Onions
1 cup bacon bits or 6 to 8 strips of bacon fried crisp and chopped (optional)
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoons dill weed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Open the green beans and allow them to drain in a colander.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the two soups and the half and half. Add the spices and whisk again. Add green beans, bacon and onions; stir until everything is well coated and thoroughly mixed.

Add green bean mixture to a 13X9" glass baking dish and top with the panko bread crumbs. Bake for one hour in 350 degree oven. Ten minutes before the green bean casserole is done, top with cheddar cheese and return to the oven allowing the cheese to melt.

***If you prefer, add more half and half to make the casserole a little more runny or add more cheddar cheese to make it thicker. Add more of the spice(s) to make the casserole suit your taste.


Smoked Gouda Au Gratin Potatoes



5 pounds potatoes (Idaho or Russet)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stick butter, cut into thin slices
2/3 cup of flour
16 oz. smoked gouda cheese, shredded
2 cups hot milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Peel and thinly slice potatoes. Place the potatoes in a bowl of cold water and allow them to soak for one to two hours. Every so often, toss the potatoes slices in the cold water to move them around and release their starch. Thoroughly rinse potatoes .

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat milk in small pan over medium low heat.

Butter a large ceramic baking dish (about four inches deep) then place a one inch layer of potato slices on the bottom. Dot with slices of butter then sprinkle with 1/4 of the chopped onion followed by 1/4 of the smoked gouda cheese. Sprinkle flour over this layer and season with a few grinds of freshly ground pepper and salt. Repeat this process three more times. Pour heated milk over the top.

Bake uncovered for one and one-half hours or until potatoes are done.


Garlic Mashed Cauliflower



3 quarts of water
2 - 3 large heads cauliflower cut into florets
5 - 10 peeled cloves of garlic, depending on your taste
1 cup half & half
1 and 1/2 cups shredded cheese, can be any one of the following Parmesan, Romano, White Cheddar, Asiago, or a combination
4 oz. cream cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 - 4 strips bacon fried crisp, then crumbled
1/3 cup cheddar cheese shredded for topping
Fresh Italian parsley roughly chopped


In large pot combine cauliflower, garlic, water and salt. Over medium high heat, bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium low and simmer until cauliflower and garlic cloves are fork tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain in a colander and shake well to remove excess moisture.

Return mixture to the pot and mash with a hand potato masher. Turn heat to low and add half & half, the shredded cheese, butter, salt and pepper to taste. Using a hand blender, thoroughly incorporate mixture into a smooth consistency that looks like mashed potatoes. Simmer over low heat for 5 - 10 minutes.

Place mixture into serving bowl and top with cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, and parsley. Serve immediately!