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Carrie’s Kitchen: Three new spins on traditional Turkey Day side dishes

Thanksgiving is getting closer and closer! I can almost smell that turkey cooking. That reminds me, I should clean my oven this week. I want to smell the turkey, not that blackened crustiness at the bottom of my oven from who knows what.

This year I’ve been looking at some of the classic side dishes of Thanksgiving and new ways to flavor them or dish them up. First this week, I chose a rather classical flavor combination in stuffing — apple and onion — with the spin that you mix it up and then bake it in muffin tins to make individual servings, ready for the taking. They only need to cook in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, but think how nice it will be to have that browned top and the soft stuffing on the inside. Yum!

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Next, another twist that comes in individual portions, as pull-apart stuffing rolls. Rather than making this with cubed bread that you soften with stock, these are made from pizza dough, coated with sausage crumbles, onions and celery bits, and the parsley and sage that make up the traditional flavors in stuffing. I think these would be the foundation of my kids’ Thanksgiving dinner.

And finally, a more traditional, scoop-it-from-the-communal-pan stuffing, but this is vegetarian. Because you might have a loved one, or a loved one of a loved one, who doesn’t eat meat, and you still want your stuffing to taste good. This recipe will still have some earthy, meaty flavor from lots of mushrooms and cooked chestnuts. You can find a jarred variety of cooked chestnuts (not the same as water chestnuts), I saw it on the Walmart website and it may be in the gourmet section of other grocery stores.

Enjoy!

Apple and onion stuffin’ muffins

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 stick butter, softened

1 fresh bay leaf

4 ribs celery and greens, from the heart, chopped

1 medium to large yellow onion, chopped

3 McIntosh apples, quartered and chopped

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons poultry seasoning

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

8 cups cubed stuffing mix

2 to 3 cups chicken stock

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil to skillet and 4 tablespoons butter.

When butter melts, add bay leaf and the celery, onions and apples. Sprinkle the vegetables and apples with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Cook 5 to 6 minutes until the vegetables and apples soften, then add parsley and stuffing cubes and combine. Moisten the stuffing with chicken broth until all of the bread is soft but not wet.

Butter 12 muffin cups liberally with remaining butter. Use an ice cream scoop to fill and mound up the stuffing in muffin tins, removing the bay leaf. Bake until set and crisp on top, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove muffins to a platter and serve hot or at room temperature.

Pull-apart Thanksgiving stuffing rolls

4 tablespoons butter, divided

8 ounces sage sausage or breakfast sausage, removed from casings

1 small onion, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)

1 rib celery, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)

4 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup minced fresh sage leaves

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

All-purpose flour, for dusting

1 pound homemade or store-bought pizza dough

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add sausage and mash to break up into fine pieces (largest pieces should be no bigger than 1/4 inch). Cook, stirring frequently, until only a few bits of pink remain, about 8 minutes.

Add onion, celery, garlic, and sage and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer contents to a large bowl and set aside until completely cool.

While filling cools, make knots. On a lightly floured surface, divide dough into 2 even pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, roll or stretch into an oblong strip about 8 inches long and 4 inches wide. With a bench scraper or knife, cut crosswise into 12 strips. Repeat with other half of dough.

Tie each strip into a knot and transfer to bowl with sausage mixture. Toss and fold with your hands until every knot is thoroughly coated in sausage mixture.

Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter. Transfer knots to baking dish in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, cover tightly with plastic, and set aside until doubled in size, about 4 hours. Alternatively, refrigerate until doubled in size, 12 to 16 hours.

When ready to bake, adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Unwrap rolls. Transfer to oven and bake until golden brown and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes.

When rolls are almost ready, melt remaining tablespoon butter in the microwave or on the stovetop. Remove rolls from oven and immediately brush on butter. Serve with gravy and cranberry sauce on the side.

Best vegetarian stuffing

1 24-ounce loaf stale or toasted white sandwich bread, diced, or 1 pound dried stuffing cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

7 tablespoons butter

2 onions, diced

½ pound cremini or Portobello mushrooms, diced

1½ cups cooked chestnuts, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 sweet, firm apples, diced

6 stalks celery, diced

1 handful sage leaves (about 40), minced, or 1 tablespoon dried sage

10 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 cup vegetable stock

Kosher salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil and 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, chestnuts, and garlic, and stir well. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the mushrooms have released their water and the vegetables are fragrant and dark, about 10 minutes. Add the apples, celery, and herbs. Season with salt and a few grinds of black pepper, and cook for another 5 minutes, until the apples have softened slightly.

Place the diced bread in a large mixing bowl and add the cooked apple and vegetable mixture. Pour in the stock and stir to combine. Taste and season again with salt and pepper.

Grease the sides and bottom of the skillet with 1 tablespoon of butter. Pack the stuffing into the skillet, then break the remaining 3 tablespoons butter into pieces and dot them over the top. Cover with parchment paper, and top with a lid or foil. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and place under the broiler for 5-10 minutes, or until the top of the stuffing is crisp and browned at the edges. Serve hot.

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