Carrie's Kitchen: Still time to have a Midwestern Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! Perhaps you have your holiday meal contribution already planned (and for your sake, I hope you have the ingredients in stock because the grocery stores are going to be mad busy today), in which case today’s column is just here to make you hopeful about what the other guests will be bringing.

Or maybe you’re like me, and you don’t necessarily procrastinate — you just like to leave your options open, and make a decision closer to the event so you can suit your own whims and fancies. There’s nothing wrong with that! (Except maybe the last-minute grocery shopping part.)


This week is our last regional stop to discover what is popular at a Midwestern Thanksgiving. My family hails from Baltimore and Central Pennsylvania, with Polish and English/Welsh roots, so I have very little experience with Midwestern fare. “The Midwest” is a pretty gigantic area, so there are lots of subcultures within there, but I looked at several suggested Midwestern Thanksgiving menus and saw a few dishes come up repeatedly, and so I am sharing versions of those.

First up, as an appetizer, potato skins. Who knew? That sounds like a delicious, though kind of dangerously filling, start to a Thanksgiving meal. But as they say, when in Peoria. … This version has been modernized by none other than Guy Fieri, a native Ohioan. The potato skins are stuffed with mushrooms, Brie and prosciutto. Yum!

Next, a wild rice stuffing with apples and dried cranberries. When I saw this, I thought it was going to be all rice-based without bread, but it actually uses both. You cook the apples in the pan with the onions and celery, and the cranberries are added before baking. This is probably a subtle change from your standard stuffing (I know my family would be wondering where the sausage is) but it sounds interesting.

And finally, a braised sauerkraut. I was very curious how to make sauerkraut, and frankly, this recipe does not tell you. You still have to buy pre-brined sauerkraut, but you add your own fresh shredded cabbage and spices and wine and cook it for a good 40 minutes. This one’s a little out there, so I’d only recommend making it if you have a lot of sauerkraut/cabbage fans in the family. I’m thinking this could actually work with my Polish family (we’ll just throw the hot Polish sausages on at the end).

Happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy!

Guy Fieri’s elevated potato skins

Canola oil, for frying

6 russet potatoes, scrubbed and washed

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 leeks, cleaned, 1/4-inch dice

2 teaspoons kosher salt

7 turns freshly ground pepper

2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

8 ounces Brie, cubed


8 thin slices prosciutto, torn

1/4 cup chives, finely sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On the stove, preheat 3 inches of canola oil to 350 degrees in a deep heavy pot.

Pierce the potatoes a few times with a fork. Place directly in the center oven rack and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Keep oven on.

In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add butter, leeks, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3-4 turns of pepper. Sauté until the leeks are wilted, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and thyme, and sauté until lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Halve the potatoes lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Reserve the potato innards for another use. Allow to cool.

Working in batches, fry the potato skins in the preheated canola oil until crispy and golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from the oil and drain.

Arrange scooped-side up on a baking tray. Season with the remaining salt and pepper. Fill the skins with the leek-mushroom filling, top with cubed Brie and torn prosciutto. Place in the preheated oven and bake until brie is melted and prosciutto is crispy, about 6-8 minutes.

Remove from the oven, garnish with chives, and serve.

Wild rice apple and dried cranberry stuffing

4 cups water

1 cup wild rice

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 pound crusty white bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter or reserved fat from turkey

2 cups diced onion

2 cups diced celery

2 cups diced apple

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried, crumbled

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh marjoram or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup dried cranberries (about 5 ounces)

1 cup turkey stock or chicken broth

Bring water to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then add rice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until rice is tender and most grains are split open, 1 to 1 1/4 hours (not all liquid will be absorbed). Drain well in a colander and spread out in a baking pan to cool completely.

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread bread cubes in a shallow baking pan and bake in upper third of oven until dry, about 20 minutes.

Melt 1 stick butter in a large nonstick skillet over moderate heat, then cook onion and celery, stirring, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add apple and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in herbs, pepper, and remaining teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with rice, bread, and dried cranberries.

Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees and butter a shallow 3-quart baking dish (13 by 9 inches).

Spread stuffing evenly in baking dish and drizzle with turkey stock and melted butter. Bake, covered tightly with foil, in upper third of oven until heated through, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is browned, 10 to 15 minutes more.

Note: Stuffing can be assembled (without drizzling with stock and melted butter), but not baked, 1 day ahead and cooled, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.

Braised sauerkraut

6 thick slices bacon (about 6 ounces), cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1⁄2 large Vidalia onion, halved and thinly sliced (1 cup)

3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced (1 1⁄2 cups)

Freshly ground black pepper

4 garlic cloves, minced (1 Tbsp.)

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary


2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika

2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika, or substitute ground cayenne to taste

1⁄2 cup dry white wine

3 packed cups finely shredded green cabbage

2 packed cups good-quality brined sauerkraut (such as Bubbies brand), drained but not rinsed

2 1⁄2 cups chicken stock

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon finely grated raw white potato

Heat a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly crisp on the edges, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon to a dish. Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan and discard.

Add the butter, onion, and 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and lightly colored, about 10 minutes. Add the red pepper, remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until the pepper is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly darkened and fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Add rosemary and both paprikas and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.

Stir in the white wine and bring to a boil. Let reduce slightly, then add the cabbage; cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted. Stir in the sauerkraut, chicken stock, bay leaves, and reserved bacon. Partially cover the pot and bring to a gentle simmer; cook until the cabbage is tender and the mixture is saucy, 35 to 40 minutes. Stir in the potato and cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves from the pot and serve.