Recipes fit for the holiday table

The Baltimore Sun

How to Cook a Turkey

By the editors and contributors of Fine Cooking

Thanksgiving 101

By Rick Rodgers

William Morrow / 2007 / $15.95

Rick Rodgers' book also attempts to demystify the Thanksgiving meal. It includes a 15-page section that attempts to answer questions about turkey that you probably didn't even know you had.

I focused on his impressive side-dishes chapter. Though turkey tends to grab the spotlight, the vegetables should get at least as much consideration - particularly if you expect any vegetarians at your holiday table.

Rodgers, a New Jersey author who has taught Thanksgiving cooking classes, doesn't impose any fancier-than-thou ideas of what the holiday meal should include. He acknowledges the appeal of marshmallows, noting in a Cider-Mashed Yam recipe, "If you wish, this dish is easy to marshmallowize."

I tried Rodgers' traditional Maple-Glazed Roasted Yams and his re-interpretation of the low-brow but beloved green-bean casserole made with cream of mushroom soup.

The sweet, mapled yams were not only tasty and exactly the kind of dish people expect on their Thanksgiving plate, but inexpensive and easy to put together. The quite-clever Green-Bean-and-Cremini-Mushroom Gratin was a fresher-tasting, more sophisticated version of the soup-can classic.

Pasta Shells With Turkey, Mushrooms and Capers

Serves 2 generously

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 3/4 cups warm water for 30 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided use)

1/4 pound fresh button mushrooms, wiped clean, stems trimmed, and sliced

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 cup dry white wine

6 to 8 ounces dried pasta shells or farfalle

splash of sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

1 cup turkey, cut in 1/2 -inch dice

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

grated pecorino Romano for serving (optional)

Strain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid. Squeeze them dry, chop them into small pieces and set aside. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine sieve or a coffee filter; set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter. When the butter has melted, add the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and most of their liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Add the shallot, garlic, rosemary and chopped porcini. Cook, stirring, until the shallot is soft, about 4 minutes. Pour in the wine and the reserved porcini soaking liquid.

Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid is reduced by more than half. Taste; if it's not flavorful enough, continue reducing a bit more.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta until just tender. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet. Add the vinegar, capers and turkey. Toss to coat everything, and heat gently for a few minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter; taste again, adjust the vinegar, and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with the grated Romano, if you like.

From "How to Cook a Turkey"

Per serving: 651 calories, 38 grams protein, 22 grams fat, 12 grams saturated fat, 75 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 109 milligrams cholesterol, 300 milligrams sodium

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