Potato-Stuffing Waffle Bites

Potato-Stuffing Waffle Bites is a way to use Thanksgiving sides to make something fun and unique using your waffle maker instead of just reheating or microwaving your leftovers. Serve Potato-Stuffing Waffle Bites with leftover turkey gravy or top them with a dollop of sour cream, a scallion garnish and couple dashes of Sriracha.

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Potato-Stuffing Waffle Bites
(Mark Kelly, 2014)

Makes about 16 servings

2 cups leftover potatoes (white or sweet or some combination)
2 cups leftover stuffing
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp chopped scallions (white and green parts), plus more for garnish
1/2 cup grated cheese (cheddar or mozzarella)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray

Coat waffle maker with cooking spray and preheat.

Combine potatoes, stuffing, flour, scallions, cheese and egg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Spoon 1/4 cup onto the center of the waffle maker, close and cook until golden brown. Repeat with remaining mixture.

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Oyster Stuffing

Oyster Stuffing is a traditional recipe made popular on the east and gulf coasts of the United States where oysters abound. Though visually unspectacular (hence no accompanying picture), this dish is a taste treat.

Oyster Stuffing
(Mark Kelly, 2014)

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup celery, coarsely chopped
1 pint oysters, liquid discarded, rinsed and patted dry, chopped in to halves or quarters depending on size
1 1/4 cups lower sodium, fat free chicken stock
1 Tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
3 sprigs thyme, leaves finely chopped
1 stick unsalted butter
5 cups dry stuffing mix
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Saute onion and celery until lightly browned and softened. Add oyster, chicken stock, spices and butter, season with salt and pepper to taste, stir until butter is melted. In a large bowl, combine oyster mixture with stuffing mix. Stir until moist. Transfer stuffing to an oven-safe dish. Let stand, refrigerated, for at least 1 hour before baking.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes after baking.

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Cornish Game Hens

Roasted Cornish Game Hens are a nice alternative to chicken or even the Thanksgiving turkey. They are small, so they, roast quickly. They can be served one per person or served in halves so that each guest gets breast, thigh, leg and wing meat.

The key to roasting Cornish Game Hens is to set them on the bottom of very shallow roasting pan or a rimmed baking sheet with no rack. This allows the heat to get to and caramelize all of the skin. Another trick is to generously salt the skin during the hour while they are coming up to room temperature before roasting. Salting helps draw moisture from the skin so the skin of the birds can get nice and crispy.

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Cornish Game Hens
(Mark Kelly, 2014)

Serves 8

4 Cornish game hens
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 heads of garlic
Fresh rosemary
Fresh thyme
Fresh sage
1 small lemon, quartered

Preheat oven to 400F.

Stuff the cavities of each bird with a sprig of rosemary, a sprig of thyme, a sage leave, and a lemon wedge. Truss each bird with cooking twine. Generously salt the birds and place them on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Allow to stand for an hour before roasting.

Finely chop the leaves of two thyme sprigs and two rosemary sprigs and four sage leaves. Just prior to roasting, season the birds with this herb mixture. Slice the top off of each garlic head, place them among the birds and drizzle them with olive oil.

Roast the birds for 1 hour or until juices run clear and the internal temperature of each bird reaches 180F. Remove the birds from the oven and allow them to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

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Roasted Acorn Squash with Sweet and Spicy Red Pepper Jelly

Roasted Acorn Squash with Sweet and Spicy Red Pepper Jelly is a great Fall side dish. Serve it alongside your Thanksgiving turkey, a pork roast, or roast duck.

When preparing the squash you may have to remove the stem and or the pointed end of the squash so the pieces will sit stably in the pan.

Sweet and Spicy Red Pepper Jelly is also an excellent condiment for any roasted meat or poultry. Try it on your post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich or on top of a cream cheese-slathered toasted bagel.

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Roasted Acorn Squash with Sweet and Spicy Red Pepper Jelly
(Mark Kelly, 2014)

2 medium acorn squash, halved and seeded
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pats
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup Sweet and Spicy Red Pepper Jelly (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 375F. Place squash halves, cut side down, in 1/4″ of water in a rimmed pan. Bake for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix brown sugar and Sweet and Spicy Red Pepper Jelly in a small bowl until the brown sugar is completely dissolved.

Remove the squash from the oven and drain the water. Flip the squash pieces over and put a pat of butter in each. Then spoon equal amounts of the brown sugar-pepper mixture into each squash, leaving a rim of the mixture along the cut edges. Bake, cut side up, for an additional 20 minutes, or until tender. Allow to cool a bit before serving. Serve with additional Sweet and Spicy Red Pepper Jelly to garnish.

Sweet and Spicy Red Pepper Jelly
(Mark Kelly, 2014)

Makes about 3 cups

4 red bell peppers, coarsely chopped
4 red chile peppers (such as Fresno), coarsely chopped
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

Pulse the peppers in a food processor. Transfer to large sauce pan with the sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a simmer and continue simmering until the liquid is reduce by about half and thickened, at least one hour.

Divide jelly between jars. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

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Turkey Recipe and Cooking Methods

If you are still undecided about how you plan to cook your Thanksgiving turkey, consider that there are countless methods for cooking your turkey. Choose from one of the favorites, invent your own method, or just use Ample Bites’ recipe.

Some people, like my mother, have cooked them in the oven overnight at a lower temperature. Others roast their turkey in a large paper bag. A recent craze has been to deep-fry the turkey in boiling oil, while trying not to burn the garage down. A tried and true method used by many is to smoke the turkey using a smoker or either a gas or charcoal grill.

Ample Bites is a traditionalist and I prefer the oven-roasting method that starts with a brined fresh turkey. The initial roasting takes place at high-temperature (450F). The heat is then reduced to 325F for the balance of the cooking time. This method is pretty foolproof but it does take some attention on the part of the cook to make sure the skin browns but does not burn and the turkey reaches 165F.

Brined and Roasted Fresh Turkey
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 8 – 10

1 12 – 14 pound fresh turkey

For Brine
2 quarts of cold apple juice
1 cup Kosher salt
2 Tbsp dried sage
2 Tbsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp dried rosemary
2 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper

For Roasting
1 ½ Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp minced fresh sage leaves
1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 medium onion, quartered
1 orange, quartered
1 lemon, quartered

Thaw turkey, if frozen, and remove neck and giblets. Mix brine by pouring salt and spices into the apple juice until salt is completely dissolved. Place turkey in plastic brining bag and pour brine in. Pull the bag tight and tie it closed. Place the turkey in a cooler with a bag or two of ice for 24 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine after 24 hours and rinse it with cold water. Pat the turkey dry, inside and out, and leave uncovered at room temperature for about one hour before seasoning.

Preheat oven to 450F.

Rub the turkey inside and out with black pepper. Place the turkey in a rack in a roasting pan. Mix butter, lemon zest, rosemary, sage and thyme in a small bowl. Rub herb butter over the top of the turkey and inside cavity.

Place onion, orange, and lemon inside turkey cavity. Foil the tips of the wings to keep them from burning. Pour 4 cups water into pan. Roast turkey, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325F. Baste turkey with pan juices; add more water, if needed, to maintain at least ¼-inch of liquid in the bottom of the roasting pan. Continue roasting turkey, basting every 30 minutes and tenting with foil if skin is turning too dark, until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh without touching bone registers 165F (juices should run clear when thermometer is removed), about 2 ¾ hours total.

Transfer turkey to a platter. Tent with foil and let rest for 1 hour before carving.

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More Alternative Thanksgiving Sides

Ample Bites has recipes for Roasted Acorn Squash with Chile Vinaigrette and Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower that are easily scalable to the size of your Thanksgiving party.

Simple preparation with robust flavorful outcomes make these side dishes perfect for pairing with your roasted turkey. In fact with a watchful eye these two dishes can be roasted simultaneously in the same oven at the lower of the two oven settings of 425F.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Chile Vinaigrette
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Epicurious, 2012)

Serves 4 – 6

2 (1 ½ pound) acorn squash
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Kosher salt
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 ½ Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 – 2 tsp finely chopped or ground dried hot red chile, including seeds
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Put the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 450F.

Halve the squash lengthwise, then cut off and discard the stem ends. Scoop out the seeds and cut the squash lengthwise into ¾-in-wide wedges. Toss with the pepper, salt and 2 tablespoons of oil in a bowl. Arrange cut side down in 2 large shallow baking pans.

Roast the squash, switching position of the pans halfway through roasting, until tender and undersides of wedges are golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes.

While squash roasts, mince the garlic and mash to a paste with ¼ teaspoon salt. Transfer the paste to a small bowl and whisk in the lime juice, chile to taste, cilantro and ¼ cup oil until combined.

Transfer the squash, browned sides up, to a platter and drizzle with the vinaigrette.

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Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of bonappetit.com, February 2013)

Makes 4 Servings

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 medium onion, sliced
4 thyme sprigs
4 unpeeled garlic cloves
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425F.

Toss cauliflower with onion, thyme, garlic and oil on a large rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast, tossing occasionally, until almost tender, 35 – 40 minutes. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, toss to combine and roast until cauliflower is tender, 10 – 12 minutes longer.

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Alternative Thanksgiving Side Dishes: Part One – Two Gratins

Depending on upon where you live or where you were raised you have staple side dishes for your Thanksgiving meal. Green bean casserole, varieties of sweet potato dishes, and stuffings or dressings are among the most popular. If you want to mix things up a little bit this year, try one of these gratins.

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Fennel Gratin with Pecorino and Lemon features a mild anise flavor with a crunchy breadcrumb topping.

Leek and Mushroom Gratin is a bit creamier with the same topping.

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Fennel Gratin with Pecorino and Lemon
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 10

Gratin
5 Tbsp EVOO
1 large onion, halved, cut into ¼ inch thick slices
3 large garlic cloves, minced
5 large fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored, cut into ¼ inch thick slices
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 ½ tsp coarse kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper

Crumb Topping
3 Tbsp butter
¾ cup panko
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
1 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 ½ tsp finely grated lemon peel

Gratin – Lightly oil shallow 2-quart glass or ceramic dish. Heat 5 tablespoons oil in large wide pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic.; sauté until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add fennel; increase heat to medium-high and sauté until fennel is slightly softened and beginning to brown, stirring frequently, about 18 minutes. Stir in broth and next 4 ingredients. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until most of broth is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Transfer to dish.

Crumb Topping – Melt butter in large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add panko; sauté until golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature. Stir Pecorino, parsley, and peel into panko.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Sprinkle panko mixture over fennel. Bake until gratin is heated through and topping is deep golden, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Leek and Mushroom Gratin
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Gourmet, October 2012)

Serves 6

¾ stick unsalted butter, divided
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
¼ pound Gruyere, finely grated – about 2 cups
½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 Tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
3 pounds leeks, root ends trimmed
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 ½ cups low sodium chicken stock
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over low heat, then cool.

Toss melted butter with breadcrumbs, cheeses, garlic, parsley, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a bowl until combined.

Trim each leek to an 8-inch length. Halve leeks lengthwise, then cut crosswise into roughly 1-inch pieces. Wash leeks and drain well.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 1 to 1 ½-qt heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook roux, whisking, 1 minute. Add stock in a slow stream, whisking, then bring to a boil, whisking. Add nutmeg and zest and boil, whisking, 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 400F. Butter baking dish.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add leeks and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper, then cover leeks directly with a round piece of parchment paper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed and leeks are tender and just beginning to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Add mushrooms and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed and mushrooms are just beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Remove parchment from leeks and stir in mushrooms. Transfer mixture to baking dish, spreading it evenly. Pour sauce over vegetables and top with crumb mixture. Bake until gratin is babbling and topping is golden, about 15 minutes.

Note: Gratin can be assembled, without breadcrumbs, 8 hours ahead and chilled (covered once cooled). Bring to room temperature, stir, and top with breadcrumbs before baking.

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Brine for Fresh Turkey

With less than two weeks until Thanksgiving you should be making a decision about what brining method you will use for your fresh turkey. There are many recipes available in cookbooks and on the Internet. Ample Bites suggests that you need look no further. This simple brine produces a very juicy, flavorful roasted turkey.

You probably have the Kosher salt and the required spices so all you really need from the store will be the brining bag and the apple juice.

Now that the brine decision has been made you can start planning your appetizers and side dishes.

Brining a Fresh Turkey
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

1 12 – 14 pound FRESH turkey
1 brining bag

For Brine
2 quarts of cold apple juice
1 cup Kosher salt
2 Tbsp dried sage
2 Tbsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp dried rosemary
2 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper

Thaw turkey, if frozen, and remove neck and giblets. Mix brine by pouring salt and spices into the apple juice until salt is completely dissolved. Place turkey in brining bag and pour the brine in. Squeeze most of the air from the bag and seal it tightly. Place the turkey in a cooler with a bag or two of ice for 24 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine after 24 hours and rinse it with cold water. Pat the turkey dry, inside and out, and leave uncovered at room temperature for about one hour before seasoning.

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