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Staff picks: Dishes you’ll want to bring to Friendsgiving

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With Thanksgiving only a few days away, it’s time to get serious about what to bring to Friendsgiving.

Depending on where you come from and your cooking style — traditional, renegade or a blend of both — you may be open to some new recipes for Thanksgiving sides and desserts for the feast this year.

We are here to help. We asked a handful of staff reporters, editors, designers and photographers to pick some of their favorite recipes for the holiday table.

Like the North Bay community at large, we are a hybrid tribe hailing from many corners of the country and the globe, ranging from the suburbs of the Midwest to the cities of Sweden, from the stormy shores of New England to the tranquil wetlands of the Petaluma River.

We are all united, however, by the common language of food.

As you prepare to gather around the table to celebrate the 1621 feast — when the Pilgrims of Plymouth dined with the Wampanoag people of Massachusetts, sealing a treaty that lasted more than 50 years — we hope your Thanksgiving is full of gratitude for the bounty of Sonoma County and overflowing with warm memories of holidays past.

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Jonathan Byrd lives in Santa Rosa and is design desk chief at The Press Democrat, where he has worked for 10 years:

“My late father was an avid gardener who instilled in my elder sister and me an appreciation of fresh produce. Many summers of my youth were spent tending to rows upon rows of plants alongside him and my late mother in the half-acre plot he cultivated near my family home in northeastern Ohio. Toiling in the dirt on the swelteringly hot days was an activity that I then loathed but now is a memory that I cherish. Most of my adult life, after having moved out West, I’ve rarely spent the holidays with my family. This recipe from Jamie Oliver’s ‘The Naked Chef Takes Off’ — it multiplies easily — reminds me of a passion my father shared with us that continues to give me joy.”

Jonathan’s tip: Don’t try to make this salad when you feel like it — make it when you can get perfectly ripe pears.

Watercress, Arugula, Sweet Pear, Walnut and Parmesan Salad

Makes 2 servings

1 pear, peeled (only if the skin is not nice), cored and sliced lengthwise

1 handful watercress

1 handful arugula

— Extra virgin olive oil

1/4 lemon

— Sea salt

— Black pepper, freshly ground

1 handful Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, shaven

— Small handful walnuts

If the pear skins are nice, just give the fruit a wash; if not, remove the skins with a vegetable peeler. Cut the pear in half, remove the core and slice it lengthwise into pieces.

Place the pear in a bowl with the watercress and arugula. Drizzle with the olive oil just to coat, and add 2 small squeezes of lemon juice. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss it all together and divide it onto two small plates. Shave over some Parmesan or Pecorino. Crumble the walnuts over the bowl and serve.

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Sofia Englund of Santa Rosa joined The Press Democrat in 2016 as the digital editor of Sonoma Magazine:

“I celebrated my first Thanksgiving in 2014, as a recent immigrant from Sweden. At that time, my idea of this quintessentially American holiday was informed by Hollywood films: strained family get-togethers and food mishaps, like in “Home for the Holidays,” or the stress that comes with holiday travels — albeit with comic relief — in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” Not that dissimilar from Swedish Christmas celebrations only in America, there is roasted turkey instead of roasted ham, and no schnapps.

“Thankfully, Thanksgiving with my American family — my husband, Joshua, and his parents, Susan and Robert — was less dramatic. The turkey was cooked to perfection, and everyone liked the side dishes I contributed: a broccoli Gruyère gratin and sautéed haricots verts with shallots (courtesy of Jacques Pepin). The conversation was convivial; the table setting beautiful. The whole of Thanksgiving Day was like the denouement of those Hollywood films — when the turkey is saved and the dust of the arguments swept away, replaced with warm congeniality and holiday spirit (sans the excess of Hollywood cheesiness).

“Now, my idea of the November holiday is Susan’s pumpkin pancakes on Thanksgiving morning, followed by a lively kitchen table conversation and a walk in Crane Creek Regional Park. And then that first bite of dinner: a slice of turkey, some sweet potato, a little bit of greens and a dollop (or two, or three) of Susan’s delicious cranberry relish.”

Susan’s Cranberry Relish

Makes 3 cups

1 package fresh cranberries

2 cups sugar

1 cup orange juice

— Juice of 1 small lemon

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup raisins

— Slivered almonds, for garnish

Combine all ingredients and heat to boiling, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Boil until cranberries all pop, about 5 minutes.

Garnish with a sprinkling of slivered almonds. Can keep 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

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Beth Schlanker of Petaluma joined the newsroom in August 2010 as a photographer:

“When I was growing up, my family would go to my grandparents’ house west of St. Louis every Thanksgiving. All my cousins, aunts and uncles would gather there. It was always a potluck, and my grandfather would run the kitchen and my grandmother would bake.

“They had an old coffee can full of bacon grease and would use it to season the green beans. They weren’t fancy cooks, but everything was delicious. They lived in a German community, so there was German red cabbage and German potato salad. My dad made this corn casserole every year, and it was the ultimate comfort food.”

Midwest Corn Pudding

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 package of Jiffy corn muffin mix

1 red and 1 green chopped pepper ( green chili pepper could be substituted for green pepper to add a little heat)

1 stick of melted butter ( Kerrygold preferred )

1 bag of frozen yellow corn, thawed

5 beaten eggs

1/2 cup cream or half and half ( if using milk, then add 1/2 cup sour cream

3/4 cup chopped yellow onion

2 tablespoons of sugar

— Bacon bits or cheddar cheese (optional)

— Paprika and dried parsley (to finish)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a greased casserole dish. Top with paprika and dried parsley.

Bake at 400 degrees for about one hour.

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Nashelly Chavez of Petaluma joined the Press Democrat newsroom in the summer of 2018 as a reporter:

“Here’s my aunt’s recipe for her Papas à la Diabla. Her husband is one of my dad’s brothers. She began making this dish for our holiday get-togethers a few years ago, and now we all look forward to it every holiday season. We do a big potluck-style dinner for both Christmas and Thanksgiving, and this is always one of the first things I look for when making my plate because oftentimes it runs out. It’s not uncommon to have 30 to 40 people or more all celebrating in the same home. It’s really intended to be like an appetizer if people are hungry before the main meal, though for our festivities, that’s not really how it works.” Tip: If you go with larger potatoes, cut the potatoes in fourths and cut down the cooking time. The potatoes should only be half-cooked after the first round of cooking.

Papas à la Diabla

Makes 15 to 20 servings

2 to 5 pounds of cambray potatoes (or any baby potato)

30 chiles de árbol

1/2 cup of white vinegar

2 cloves of garlic, diced

1/4 white onion, diced

1 tablespoon of salt

1 pinch of black pepper

1 tablespoon of chicken-flavored bouillon (from Knorr)

1 cup of cooking oil

— Pinch of dried oregano

Boil the potatoes with half a tablespoon of salt for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and place potatoes in strainer.

Heat half a cup of cooking oil in a frying pan and fry the potatoes on medium heat for about 5 minutes, then turn off heat .

In another pan, add the other half of the cooking oil and fry the chiles, the garlic and the onion on medium heat, but not too long or they will go sour. Move the pan quickly over the flame for a few minutes so that the ingredients don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Move the chiles, garlic and onion into a blender with the white vinegar, salt, black pepper and the chicken-flavored bouillon. Blend.

Reheat the pan with the potatoes and coat them with the mixture in the blender. Mix well for about 5 minutes until the potatoes soak up the salsa and are only a little dry.

Turn off the heat and add more salt to taste if needed. Sprinkle oregano over top.

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Diane Peterson joined the Press Democrat newsroom in 1984 and has been writing about food since 1998:

“Growing up in Philadelphia with two parents from New England, my memories of childhood Thanksgivings involve an 8-hour trip to Boston’s North Shore, where my grandmother would cook an elaborate turkey feast with a grand array of veggie sides and pies.

“My mother was not a very enthusiastic cook, but her Yankee roots ran deep. In her later years, she always brought her Scalloped Oysters to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving. After I moved to California in 1980, I started bringing her oysters to our friends’ potlucks. It’s a very simple dish. Like the Clam Stuffies of Rhode Island, it’s held together by a mortar of butter and breadcrumbs — but it never ceases to impress, especially the Southerners in the crowd with a fondness for the meaty mollusks. It’s very rich, so you don’t need a lot to feel satisfied. However, I usually double the recipe so everyone can have a taste.

Tip: “Some people make this dish with Saltines, but I always use Ritz crackers. The jarred oysters can be found at Oliver’s Markets or Santa Rosa Seafood. It’s important to make only two layers of oysters so that all the oysters cook through. My mom always used a square Cordingware glass dish.”

Scalloped Oysters

Serves 4

1 pint oysters (in jars)

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup cracker crumbs

1/2 cup melted butter

— Salt

— Pepper

4 tablespoons oyster liquid

2 tablespoons milk or cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the bread and cracker crumbs and stir in melted butter. Put a thin layer of crumbs in the bottom of a shallow, buttered baking dish. Cover with one layer of oysters and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons oyster liquid and 1 tablespoon milk or cream. Repeat.

Cover the top with remaining crumbs. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes. When it’s bubbling and brown, it’s done.

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Abigail Peterson joined the Press Democrat newsroom as the editorial director of Sonoma Magazine in August of 2019:

“Thanksgiving is my husband’s favorite holiday, and we host a big one each year with family and neighbors. We gather everyone around one long folding table that stretches from the dining room right into the living room and decorate it with olive branches, rose hips and persimmons from our orchard. We serve all the Thanksgiving favorites. But because my father-in-law is Russian, we also have a beef stroganoff, and we start with pickled herring and vodka shots.

“My two middle-school age boys love these Brussels sprouts — their nickname for this dish is bacon salad. I love them because they help me fill my plate with greens so I don’t feel as stuffed after all is said and done. We’ve had them every year for at least the past 15 years. I originally adapted the recipe from one in Sunset magazine, where I worked for years before moving to Sonoma.

“This one comes together quickly, and it’s best to make it just before so that the Brussels sprouts stay green on the plate. My advice? Dice the bacon and slice the sprouts early in the day, then pull the dish together while the turkey rests. “

Paul and Walter’s Bacon Salad

Serves 8 to 10

2 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts

½ pound thick-cut bacon

1 teaspoon dried thyme

— Salt and black pepper to taste

Thinly slice the Brussels sprouts with a knife or a mandoline and set aside. Dice the bacon and brown slowly on medium-low heat so most of the fat is rendered and you’re left with the chewy bits. Remove the bacon and drain off all but 3 tablespoons of bacon fat, then add the shaved Brussels sprouts and thyme to the hot pan and briefly sauté in bacon fat to wilt the sprouts. Add the browned bacon you’ve set aside, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

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Brett Wilkison joined The Press Democrat’s newsroom as a reporter in 2010 and has worked as an editor overseeing local news since 2014:

“This recipe comes from my parents, who first had flan together around 1970 when they were newly married and traveling in Spain. They were living in western Germany, near the small U.S. Air Force base in Birkenfeld where my father was posted for several years after his tour in Vietnam. My mother tells funny stories from that time of teaching herself to cook – some dishes that were so bad they had to be buried in the yard. But this one was a winner. It comes from the 1965 edition of James Beard’s “Menus for Entertaining,” bought by my parents at the base exchange. My mother, who by the way became a great cook, isn’t much of a dessert person. She has a theory about why this one stuck in our family of two boys. ‘Flaming dessert was probably the draw,’ she said.” The Spanish dessert became a Thanksgiving favorite for the family.

A few tips from Brett’s mom: “The baking pan we use is a gelatin ring mold with the center cut out. Put the caramel coating in the bottom and then add the rest of the mixture. Go easy on the sugar. After cooking and cooling, flip the pan upside down onto your serving platter to release. To add flair as you serve, turn out the lights for the full flaming effect.”

Flan

Makes 1 flan

1 3/4 cup sugar

3 egg whites

8 egg yolks

2 tall cans (16-ounce) evaporated milk

2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring

6 tablespoons cognac or rum

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put 1 cup of the sugar into a deep pan (such as a gelatin ring mold) in which you can bake the custard.

Place over a low flame, and stir constantly until the sugar melts and turns a gold color.

Tilt the pan, and allow the caramel to coat it entirely. Set aside to cool while you make the custard.

Beat the egg whites and yolks together. Add the evaporated milk, the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and vanilla.

Mix well, strain into the caramel-coated pan, and place the pan in a larger pan containing hot water.

Bake for about an hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool slightly and turn out on a platter while it is still warm (or else the caramel will stick to the sides of the pan).

When you are ready to serve, heat the cognac or rum slightly, pour over the flan and ignite.

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Yovanna Bieberich of Petaluma was a reporter/features editor for the Petaluma Argus-Courier for 15 years before joining the The Press Democrat as a copy editor/designer in 2015. In her free time, she runs a blog at healthyeatingessentials.com:

“This is my great-grandmother Muriel Krick’s recipe for a tangy, sweet, light cranberry sherbet. She served this at Thanksgiving and Christmas for dessert. My aunt Cheri, who passed the recipe on to me, said that my great-grandma always doubled the recipe because the kids loved it so much and there was never enough of it. I met my great-grandpa and great-grandma Krick at their home in Decatur, Ind., once but never had a chance to celebrate the holidays with them since my mom and dad moved to California shortly after I was born. Thankfully, I get to think of them during the holidays through this recipe.”

Tip: Start making this a couple days before you want to serve it since it needs some freezing time.

Yovanna’s Great-Grandmother’s Cranberry Sherbet

Makes about 6 servings

2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)

1 cup water

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin dissolved in 1/8 cup cold water

1 cup sugar

1 cup ginger ale

In a saucepan, cook the berries in 1 cup of water over medium heat until the berries burst. Remove from heat and press the berries through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds and skins, collecting the juices in a bowl.

Add prepared gelatin and sugar to the hot berry liquid and stir well until sugar is dissolved. Let it cool.

Once cool, add ginger ale to the berry liquid and freeze it in a shallow tray or bowl (my great-grandma used metal ice cube trays) until fairly hard but still with a mushy consistency (4 to 5 hours, but keep checking). You don’t want it frozen solid, but you don’t want it runny either – mushy/slushy is what you’re aiming for.

Once the mixture is mushy/slushy, use an electric hand mixer on medium speed to beat the mixture until fluffy and light in color. Just a few minutes.

Refreeze the mixture until hard (about 8 hours or overnight is better). Use an ice cream scoop to scoop sherbet into cups for serving.

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Here is another recipe from Yovanna Bieberich:

“I’m a bit crazy for anything pumpkin. My parents’ nickname for me is “Pumpkin.” My favorite childhood picture is of a 4-year-old me with my Dad in a pumpkin patch. I’ve been eating pumpkin in any way, shape or form for as long as I can remember … long before pumpkin spice was a thing. There’s canned pumpkin in my cupboard all year round. You get the picture.

“Thanksgiving is a big excuse for me to be more public with my pumpkin recipes (addiction). This particular one fills a need for a pumpkin dessert to please the gluten-free and dairy-free family members at my Thanksgiving table.

Tip: “I make these pumpkin bars in an 8-inch square pan, but you could also make it more pie-looking by baking it in a 9-inch, springform pan.”

Yovanna’s Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free Pumpkin Bars

Serves 6

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups superfine almond flour (Not almond meal. Yovanna uses Bob’s Red Mill superfine almond flour.)

3 teaspoons ground pumpkin spice

2 tablespoons olive oil (or coconut oil or veggie oil)

2 tablespoons maple syrup (use the real stuff, please)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

— For the pumpkin filling:

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup pumpkin puree

3 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons ground pumpkin spice

1 pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and grease the pan with some olive oil or cooking spray. Tip: Let the parchment paper length come up to the top of the pan to help with releasing the bars from the pan later.

In a bowl, mix together ingredients for the crust until they come together. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the greased pan as evenly as possible. Use your fingers or a spoon to really smooth it out. It will take some work.

Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven. No need to let it cool completely.

For the filling: Mix the sugar and pumpkin puree in a bowl. Add the beaten eggs, mixing well. Then add the rest of the filling ingredients, mixing well.

Pour the pumpkin mixture onto the crust. Place it back in the oven to bake (still at 350 degrees) for 25-28 minutes. The mixture should be set, not jiggly. A toothpick inserted into it should come out clean.

Let the bars cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, slice into bars and top with whipped cream, a drizzle of chocolate syrup or some honey roasted almonds.

Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

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