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Find more Thanksgiving ideas here.

You can’t serve up Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey, but truth be told, isn’t it the side dishes — the savory soups and salads, creamy vegetables and rich desserts — that make the feast memorable?

Some people are so enamored of the Thanksgiving side dishes, they will hold a separate holiday, Sidesgiving, to shine a light on the true stars of the table. But even on turkey day, it’s nice to incorporate a few adventurous veggies into the all-American melting pot of flavors.

“I have a lot of vegetarians in my family, and I like to mix it up and add a few different things,” said Peggy Fallon of Petaluma, who attended a recent Holiday Sides cooking class at The Fork at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. “When I see all these side dishes, I could care less about the turkey ... although you do need it for gravy.”

Taught by The Fork’s executive chef Jennifer Luttrell, the side-dish tutorial provided new inspiration for everything from a seasonal bourbon cocktail and a dry brine for the turkey to a flaky biscuit studded with blue cheese and an apple pie topped with a crumble instead of a crust.

“I love Thanksgiving,” said Luttrell, who has been teaching the class for several years. “It’s my favorite meal of the year, and I eat it for days.”

Her lineup of California-inspired vegetable dishes give the old standbys a new, cheesy twist. For example, mashed potatoes seem rather bland when compared to the deep, satisfying flavors of a Caramelized Onion, Chard and Potato Gratin with Young Gouda and Sage.

The brown bowl of Brussels sprouts gets a splash of color and flavor when you finish the edible buds with a Cranberry Brown Butter sauce made from fresh cranberries, maple syrup, ginger and orange zest.

Instead of the Southern-style sweet potato casserole topped with pineapple and marshmallows — so last century — Luttrell lightened things up with a Delicata Squash Salad with Kale, White Beans and Shaved Toma.

“Delicata squash is my favorite thing about fall,” she said. “You can eat the skin, and it has a nice, natural sweetness.”

And you don’t need to serve ho-hum Parker House dinner rolls once you perfect her recipe for Original Blue and Caramelized Onion Biscuits with Honey Butter, a nod to her Southern childhood in Oklahoma.

“The Original Blue (cheese) is peppery and full flavored,” she said. “It goes well with the sweetness of the onions.”

As an option to the same-old stuffing, Luttrell suggested baking a Mushroom Bread Pudding with Bay Blue, a dish so complex that it could stand on its own as a vegetarian entrée on any day.

“The Bay Blue (cheese) is really great with mushrooms,” she said. “We added extra bread so it’s not quite as rich.”

As appetizers, Luttrell suggested serving guests some kind of seafood to keep it light but luxurious — oysters, crab or smoked salmon are all good bets. For more indulgent fare, pick up some cheese and salumi from your favorite cheesemonger.

“The Toma is one of my very favorite cheeses,” said Jane Lyon, wholesale coordinator at Point Reyes Farmstead. “It’s warm and appetizing, and it’s accessible to everyone.”

The cheese company, which started making its famous Original Blue back in 2000, now makes a young and an aged Gouda along with another blue, the Bay Blue. The Original Blue was inspired by the Danish-style of blue cheese — creamy, buttery and smooth — while the Bay Blue is inspired by the earthy flavors of the English Stilton. Both are American originals, Lyon said.

Find more Thanksgiving ideas here.

To get the party started, Luttrell offered up a recipe for a seasonal Apple Cider Bourbon Cocktail, a refreshing aperitif made with fresh lemon juice, ginger and a slice of apple as a garnish.

For the turkey, the chef suggests sticking with the dry brine technique because it provides more flavor — and is easier to pull off — than a wet brine.

“It flavors the turkey all the way through and keeps it juicy,” she said.

The technique calls for brining the bird at least 24 hours in advance with toasted black, white and pink peppercorns plus coriander seeds and bay leaves, blended with salt, sugar, lemon zest and orange zest.

“You take the bird out of the package, rinse it and dry it off,” she said. “Then you let it sit in the fridge, uncovered on a tray, with the dry brine packed on.”

Of course, there’s always room for dessert at Thanksgiving, and Luttrell’s recipe for an Apple Crumble Pie is bound to appeal to the all-American pie lovers in the crowd.

“You cook the apples first, so it gets really nice and thick,” she said. “It’s really delicious.”


The following recipes are from Jennifer Luttrell of The Fork at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.

Citrus & Peppercorn Dry Brine

Makes enough for one 12-14 pound turkey

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

1 tablespoon pink peppercorns

2 teaspoons white peppercorns

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

6 bay leaves

1/2 cup kosher salt

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/4 cup lemon zest

2 tablespoons orange zest

Toast black, pink, and white peppercorns, coriander seeds and bay leaves in a skillet until fragrant. Let cool, then crush in a bag using a rolling pin or heavy skillet. Mix with salt, sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest. Apply to turkey and after curing, rinse off and pat dry before roasting.

Do ahead: Dry brine can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.


Mushroom Bread Pudding with Bay Blue

Serves 8-12

3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons butter

2 cups chopped onions (about 2 large)

1 1/2 pound mushrooms (mix of shiitake caps and creminis), sliced

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

1/2 cup Madeira

3/4 cup beef broth

1 cup heavy cream

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

12 ounces peasant or hearty whole-wheat bread, stale or oven-dried cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 9 cups)

8 ounces Point Reyes Bay Blue, crumbled

Heat 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and season with a little salt and pepper; cook until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add mushrooms and season with marjoram, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook over high heat until the mushrooms are browned and all the liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the Madeira. Cook, stirring frequently, over high heat until the liquid evaporates and the mixture is a rich brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together broth, cream, eggs, egg yolks, thyme, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the bread and the mushroom mixture to the custard; toss. Let sit for 30 minutes to saturate the bread, stirring occasionally. Gently stir in the cheese.

Brush a 2-quart (or 9×13-inch) baking dish evenly with the remaining 2 teaspoons butter. Pour the bread mixture into the baking dish, distributing the ingredients evenly. Bake in oven until lightly browned and firm, 40 to 45 minutes. (Alternatively, butter eight 1-cup ramekins and divide the bread mixture among them. Bake until lightly browned and firm, 30 to 35 minutes.)


Caramelized Onion, Chard & Potato Gratin with Young Gouda & Sage

Makes 8 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3 sweet yellow onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced on a mandoline

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves

2 lbs. Swiss chard, tough stems discarded and leaves cut into bite-size pieces

4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly on a mandoline

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups shredded Point Reyes Young Gouda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper and cook until caramelized, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer onions to bowl, stir in the sage and let cool slightly.

In the same pan, over medium-high heat, cook chard, just until it wilts, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Make a layer of potato slices in a 10 x 10 x 2-inch casserole, with salt and pepper, spread approximately 1/4 of the onion mixture over the potatoes, 1/4 of cooked chard and 2 tablespoons of cream. Repeat each step until you are out of layering ingredients. Pour remaining cream on top of final layer, then top with shredded Point Reyes Young Gouda.

Place the dish on a sheet pan and bake, covered. for 25 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and golden brown on top. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.


Delicata Squash Salad with Kale and Cranberry Beans

Serves 8

2 medium delicata squashes (about 2 pounds), halved lengthwise, seeded & cut into 1/2-inch-thick semicircles

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 bunch kale (5 ounces), large stems removed, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 large shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 cups cooked white beans (or 1 can white beans)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squashes with 1 teaspoon oil and spread onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until just tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Mix together balsamic vinegar and honey. Brush some of the mixture onto squash slices; reserve remaining mixture. Bake for 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, place kale in a large bowl. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic, and cook until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add red-wine vinegar and remaining vinegar-honey mixture to saucepan, and bring to a boil. Immediately pour hot dressing over kale, and sprinkle with salt. Season with pepper. Add squash and beans. Cover with plastic, and let stand for 5 minutes. Toss until kale wilts slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberry Brown Butter

Makes 12 servings

4 pounds Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 pound fresh or thawed frozen cranberries

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter

1 large shallot, minced

1 teaspoon chopped thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On 2 large rimmed baking sheets, toss the Brussels sprouts with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the sprouts are tender and browned in spots.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the cranberries, maple syrup, ginger and orange zest. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until the cranberries break down and thicken, about 10 minutes.

In a medium skillet, cook the butter over moderately high heat until deep golden, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the shallot and thyme and stir into the cranberry sauce. Transfer the butter to a bowl, add the Brussels sprouts and toss. Season with salt and serve.


Original Blue & Caramelized Onion Biscuits

Makes about 16 biscuits

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 small onions, halved and thinly sliced

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

2 3/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 ounces Point Reyes Original Blue, crumbled & chilled

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil. Add the onions, reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and continue to cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they’re deep brown, about 10 to 20 more minutes. Set aside to cool and then coarsely chop.

In a medium bowl or in a food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. If proceeding by hand, use your fingertips or a pastry blender to incorporate butter into flour mixture until the mixture is crumbly and butter is in pieces the size of a pea. If using a food processor, add butter and pulse mixture until crumbly.

Transfer butter-flour mixture back to a medium bowl. Incorporate crumbled Original Blue, buttermilk and onions using a spatula or your fingers. Gather the dough together with your hands to form a loose, shaggy ball.

On a floured work surface, roll out dough to 1-inch thickness. Using a floured 2-inch cutter, cut circles of dough and place them on prepared sheet pan, leaving about a 1/2-inch gap between biscuits.

Bake 20 to 23 minutes, until crust is deep golden-brown. Halfway through cooking time, rotate your trays for even cooking, and brush tops with melted butter.

Make ahead: Biscuits can be made and frozen, unbaked for later use. Simply freeze on sheet pan, and, when solid, transfer to freezer bag. Leave in freezer until ready to use. Bake according to recipe, adding on a few additional minutes in the oven to fully cook.


Apple Crumble Pie

Makes 1 pie


1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 to 4 tablespoons ice water


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 1/2 pounds apples, peeled and cored, then cut into wedges

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Crumble top:

1/2 stick butter

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For crust: Put flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with blade. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse to form a mixture resembling small peas. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until the dough sticks together. Mix just until all crumbs are incorporated into dough. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and shape each portion into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours before rolling out. Alternately, freeze for later use.

For filling: Melt butter in a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat and add apples to the pan. Stir to coat fruit with butter and cook, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk together the spices, salt and 3/4 cup sugar, and sprinkle this over the pan, stirring to combine. Lower heat and cook until apples have started to soften, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle the flour and cornstarch over the apples and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, another 3 to 5 minutes. If it’s too thick add water or apple juice to thin. Remove pan from heat, add cider vinegar, stir and scrape fruit mixture into a bowl and allow to cool completely.

For crumble: Mix crumble top ingredients together in a bowl, crumbling butter with your fingertips.

Assembly: Roll out dough into a 12-inch round on a floured surface; ease into a 9-inch pie plate and crimp edges. Add the apple filling, and top with crumble mixture.

Bake uncovered 30-40 minutes, until crust is brown and filling is bubbly. Cover crust with foil, if it browns too quickly, during cook time.


Apple Cider Bourbon Cocktail

Makes 2

3/4 cup apple cider

1/3 cup bourbon

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 (2 1/2-inch-long) thin slices fresh peeled ginger

2 thin slices apple, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add cider, bourbon, lemon juice, and ginger; shake to combine. Strain cocktail into 2 glasses. Garnish with apple slices.

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

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