Italians aren’t big on turkey, but they are masters of contorni, the delicious vegetables that accompany any Italian feast. We know that Thanksgiving traditions run deep, but if you want to do something new — and delicious — without upsetting tradition, here are three suggestions for putting an Italian twist in your feast.
Sedano and Patate Gratin
(Celery root and potato gratin)
This Italian version of “cheesy potatoes” features the addition of celery root, which is delicious with the potatoes. La Cucina Italiana may have left the US, but it is still alive and well in Italy. This recipe originated at its Italian site and we have translated the quantities to US measures.
800 gr (about 1 3/4 lbs) celery root, peeled.
250 gr (about 1/2 lb) potato, peeled
3 c. heavy cream
1 clove garlic
1 sprig thyme
Put the cream, garlic, thyme, pinch of salt and pepper in a sauce pan. Simmer for 10 minutes to infuse the cream. Remove the garlic and thyme.
Cut the celery root and potatoes into thin slices (about 1/4 in.) Layer half of the celery root slices into a buttered baking dish. Place the layer of potatoes on top and finish with the remainder of the celery root.
Pour the cream over the top and bake, at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until the top is brown and the celery is tender. Serves 6-8. Serve immediately.
Italian Sausage Stuffing
1 loaf Italian peasant bread, about 1 1lb, cut into 1 inch cubes and dried. You can leave them out overnight or put them in a 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes to dry them out (not toast them).
1 1/2 – 2 lb. sweet Italian sausage.
2 medium onions, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
4 large eggs (or more if needed)
1 1/2 c. low sodium turkey or chicken stock
1/2 c. Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 c. fresh sage leaves, chopped
1/3 c. fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 c. grated parmiggiano regiano cheese (optional)
Generously butter a 9x12x2 baking dish. Cook the celery and onion over medium low heat until they are translucent, but don’t caramelize. Take the sausage out of its casing and add to the vegetables. Cook the meat through and break up into bite sized pieces without crisping the meat. Cool this all to room temperature.
In a large mixing bowl add all of the dry ingredients. Then add the stock until all of the bread is wet but not soggy. Then add enough egg to coat all of the bread. Mix very well and place everything into the buttered baking dish.
If you prepare this ahead, place into the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before cooking. Place the dish in a preheated 425 degree oven covered with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for about another 15 minutes until the top is crisp. Serve warm.
Finocchio al Forno
(Fennel baked with cheese)
Fennel is a unique side for the Thanksgiving table, but it’s a perfect foil for turkey or any poultry.
2 lb. fennel. Remove the stalks and cut into 1/2 inch wedges. If you want, save the frons for decoration
2 c. heavy cream
1-1/2 c. grated parmiggiano reggiano
4 tbs. unsalted butter
Please the wedges, face up, in a baking dish. Cover with the cream and 1 cup of the cheese. Mix well. After mixing, dot with the butter.
Cook in a preheated 425 degree oven, covered with foil, for 1 hour.
Uncover and sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top. Cook until the top is crisp and browned, about 30 minutes. Test the fennel with a sharp knife to make sure that it is tender. Serve immediately.