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Monday, November 16,2009

Put a twist on your Thanksgiving favorites

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

No other meal is as traditional as the Thanksgiving feast.

If the host or hostess doesn't serve the family's favorite green bean casserole, Aunt Betty's sweet potato casserole or grandma's five-cup salad, there could be some holiday discontent.

Many cooks wouldn't dare stray far from the usual fare, but what if you wanted to try something a little different this year? Are you brave enough to put Food Network star Alton Brown's green bean casserole on the table? What about a stuffing with goldenberries?

If you yearn to show off your culinary skills but don't want to offend your guests, why not do both? Tweak some of those favorite dishes by recharging them with some fresh new ingredients.

A stuffing made with goldenberries would be a nice surprise. The exotic raisin of the Amazon is a sweet-and-sour delicacy and incredibly rich in vitamin A, according to the producer, Kopali Organics. Goldenberries are available at Whole Foods for $3.99.

We're pretty sure no one will turn up their noses at creamed corn gratin with fried onion rings and bacon. If they do, serve an old-fashioned scalloped-corn recipe from the "Owsley County Outreach's Cookbook to Alleviate Hunger."

Parmesan tomatoes will please everyone at the table if you simply tell them it's a Paula Deen recipe.

No matter what you serve as side dishes this holiday, remember that nothing can stall dinner like too many dishes competing for oven space. Choose a couple of dishes for the oven and another recipe that can be prepared on the stove top, and of course a quick green salad or a sweet fruit salad that can be served cold.

Recipes: These recipes are for the cook who wants to jazz up the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. If a can of cream of mushroom soup is not a staple in your pantry, try this version of green bean casserole.

NOT YOUR MAMA'S GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Non-stick spray

For beans:

1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed and trimmed

1 gallon water

2 tablespoons kosher salt

For sauce:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup half-and-half

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Combine onions, flour, panko and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Coat a sheet pan with non-stick spray and evenly spread onions on pan. Bake until golden brown, tossing every 10 minutes, for about 30 minutes. Once done, remove from oven and set aside until ready to use. Turn down oven to 400 degrees.

While onions are cooking, prepare beans. Bring water and salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Blanch beans for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

For sauce, melt butter in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and nutmeg, and continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to combine. Cook 1 minute. Add broth and simmer 1 minute. Add half-and-half and cook until mixture thickens, 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 of the onions and all the green beans. Top with remaining onions. Place skillet in oven and bake until bubbly, about 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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