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Posted on Wed, Nov 21, 2012 : 10:42 a.m.

Basic Thanksgiving sides - 3 classic holiday recipes

By Jessica Webster


When it comes to basic Thanksgiving sides, my rule is to keep it simple and classic.

Jessica Webster |

I have a career. A family. I bought a house. I pay my taxes. I’ve managed to raise a child (pretty successfully, if I may say so myself), but I never felt as much like an adult as I did when I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner.

This year isn’t my first year, but I still get nervous. This is, after all, the biggest food holiday of the year. I’ve got my turkey on order from Arbor Farms (still haven’t decided for sure if I will brine it this year). Mom’s in charge of the gravy (she’s a gravy-making genius) and is bringing The Best Apple Pie In The World. But I’m on the hook for the rest.

I did a dry run with the most important sides this weekend, and it occurred to me that it would have been helpful to have all the recipes in one spot. So here you are, dear readers. Easy, straightforward, classic Thanksgiving stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.

The stuffing is the one we’ve been making in my household for years. Occasionally Mom would try to experiment with something fancier. Something with sausage or chestnuts or raisins. But my brother and I would rebel. There’s nothing that can compare to the perfectly retro Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook moist bread stuffing recipe.

This variation on the mashed potato recipe came via fellow Burns Park mom Eva Rosenwald, who raved about Mark Bittman’s recommendation to leave the skins on while you boil the potatoes. It takes longer for them to cook, but they are less likely to absorb water and be mushy. Please note that this recipe is for 4 servings. If you’ve got a larger crowd, double or triple it.

Moist bread stuffing (from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook)

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 18 cups white bread, cubed
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

Melt the butter in a large (6 quart or larger) Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Cook the celery and onion until tender, about 10 minutes.

Add parsley, salt, poultry seasoning and pepper, stir until thoroughly mixed.

Stir in bread cubes and eggs. Stir until bread cubes are thoroughly coated.

Transfer to a greased, oven-safe casserole dish (or keep in the Dutch oven) and cover. Bake along with your turkey for the last 30-45 minutes of roasting time. (Between 325 and 375 degrees)

Cranberry Sauce (adapted from Slate’s “You’re doing it wrong cranberry orange sauce”) Yield: About 2 cups (12 to 16 servings)

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2/3 cup orange juice

Combine the cranberries, sugar, and crystallized ginger with 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan. Add the juice and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and the cranberries are mostly disintegrated, about 7 minutes.

Cool thoroughly and serve. (Store cranberry sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.)

Easy mashed potatoes (adapted from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything)

  • 2 pounds of Russet potatoes, all of approximately equal size
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt and pepper

Scrub the potatoes well before putting them in a saucepan, skins and all. Add enough water to cover the potatoes, and add a large pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil, then cook for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. They’re done once a knife meets almost no resistance when inserted into the center of a potato.

Drain the potatoes into a colander and let them cool and dry out for 10 to 15 minutes.

While the potatoes are draining, wipe the pot dry and put it back on the stove over medium-low heat. Add the milk and the butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. When the butter is almost melted, remove the pot from the heat. Remove the skins from the potatoes (they should slip off easily) and add them to the milk mixture, then mash with a fork or potato masher. Return the pot to the heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon to reach the desired consistency, adding more milk if necessary. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.

Jessica Webster leads the Food & Grocery section for Reach her at You also can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.