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Stick with tradition for cooking the turkey but get creative with sides

For Thanksgiving, the cooks from Milk Street offer up spins on mushroom stuffing, butternut squash, and risotto.

Easy oven-baked mushroom-herb stuffing.Connie Miller/of CB Creatives

After years of experimenting with turkey recipes, we long ago decided it’s not worth diverting from the simple season-and-roast approach. Instead, the creativity to try something new comes with the sides. For stuffing, we leave it out of the bird and instead bake it with shiitake mushrooms, soy sauce, and sage, thyme, and parsley. For a winter vegetable side, we balance the sweet, nutty flavor of mashed butternut squash with earthy cumin and spicy, smoky chili. And for the starch, a bright lemon risotto with peas balances the heft of the meal.

Easy Oven-Baked Mushroom-Herb Stuffing

Makes 8 servings

This stuffing is defined by meaty roasted mushrooms and generous amounts of fresh sage, thyme, and parsley, as well as poultry seasoning (a ready-made mix of dried herbs, including marjoram, rosemary, and oregano). We especially like Bell’s Seasoning. The mushrooms build on the herbs’ earthy flavors.


If your supermarket only sells whole portobello mushrooms (that is, with stems), you will need about 1½ pounds to account for the weight of the stems. Be sure to remove any gills from the portobellos, as they alter the stuffing’s appearance and flavor. And, be sure to toast the bread until nearly dry throughout.

If you’d like to prepare some of the ingredients in advance, follow the recipe through the seasoning and toasting of the bread, then reserve the cubes and the remaining roasted mushrooms separately; refrigerate in airtight containers for up to two days. About two hours before serving, remove both from the refrigerator and proceed with the remainder of the recipe.

1 pound portobello mushroom caps, gills removed, halved and thinly sliced

1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, thinly sliced

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) salted butter, melted, divided


8 ounces shallots, peeled and halved (4 or 5 large)

½ cup lightly packed fresh sage leaves

3 tablespoons lightly packed fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 pounds sturdy white sandwich bread, cut into ¾-inch cubes

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Heat the oven to 500 degrees with the racks in the upper- and lower-middle positions. In a large bowl, toss both of the mushrooms with the olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast on the upper rack until the mushrooms have released their moisture, the moisture evaporates, and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Set aside.

Lower the oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, toss the celery and poultry seasoning with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter; set aside. In a food processor, combine the shallots, sage, thyme, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 7 tablespoons of the melted butter. Process to a smooth paste, about 30 seconds, scraping the bowl as needed. Add 1 cup of the roasted mushrooms and process until the mushrooms are coarsely chopped, 4 to 6 pulses.

In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes and the shallot-herb paste; toss gently. Fold in the celery mixture, then divide between 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until the bread is dry and deep golden brown, about 1 hour, stirring the bread and switching and rotating the pans halfway through. Let cool slightly. Increase the oven to 400 degrees.


Transfer the bread mixture to a large bowl, scraping any browned bits off the baking sheets. Add the broth, parsley, and the remaining mushrooms; fold gently to distribute the mushrooms. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no liquid remains at the bottom of the bowl. Meanwhile, coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter.

Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish; spread in an even layer. Brush the surface with the remaining 6 tablespoons melted butter. Bake on the upper rack until well browned, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the dish halfway through. Let sit for 20 minutes before serving.

Mashed Butternut Squash With Cumin and ChiliConnie Miller/of CB Creatives

Mashed Butternut Squash With Cumin and Chili

Makes 4 servings

Rather than steam or boil the squash, we roast it in a moderately hot oven to caramelize some of the sugars and concentrate the flavors, and we toss raw pumpkin seeds onto the baking sheet midway through to add a little richness and texture. If you have only toasted pumpkin seeds on hand, instead of adding them to the squash in the oven, fold them in after the squash is mashed.

Crema is a tangy Mexican cultured cream similar to sour cream but more pourable in consistency. If using sour cream, stir the lime juice into it before adding it to the squash before mashing.

Be sure to use a foil lining for the baking sheet. Without the foil, the squash has a tendency to stick and burn, and the burnt bits end up tough and stringy. Also, for the best texture, mash the squash straight out of the oven, while it’s still hot.


1 2- to 2½-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1½-inch chunks

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

¾ teaspoon ancho powder or chipotle chili powder, divided

½ teaspoon ground cumin

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds (see headnote)

1 teaspoon grated lime zest, plus 2 teaspoons lime juice

2 tablespoons Mexican crema or sour cream, plus more to serve

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Crumbled queso fresco or crumbled cotija cheese or flaky salt, optional, for garnish

Heat the oven to 425 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl, toss the squash with the oil, ½ teaspoon chili powder, the cumin, and ½ teaspoon salt. Distribute in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet; reserve the bowl. Roast for 25 minutes; the pieces will be lightly browned but not yet tender.

Add the pumpkin seeds to the baking sheet, stir to combine, then roast until the squash is well browned and a skewer inserted into the largest pieces meets no resistance, another 12 to 17 minutes.

Return the squash mixture to the bowl. Add the lime juice, crema, the remaining ¼ teaspoon chili powder, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Using a potato masher or large spoon, mix and mash to a coarse puree. Taste and season with salt. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with additional crema and oil, then sprinkle with the cilantro, lime zest, and cheese or salt, if using.


Mashed Butternut Squash With Cumin and ChiliConnie Miller/of CB Creatives

Lemon and Green Pea Risotto

Makes 4 servings

This simple recipe transforms a few basic ingredients into a risotto bristling with bright, bracing flavors. When cooked, the grains of Arborio rice should be tender but retain a slight chew at the center; they should not be evenly soft throughout.

Chopped fresh parsley, basil, or mint sprinkled on top just before serving offers vibrant color, flavor, and fragrance; use whichever you have.

1 quart low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth

3 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, divided

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 cup Arborio rice

1½ cups frozen peas, thawed and patted dry

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated (½ cup), plus more to serve

Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or basil or mint, to serve

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the broth and 2 cups water, covered, to a simmer; reduce to low heat to keep warm.

In a large saucepan set over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the grains are translucent at the edges, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 3 cups of the hot broth mixture and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often and briskly, until most of the liquid is absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes; adjust the heat as needed to maintain a vigorous simmer.

Cook, adding ¼ cup of the broth at a time, until the rice is al dente and loose but not soupy, another 8 to 10 minutes. You may not need all of the broth. Off heat, stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, the peas, lemon zest and juice, and Parmesan. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with parsley and additional Parmesan.

Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to Send comments to