Thanksgiving Sides Stir-Fried

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I read recently that the average person eats 4500 calories for a Thanksgiving meal! That’s obscene. Especially when you consider that most people consume 1600 to 2000 calories per day in the U.S.! I confess that I eat more than I should each Thanksgiving but I would guess my calorie count doesn’t even come close to 3000 calories. The entire Thanksgiving feast, from the rich appetizers to the decadent pies is high in calories.  But it’s my theory that the mashed potatoes, green bean casseroles, vegetable gratins, and corn pudding, ladened with butter and cream add unnecessary calories. My secret for a “healthier” meal is to do as my parents did every Thanksgiving and stir-fry the vegetable sides dishes. In 2011, The New York Times featured some of my favorite holiday side dishes. By stir-frying you can serve spectacular sides like Mandarin Rice Stuffing With Chestnuts and Shiitake Mushrooms (shown above), Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts with Shallots and Sherry and Stir-Fried Balsamic Ginger Carrots (shown below) that are impressive, simple to make, easy on the budget, and best of all they taste rich and satisfying without all the cream, butter, and olive oil. The high heat and quick stir-frying intensifies the flavor and brings out the natural sweetness of vegetables.

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For all those guests with special dietary needs the added benefit of stir-fried vegetable sides is that they’re vegan and gluten-free. (Note, if a recipe calls for soy sauce just substitute with wheat free tamari.) And by stir-frying the sides you free up your oven for baking pies and roasting the turkey!

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Our Wok Wednesdays online cooking group is deviating from our usual “StirFrying to the Sky’s Edge” Recipe Schedule to stir-fry one of my holiday side dishes on Nov 18th in anticipation of Thanksgiving. Or you can create your own stir-fry side. Members on our Facebook page have been proposing recipes ideas like stir-fried cabbage and bacon, Sichuan peppercorns and sweet potatoes, stir-fried collard greens and more… As Tara Parker-Pope wrote in the New York Times, “This Thanksgiving, put your wok to work.” By stir-frying your holiday vegetable side dishes you can save your calories for the tempting appetizers, roast turkey with rich gravy, luscious desserts, and enjoy an extra glass of wine with a little less guilt! Happy Thanksgiving!

Mandarin Rice Stuffing with Chestnuts and Shiitake Mushrooms

1 1/3 cups long grain brown rice

2 2/3 cups vegetable broth

1 tablespoon soy sauce (low-sodium if desired)

1 tablespoon Asian style sesame oil

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

3 tablespoons peanut or canola oil

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps cut into scant ¼-inch slices (about 2 ½ cups)

1 cup ¼-inch diced red bell peppers

1 ½ cups cooked chestnuts, quartered

½ cup roasted chopped pecans

¼ cup chopped cilantro

1 ½ cups chopped scallions

1. In a 2-quart saucepan bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Add the rice and return to a full boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 40 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff the rice, cover, and allow it to completely cool before refrigerating. Makes about 4 cups.

2. Combine the soy sauce and sesame oil in a cup. Combine the salt and pepper in a small dish.

3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Swirl in 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil by adding it to the sides of the pan and swirling the pan, then add the ginger and garlic using a metal spatula to stir-fry no more than 10 seconds, until the ginger and garlic are fragrant. Add the mushrooms and bell peppers and stir-fry for 30 seconds, until all the oil is absorbed. Swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil, add the rice, and stir-fry for 1 minute breaking up the rice with the spatula. Swirl in the soy sauce mixture, sprinkle with the salt mixture, and stir-fry for 1 minute, until well combined. Add the chestnuts, pecans, cilantro, and stir-fry for 1 minute, until heated through. Stir in the scallions. Serves 8 as a vegetable side dish.

Advance preparation: The cooked brown rice will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator. The dish is best when made just before serving, but you could make it a few hours ahead and reheat in a medium oven. The pecans can be roasted several days ahead.

Roasted chestnuts will keep in the refrigerator in a covered container for 2 to 3 days.To roast chestnuts: Use the tip of a sharp paring knife to cut an X on the flat side of each chestnut. Put the chestnuts in a plastic container and put in the freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°. Put the chestnuts on a jelly-roll pan cut side up and roast 20 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and allow chestnuts to cool until warm to the touch. Remove the shell and peel the chestnuts.

Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts with Shallots and Sherry

1 pound Brussels sprouts

3 tablespoons dry sherry

1 tablespoon soy sauce (low-sodium if desired)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons peanut or canola oil

1/3 cup thinly sliced shallot

1 tablespoon minced garlic

¼ cup roasted pine nuts

1. Trim the ends off the Brussels sprouts and remove and discard any discolored outer leaves. Shave a scant ¼-inch thick slice off one side of each Brussels sprout and put cut side down. Cut scant ¼-inch thick slices to make about 6 cups. Transfer the Brussels sprouts to the colander of a salad spinner and rinse under cold water. Put the colander into the salad spinner and spin to remove excess water. Combine the sherry and soy sauce in a cup. Combine the salt and pepper in a small dish.

2. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or a 12-inch skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Swirl in the oil by adding it to the sides of the pan and swirling the pan, then add the shallots and garlic, and stir-fry no more than 10 seconds, until the aromatics are fragrant. Add the Brussels sprouts, sprinkle with the salt mixture, and stir-fry for 1 minute, just until the Brussels sprouts are bright green. Swirl the sherry mixture into the wok, cover, and cook 1 minute, until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Uncover and stir-fry for 2 minutes, until the Brussels sprouts are crisp-tender and the liquid has just evaporated. Sprinkle with the pine nuts. Serves 6 as a vegetable side dish.

Advance preparation: The Brussels sprouts can be sliced, washed, and dried a day in advance. Store them in a plastic container in the refrigerator. The pine nuts can be roasted several days ahead. You can also make this dish a day ahead but do not add the pine nuts. Reheat in a medium oven and sprinkle with pine nuts before serving.

Stir-Fried Balsamic Ginger Carrots

1 ¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ pounds carrots, cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces (about 6 cups)

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon dry sherry

2 teaspoons soy sauce (low-sodium if desired)

¾ teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil

2 tablespoons minced ginger

2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

1. In a 3-quart saucepan bring 1 ½ quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Add ½ teaspoon of the salt and the carrots and return to a full boil, about 5 minutes. Boil for 2 additional minutes. Drain the carrots in a colander, shaking well to remove excess water. Combine the vinegar, sherry, and soy sauce in a cup. Combine the sugar, pepper, and the remaining ¾ teaspoon salt in a small dish.

2. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or a 12-inch skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Swirl in the oil by adding it to the sides of the pan and swirling the pan, then add the ginger, and stir-fry no more than 10 seconds, until the ginger is fragrant. Add the carrots and stir-fry for 1 minute, until the carrots are well coated in oil and ginger. Swirl the vinegar mixture into the wok, sprinkle with the sugar mixture, and stir-fry for 1 minute, until the carrots are crisp-tender. Immediately transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with chives. Serves 8 as a vegetable side dish.

Advance preparation: You can make this dish a day ahead of serving and reheat in a medium oven.

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