Fall Vegetable and Seafood Side Dishes for Thanksgiving Use Seafood Ordered Online to Lessen Stress

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The addition of butternut squash to cod chowder is unexpected but makes the perfect soup for Thanksgiving. Image source: Flickr CC user T.Tseng

A couple of years ago, I was hosting Thanksgiving, and I wanted to do something a little different. I decided to swap out some of the standard Thanksgiving side dishes with ones that used my favorite fall vegetables: squash, zucchini, and pumpkin, among others. Then I added seafood for a combination that sounds crazy but is actually delicious.

This Thanksgiving, I heartily encourage you to do the same. Put away those canned green beans and start some tasty new traditions using produce--and seafood--that’s in season.

Cod Chowder with Bacon, Butternut Squash, and Thyme

There’s nothing like warm squash at a Thanksgiving feast--it’s traditional, cozy, and it’s the ultimate expression of autumn. My advice is to prep all the listed ingredients below a couple days before Thanksgiving. Then, when your guests begin to arrive on the big day, you can put any eager helpers to work on cooking this recipe, which largely involves mixing your pre-prepped ingredients in a pot. Even a helper with no kitchen experience should be able to handle that.

Simply gather these ingredients and add them to the pot in this order:

  • 4 slices of thick-cut bacon, chopped, cooked in the pot about 3 minutes until crispy
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme--once you have added the thyme, cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently before adding the next ingredients
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of flour--cook for 2 minutes or until the flour begins to brown before adding the next ingredients
  • 3 ½ cups of vegetable stock
  • ½ cup of clam juice

Next, bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat until the squash is tender, about 12 minutes.

Finally, add 1 pound of fresh cod. The fresher the better in this recipe since high quality fish here really teases more taste out of the squash. You’ll want to use skinless cod fillets, cut into large pieces. Once you’ve added the fish, cover and simmer (gently, so the fish doesn’t break up) until the cod flakes easily with a fork, about 5 minutes. Finally, stir in ½ cup of heavy cream and a pinch of cayenne. This should serve around 8 people as a first course.

Traditional Thanksgiving Item to Replace: Any other squash or sweet potato dish, like sweet potato casserole. Okay, maybe replace is the wrong word, since this dish also involves butternut squash. Think of this recipe as less of a replacement and more as a tastier, more exciting alternative.

Cranberry-Crab Rangoons

This is the perfect dish to prepare while you’re hosting, because you can make so much of it ahead of time to save yourself stress on Thanksgiving morning. As you’ll see below, there are two components to this dish: the cranberry sauce and the actual rangoons. My advice is to make the cranberry sauce days in advance. It keeps well, and you won’t have to worry about preparing yet another dish in the early hours on Thanksgiving day. You can also prepare this dish in a way that is sensitive to family and friends who may have food allergies. In place of the cream cheese, you can use a soy-free cream cheese alternative, which would make your dish both dairy and soy free.

In a sauté pan lightly coated with either canola oil or grapeseed oil for cooking, combine the following over high heat, and cook for about 5 minutes:

  • 2 red onions, diced
  • 2 tablespoons of minced lemongrass, white part only
  • Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper to taste

Once the 5 minutes is up, add the following and then reduce the heat, simmering into all liquid has been absorbed:

  • 2 cups dried cranberries, chopped
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups naturally brewed rice vinegar

In a large bowl, you’ll also need to mix these ingredients:

  • 3 pounds of picked, fresh crab meat
  • ¾ pound cream cheese, softened (or cream cheese substitute)
  • ½ cup chives, reserving 2 tablespoons for a later garnish
  • Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper to taste

For the next step, you’ll need:

  • 2 packages wonton skins
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ water

Mix the eggs and water. Lay out 4 to 6 wonton skins and lightly brush them with the egg mixture. Place a small mound of the crab mix on one wonton skin. Top with a second skin, pressing firmly to seal them together. Warning: if you don’t seal them carefully it’s likely that your rangoons will burst and leak. Repeat this process until all the filling is gone.

Next preheat a large sauté pan with ¼ inch of oil over medium high heat. Add as many rangoons as you can fit without layering them. Fry them shallowly until they start to turn golden brown. Flip them over and brown the other side. Move the rangoons to a dish covered in a paper towel. When you’re ready to serve them, put them on a platter and top each with a dollop of the cranberry mixture and some of the chives that you set aside. This recipe serves 10-12.

Traditional Thanksgiving Item to Replace: Spinach and cheese puffs--or any appetizer you usually make on turkey day, like cheese and crackers. You’ll get great crunch and texture from a cranberry-crab rangoon side dish--just like those spinach puffs-- except with delicious Dungeness crab involved, too, which makes these more festive. Dungeness crab season also happens to coincide with Thanksgiving time, and, for those who don’t know, Dungeness crab is a great healthy option--low on calories and high on protein.

Crab-Stuffed Zucchini Boats

I try not to play favorites with my dishes, but, between you and me, this one is my favorite. Unlike the two recipes above, this one doesn’t lend itself so easily to preparing days in advance. However, it’s a low-maintenance and high yield recipe that shouldn’t take up too much of your time on Thanksgiving day. From start to finish, this recipe takes less than 40 minutes, and for 25 of those minutes, the boats will be baking, freeing you to handle other items. What you can do is prepare the filling and stuff the boats early on Thanksgiving day. Keep them in the refrigerator until dinner is just about ready, then pop them in the oven. They cook at about turkey temperature, so you can even pop them in the oven with the turkey, if necessary.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, cut four zucchinis in half and scoop out the seedy flesh inside, leaving about ½-inch thick skins. Then place them on a baking sheet.

In a skillet over medium heat, combine the following:

  • 1 tablespoon of melted butter
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, finely chopped and cooked until translucent, about 5 minutes
  • 8 ounces of fresh crab meat, stirred in gently, and cooked for 5 more minutes
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • Pepper to taste

Once the crab mixture is done cooking, put it in a bowl and stir in the following:

  • ½ cup of breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup of light olive oil mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup of shredded parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup of shredded mozzarella cheese

Spoon the filling into the prepared zucchini boats and bake in your preheated oven for about 25 minutes. This dish serves 8 people.

Traditional Thanksgiving Item to Replace: Green bean casserole. It’s really a seamless swap. In my experience, nobody much misses green bean casserole.

So there you have it--three ways to pair fresh seafood delivered online with delicious in season fall vegetables to spice up your Thanksgiving feast. Two of these three happen to call for Dungeness crab. That’s no coincidence. It’s Dungeness crab season right now, and a great way to ensure you get only fresh and sustainable Dungeness crab is to order yours from DailyFreshFish.com. And because it’s delivered right to your door, you can focus on preparing for holiday guests, not tracking down fresh seafood. Make sure to pre-order or place your order by November 21 for a stress-free holiday meal.