The Sides Make the Feast

There’s going to be turkey, you can bet on it, writes Richard Whelan, general manager at Pirates Cove.

Whether you’re going to a friend’s or relative’s house, or, maybe they are all coming to your house, chances are there is going to be a big fat roasted turkey in your future come Thanksgiving. That’s why we call it Turkey Day.

Maybe even a ham. A good, salty, country ham if you’re lucky.

But what makes the difference between grandmom’s house, your best friend’s house or the restaurant downtown is going to be what else is being served besides the turkey.

Side dishes make the feast.

We couldn’t agree more.

But sometimes managing the favorites — the mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and cornbread or oyster stuffing, not to mention that turkey or ham — pushes side dishes to the side.

So we’ve asked six local experts — chefs, managers and owners of Chesapeake Country restaurants — to help. They’ve shared recipes for appetizers, side dishes, a main dish and dessert. 

Brick House Crab Toast 

Chef/owner Pete Litchfield cut his teeth in the business in restaurant-rich Ocean City, Maryland, in the 1980s and ’90s. He found the, old vacant Bay View Inn in Cedarhurst just before the millennium celebration. Now, Brick House is enjoying its 12th successful year.

Brick House chef/owner Pete Litchfield.

In Litchfield’s large family, Thanksgiving was a day of coming and going, with football in the field and then on television. The main meal was served late, so there was constant snacking. Thus Litchfield offers his recipe for Brick House Crab Toast 

Says Litchfield: The recipe I have chosen is simple enough, and the ingredients portioned (store-bought size) so as not to interfere with the labors of love already occupying the kitchen.

Everyone loves crab dip, but our Crab Toast is already spread and easy to eat. Regulars say they crave it when they are away.

Start with:

1/2 lb. cream cheese
8 oz. sour cream
4 oz. prepared horseradish 
Juice of one lemon
dash Worcestershire Sauce

Soften the cream cheese and smash in the rest. The closer you are to Baltimore, the more Worcestershire you will want, but start with just a few drops. 

Next, gently fold in one pound of crabmeat. You don’t have to use expensive Jumbo; in fact I find that claw meat has the sweetest flavor, but don’t use special. The bread is most important. Everything must cook together.

In the freezer section find: Par-cooked French rolls. Those little Pepperidge Farm French dinner rolls are close also; they are doughy and will cook up nice. Slice the bread, cut it into mouth-manageable pieces. Spread on the crab mixture and top with slightly smaller slices of Provolone Cheese. 

You can cook these at almost any temperature over 300 so they can easily slide in on a small baking pan around anything that’s already occupying an oven. Cook until brown like a pizza, and garnish with Old Bay if you are from the Shore, parsley for the traditionalist. Let them cool.

They’re addicting, but don’t eat too much. Dinner is in a few hours.

Pirates Cove’s Corn Pudding

One our favorite side dishes at Pirates Cove is our corn pudding. It may not sound very tasty, but don’t let that stop you from trying it. Our chef and kitchen manager Billy Parkinson — a lifelong Galesville man who loves sports, Bruce Springsteen and cooking — has been making it for almost 30 years, and our guests will often seek reassurance of its availability when making Thanksgiving reservations.

Pirates Cove owner Bob Platt and chef Billy Parkinson.

Our corn pudding is not creamed corn. Nor is it a puree-type corn gelatin. Ours is very much a light custard that has caramel undertones and almost a nutty, earthy finish, gently enshrouding plump, succulent kernels of golden corn, baked to a slightly crisp texture. In other words; shure-good-eats!

Corn pudding may have been on the table during the first Thanksgiving meal, but I doubt it. It never made people call Thanksgiving Corn Pudding Day.

But it does add a bit of sweetness to the dinner, a helping of history to the feast and, as with all the other simple side dishes, it takes a traditional turkey and makes it into a meal.

–contributed by Richard Whelan, General Manager

2 lbs corn: canned (drained weight) or frozen
Butter: 1/2 lb., or 2 sticks, melted
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup milk

Melt the butter, and set it aside. Thaw and/or drain the corn and place into a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, crack the eggs and whip in the sugar, flour and milk in that order.

Pour mixture over corn and mix with a large spoon or your hands. Slowly add butter while mixing gently.

Pour mixture into a medium-size glass or ceramic baking dish. Mixture should be about two inches deep.

Spread evenly and then bake at 325 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes until the top is speckled brown. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

Skipper’s Pier’s Classic Southern Collard Greens

John Kozik, owner and executive chef of Skipper’s Pier in Deale since 2007, is making an identity for himself by blending southern comfort with Chesapeake cuisine.

A graduate of Scottsdale Culinary Institute, Kozik started as a line cook at A League of Our Own in Phoenix, Arizona. Heading back east, he worked at Kinkeads in Washington, D.C., then as a sous chef at A La Belle Cuisine in Falls Church. In 2004, Kozik arrived in Chesapeake Country as executive chef at the Westlawn Inn. In May of 2007, he created his own waterside dining experience at Skipper’s Pier. 

His classic southern collard greens are in season and in region for Chesapeake Thanksgiving.

10-15 bunches collard greens
10 pieces of bacon (to taste)
2-1/2 cups onion (small dice)
1/4 to 1/2 tbs. red pepper flakes
1 gallon chicken stock
2-1/2 tbs. salt (to taste)
1-1/2 cups cider vinegar
1-1/2 cups sugar

Serves about 12 people

Clean greens and remove stems. 

Cook bacon until tender and crisp. Add onion and red pepper flakes and cook until the onion is soft and dark. Don’t overcook!

Add greens in batches, and stir until the leaves wilt. Add stock, sugar, salt, vinegar and cook down. Cook until greens are tender but resilient, 40 to 90 minutes, depending on the greens. Once they’re done they will be soft but not mushy.

Season with vinegar, salt and pepper.

German Sauerkraut á la Old Stein

The Old Stein, in Mayo, is Chesapeake Country’s longest-standing culinary outpost of the German tradition. Mike Selinger took over the business from his parents and is bringing up three young sons as a potential third generation. So The Old Stein knows how to cook sauerkraut. Here, German-born Chef Dirk gives us the authentic goods for Baltimore’s unique contribution to Chesapeake Thanksgiving.

German-born Chef Dirk shows off The Old Stein’s German sauerkraut.

2 lbs. sauerkraut
6 strips bacon
1 chopped yellow onion
1 tbs. olive oil
10 juniper berries
4 bay leaves
1 cup dark beer
1 shredded potato for thickening
2 tbs. brown sugar
Hint caraway seed
Salt and pepper

Lightly brown onions and bacon in olive oil. Reduce with beer; add sauerkraut and all the seasonings. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Add shredded potato and brown sugar. Simmer for another 25 minutes, and you are good to go. Enjoy!

Rod ’n’ Reel’s Chocolate and Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecans

As Rod ’n’ Reel, chief operating officer Orhan Soysal supervises the careful feeding of the guests.

This Thanksgiving, he’ll be feeding 500 at the resort’s three-dozen-dish buffet.

Here, chefs Barbara Collinson and Joseph Misero offer you “the perfect Thanksgiving dessert to make everyone happy.”

Chefs Joseph Misero and Barbara Collinson’s “perfect Thanksgiving dessert.”

“The inspiration,” Soysal says, “was to take the traditional pumpkin pie to a new level as a creamy cheesecake and then add chocolate, which is a favorite for all.”


1 cup pecan pieces
6 1-1/2 oz chocolate-chocolate chip cookies
1 tsp. unsalted butter, melted

Toast the pecan pieces in 300-degree oven six to eight minutes. When cool, place in food processor with cookies and slowly add melted butter till just mixed. Should be like wet sand.

Chocolate cheesecake

8 oz. semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup coffee
3/4 lb. cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and coffee. In mixer with paddle attachment, blend the cream cheese and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the rest of the ingredients, with the melted chocolate last.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

1 lb. cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 tbs. vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

In mixer with paddle attachment, blend cream cheese and sugar. Add flour. Add eggs one at a time. Add the rest of the ingredients.

Coat the bottom of a spring-form pan with the crust and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Pour the chocolate cheesecake mix in and let set at room temperature for 15 minutes. Pour the pumpkin cheesecake mixture on top. Place in water bath. Cook at 300 degrees for 11⁄2 hours or until the middle is just set and does not jiggle. 

Garnish with more pecans and whipped cream.

Turducken from My Butcher and More

Ask Mike Smollon, of My Butcher and More, and he’ll tell you the right alternative to turkey is turducken.

Turducken according to Smollon: There are a few secrets to our recipe that set us apart. Our turduckens are always freshly handmade on the premises. It is safe to freeze any leftovers, which is important with a turducken. We never use random pieces and parts. Instead, we always use fresh whole birds and whole breasts. We use our farm-fresh, cage-free turkeys, Long Island duck breast and local cage-free boneless chicken breast. I think we’re the only business around making turduckens from fresh, cage-free local birds.

To make your own turducken, start by placing turkey on a cutting board breast down. Cut through the backbone to butterfly the bird. Remove the backbone and rib cage, then lay the turkey flat. Place a thin layer of stuffing onto the meat of the turkey. Place a whole boneless duck breast on top of the stuffing, and again layer with stuffing on top of the duck. Place a whole boneless chicken breast on top of the stuffing and again one last layer of stuffing on top of the chicken. 

Then wrap whole bird in an olive oil-soaked net. Soaking the netting allows it to be removed without tearing the skin after roasting and gives the outside of the turkey a beautiful, golden-brown, slightly crispy skin.

Too complicated? Buy your turducken from My Butcher and More. Choose either cranberry-cornbread or maple-sausage-cornbread stuffing.