Thanksgiving Side Dishes: Forget the Turkey!
When Thanksgiving comes up, everyone always talks about The Turkey. Heated debates about the best way to cook the bird reverberate cross the country. Brined, grilled, roasted, rubbed, glazed, smoked, deep-fried, marinated, slow-cooked, or stuffed? Answer: any of the above, as long as it’s not dry. However, for me, Thanksgiving is all about the side dishes. Arriving at a festivity to find a diverse variety of sides is the best part of the holiday. There is always something for everyone. It’s important to try a bit of every dish, then go up for second servings of your favorites, then thirds, (and, if you’re a pro, fourths). Below are some of my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes. Bring one of these to the meal this year to score major brownie points with your family.
I suggest roasting or sautéing these vegetables for maximum flavor. Add pancetta, finely chopped onions, garlic, and a drizzle of maple syrup or honey for a sweet and salty mouthful.
You can’t have Thanksgiving without stuffing, which many people cite as their favorite part of the meal. The traditional recipe is heavy on the bread, celery, onions, and seasonings. I suggest adding apples, mushrooms, hazelnuts, and either wild rice or sausage. The herbs are crucial in any stuffing: don’t forget to include sage, rosemary, thyme, and parsley.
Mashed potatoes are a must. You can take your mashed potatoes in a few different directions. Personally, I love sticking to the traditional chunky version with healthy doses of cream, roasted garlic, and chives. If you’re craving something tangier, use sour cream, fresh dill, a squeeze of lemon, and cracked pepper.
Roast baby carrots with olive oil, herbs, and a dash of balsamic vinegar for a much-needed light side dish that will allow you to leave room for pie.
This French dish is composed of extremely thinly sliced potatoes layered on top of each other with an abundance of cheese in between. I recommend adding spinach between each layer and topping with sliced tomatoes.
If you’re looking for an extremely easy dish to contribute to the holiday meal, this one’s for you. Sauté green beans with shiitake mushrooms and shallots in a pan on the stove with a tab of butter, salt, and pepper.
Sweet Potato Roast
Cut up sweet potatoes into cubes and roast them. Toss in dried apricots, thyme, walnuts, pecans or pine nuts, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Marshmallows are overkill in my opinion, but adding them will give you a popular classic Thanksgiving dish.
Turnip and Pear Purée
Rather than traditional mashed potatoes, try a new puréed combination: turnip and pear. This original side dish adds an existing twist to the classic savory-sweet tradition. Feel free to exchange the turnips for parsnips or another root vegetable.
Pinot and Fig Cranberry Sauce
This pinot noir, fig, and balsamic vinegar-based recipe will bring a tangy, darker flavor to the classic cranberry sauce. Find instructions here.
Creamed Kale and Roasted Beets
This dish brings an interesting pairing of the hearty and the fresh. Steam or boil the kale, drain it, and pour your reduced cream sauce on top. Roast the beets separately, and dress them in light raspberry vinegar before adding.
Stuffed Butternut Squash
Add your own twist to this quintessential fall weather dish. Stuff the squash with pretty much anything you particularly enjoy. Be creative. My favorite vegetarian recipe incorporates wild rice or quinoa, mushrooms, onions, crushed walnuts, cranberries, Parmesan, and fresh herbs. Add curry powder or paprika for some extra flavor. For meat fanatics, try using ground turkey or beef, mushrooms, red peppers, onions, parsley, and a bit of cumin.
For a mind-blowingly delicious hors-d’oeuvre, wrap bacon around a date stuffed with goat cheese and crushed pistachios. Drizzle with reduced balsamic vinegar. Feel free to mix up the meat, dried fruit, cheese, and nut combination. Another tasty arrangement uses Spanish ham wrapped around dried apricots with ricotta or mascarpone and almonds on the inside.
Cover photo source.