Part II of the Great Thanksgiving Recipe Hunt: Side Dishes

Yesterday, I shared my methods for finding and creating recipes to suit my tastes for the “must have” Thanksgiving dishes: turkey, gravy and dressing/stuffing.  But man cannot live by starch alone—we need some vegetables!

To put together the side dish menu, I start by identifying vegetables my immediate family enjoys and then narrow it down by diversifying the preparation methods and where the “active cooking time” will fall in the timeline.  It’s a recipe for disaster to have, for example, 5 side dishes that will all need to be baked or all on the stovetop in the last 20 minutes before you eat.

Photo from Cooking Light

There won’t be room or time!  So my side dishes include only two crunch time sauté preparations—the Brussels sprouts and green beans—along with a gratin to bake and hold, mashed potatoes that will hold over simmering water up to an hour ahead of time, a salad that will assemble in seconds using premade components, and a cranberry-fig relish that I’ll make today and refrigerate until Thursday.


Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Shallots and Bacon

Photo from Epicurious

I would just like to say for the record that Jennie is copying me on the Brussels sprouts, not the other way around.  I love Brussels sprouts and one of my holiday missions is to make you love them too.  Last year, I made roasted Brussels sprouts, which were pretty popular, but this year I’ve decided to sauté them.  I think bacon, pine nuts or another rich flavor is essential to toning down the cabbage-y bite of the sprouts for those who are not huge fans.  So, I’m modifying this recipe to start by crisping a ½ lb of thick bacon cut into lardons, and then caramelizing the shallots in a little of the the bacon drippings and a little of the butter used in the original.

Joe’s Green Beans

One of my very favorite cookbooks is James Beard’s massive American Cookery.  It’s interesting from a historical perspective, since many of the recipes are taken from 19th century records, but also because it’s got some great, classic dishes.  One of our favorite green bean recipes comes from it: Joe’s Green Beans.  Beard says the recipe originally came from an Italian truck gardener who sold vegetables to his mother.  It’s a light and refreshing dish, especially with a heavy meal like Thanksgiving.

  • 2 lbs whole green beans, trimmed
  • 6 T. olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T. finely cut, not grated, lemon rind
  • 1 t. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese

Blanch the green beans in boiling water until crisp tender.  Drain well.  Add the olive oil to a heavy skillet over medium high heat and saute garlic 1 minute.  Add the beans and shake well to blend the garlic and coat with oil.  Add lemon juice, rind and pepper.  Shake the pan to combine.  Spoon into heated serving dish, sprinkle with cheese and serve immediately.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

This is a recipe that my family makes fairly often.

Photo by sweetbeetandgreenbean

We like garlic in our potatoes but garlic powder leaves a tang I don’t care for and roasted garlic is too fussy.  We keep it simple and just boil the garlic along with the potatoes for all of the flavor without the extra steps.  We also like a “smashed” chunky texture and buttery flavor, so we use unpeeled Yukon gold potatoes, but you can substitute red potatoes and peel them if you prefer.  Our recipe:

  • 5 lb Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into ½ in. pieces
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and smashed with flat side of knife
  • ½ c butter (1 stick), in 1 tbl. pieces
  • 1 cup milk, buttermilk or cream

Add the potato pieces and garlic cloves to a large stockpot, cover with cold water and heat to boiling.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are very tender, about 20-25 minutes.  Drain potatoes and return to pot, add butter pieces and milk, buttermilk or cream, smash with potato masher to desired texture, season to taste with salt and pepper.  If you prefer a smooth texture, be careful not to overbeat the potatoes or they will become gummy.  If you want to hold the potatoes, transfer them to a heat proof bowl over simmering water, covered with a towel, for up to one hour.

Kale-Butternut Squash Gratin
Adapted from Epicurious

I love winter squash and winter greens and this dish brings them together in a creamy delicious package.

  • 3 pounds fresh kale, stems discarded and chopped
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter plus additional for greasing pan
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion (1 small)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Rounded 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 pounds butternut squash (2 large), peeled, quartered, and seeded
  • ½-1 c. shredded parmesan

Add kale to boiling water and blanch until wilted but still bright green, about 2 minutes.  Immediately plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water and set aside.  You can prepare the kale up to 2 days ahead.  For a great detailed pictorial of how to prep and blanch kale, visit here.

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a heavy skillet over medium low heat, then cook onion and garlic, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add onion mixture to blanched kale along with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cream and stir to combine.

Butter a 3-quart shallow 13 x 9 baking dish.  Carefully cut squash pieces into 1/8 in thick slices with a knife or adjustable blade slicer.  Layer squash and kale mixture in baking dish, using about one fifth of squash and one fourth of spinach for each layer, beginning and ending with squash and sprinkling each layer with shredded parmesan.  Dot top layer of squash with remaining 2 tablespoons butter, sprinkle with parmesan, then cover directly with a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Bake until squash is tender and filling is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove paper and bake gratin until browned in spots, 10 to 15 minutes, or broil 3 inches from heat, 2 to 3 minutes