SPICED UP THANKSGIVING SIDES
With Thanksgiving a week away, I'm getting my menu in order and always find myself a bit stumped on the sides, not only what to do but also the big jostle for oven room! I'm a big believer in keeping the turkey classic and mashed potatoes luscious, buttery and minimal as a canvas, but beyond that, it's open season. Experimenting with sides gives Thanksgiving that signature, that little mark that makes it particularly yours.
The Standard: Stuffing
How to Change it Up: This has to be one of the best places to start experimenting! There are so many variations on stuffing that there literally isn't enough room to write about them. I make a version with challah, bacon and Aleppo chilies, but, really, it comes down to a great bread (brioche, sourdough, cornbread), aromatics (garlic, onion, shallot, celery), liquid (chicken broth, eggs, cream), and herbs (parsley, sage, chives). From there, you can play with meats (pancetta, bacon, spicy chicken or pork sausage), fruits (apples, quince, apricots, currants), nuts and spices. I loved the fruitiness of Aleppo chilies, but a bit of allspice or fennel seeds would also be great.
The Standard: Mac 'n Cheese
How to Change it Up: I love a good mac 'n cheese, but I love macaroni pie even more: a baked mac 'n cheese with onions, garlic, and chilies that comes from my husband's side of the family. The one above is a version with porcini mushrooms (to die for!). This is a great do-ahead dish that needs a bit of reheating in the oven, but if it's stovetop for you, throw in some chipotles in adobo and top with garlic breadcrumbs, lobster and brandy if you're being fancy, or go Greek with feta, Kalamata olives and spinach. Even a basic mac 'n cheese recipe can be taken to the next level with different cheeses (Gruyere, smoked cheddar, mascarpone) and a great topping (panko, fried onions, or an extra layer of cheese broiled to perfection).
The Standard: Sweet Potatoes
How to Change it Up: I never really grew up with sweet potato casserole, canned or fresh sweet potatoes kicked up with brown sugar and topped with marshmallows. I happen to love them simply roasted or mashed and lightly sweetened like in this bake, but there are tons of ways to prepare them. This version uses pecans and cornflakes in lieu of marshmallows to top the casserole. If you're going the pie route, a few key spices can bring out that beautiful sweet potato flavor. I personally add a bit of chai spice to make mine special.
The Standard: Green Bean Casserole
How to Change it Up: Green beans are deliciously versatile and take on flavor easily! I love the idea of simply cooking them a day in advance. Then, you can sauté them right before serving using different sauces (homemade or store bought) to take them to the next level. Think harissa and marcona almonds, basil pesto and cherry tomatoes, thai curry and butternut squash. Want to go a totally different route? This recipe calls for tempura-battering them and serving them with a shallot dip - I'm so tempted for this year!
The Standard: Parker House Rolls
How to Change it Up: I personally love parker house rolls as they are - fluffy and buttery. But where I always like to play with breads is the butter. Mixing in a few ingredients can totally change the tone of a bread dish, even store-bought ones. I top my rolls with miso-butter, but I also love to add a bit of honey and spice for a chili-honey butter. Sesame oil can add nuttiness, and herbs can add both brightness and elegance to your table butter.
Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!