Thanksgiving is the one time of year when roasting a big turkey is not enough.
As cooks, we wrestle with also having to prepare a string of side dishes to please guests.
Trouble is we’re often in side dish rut. And too often we try to make complicated sides.
For example, don’t make risotto, unless you have time. Risottos need constant stirring and adding of liquids for at least 45 minutes.
Who has time for that on the biggest cooking holiday of the year?
But if you’ve never tried vegetables like Brussels sprouts, now is your chance. And if you can’t sway from mashed sweet potatoes, try and vary them a little. Our Double-Stuffed Potatoes is fine and flavorful with a mix of sweet potatoes and baked and mashed potatoes.
There are no set rules of how many side dishes to have. Just don’t overdo it.
One or two sides to along with mashed potatoes and stuffing are perfectly fine.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH CARAMELIZED PEARL ONIONS AND MAPLE SYRUP
Preparation time: 12 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
¾ cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup (adjust for desired sweetness)
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, discolored leaves discarded, stems trimmed, quartered
1 bag (16 ounces) frozen pearl onions, slightly thawed
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the nuts on a baking sheet and toast them about 10 minutes or until fragrant and a few shades darker.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl stir together 1 tablespoon of the butter, the maple syrup and ½ teaspoon salt. Add the maple glaze to the hot nuts and toss to coat.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat.
Add the Brussels sprouts and saute them about 5 minutes. Add the onions to the skillet, stir, cover and continue cooking until the onions are slightly golden and the Brussels sprouts are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover, add the black pepper and vinegar and saute, stirring about 2 minutes. Add the nuts and any glaze in the baking pan and saute, stirring 1 minute more. Serve.
COOK’S NOTE: The nuts can be toasted and glazed a day in advance. Store them covered at room temperature. The Brussels sprouts can be quartered a day ahead and kept in a plastic bag lined with paper towels in the refrigerator.
Adapted from Gourmet magazine, November 2003 issue.
Nutrition per serving: 156 calories (57 percent from fat), 11 grams fat (3 grams sat. fat), 14 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams protein, 272 mg sodium, 12 mg cholesterol, 47 mg calcium, 4 grams fiber.
Preparation time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total time: 2 hours
Cook the potatoes one day in advance; cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh. Store them in the refrigerator in separate plastic bags or containers. You may substitute canned pears (packed in juice) for the cooked pears.
1 lemon, halved
3 medium sweet potatoes, baked and cooled
4 medium baking potatoes, baked and cooled
½ cup 2 percent milk, heated
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, divided
¼ cup light brown sugar
3 fresh thyme sprigs
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Peel, core and roughly chop the pears; place them in the water. Squeeze the lemon juice into the water and add the lemon. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the pears are easily pierced with a fork — about 15 minutes. Remove the pears using a slotted spoon and set them aside.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop the cooked flesh into a large bowl, reserving 12 of the empty potato skins. Add the milk, butter and pears to the potatoes and mash until the mixture is smooth. Add the egg, salt, pepper, cloves and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and fill the reserved skin shells.
In a small bowl mix together the remaining 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and the brown sugar.
Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the potato tops and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake until the tops brown, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, garnish with thyme and serve immediately.
Cook’s note: To cook the potatoes, poke each twice with a fork. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the potatoes directly on the oven rack for about 50 minutes or until they are tender.
Adapted from Country Living magazine, November 2004 issue.
Nutrition per serving: 164 calories (30 percent from fat), 5 grams fat (3 grams sat. fat), 27 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 167 mg sodium, 31 mg cholesterol, 3 grams fiber.
Turkey day tips
Here are some tips to help you better tackle turkey day:
You can peel potatoes for mashed potatoes in the morning or several hours in advance and put them in a bowl of cold water and refrigerate.
Clean most vegetables to be used in casseroles or on their own the day before. Chop, slice or dice them and store in plastic sealable bags in the refrigerator.
Dishes that have a cream or milk based sauce don’t reheat well. Try and make them Thanksgiving Day.
For stuffing: Sauté onions and carrots and any meats used in stuffing the night before, then cool them and store them in separate plastic bags. Then put everything together on Thanksgiving Day so it’s ready to bake. The stuffing needs to reach 160 degrees when it is cooked inside the bird, therefore you should put hot, freshly made stuffing into the cold bird.
Some casserole-type dishes like potato gratins can be assembled the day before baking. Plan on adding an extra 10 to 15 minutes baking time for the chilled dishes.
If you are running out of oven space, don’t forget you can use the outdoor grill. Keep it on low (200 degrees) and cover the dishes with foil to keep things warm. (Note: Be sure to use dishes that are designed for the grill such as foil pans.)
PEPPERY ROASTED SQUASH WITH PARSNIPS
Serves: 10 / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 1 hour
A simple seasoning of salt and pepper is all you need for this oven-roasted squash. You may substitute firm apple wedges for the parsnips.
2 large golden acorn squash (about 3 to 3 ½ pounds)
3 large parsnips, peeled, end removed, cut into 2-inch lengths
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon (or to taste) freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup fresh chopped parsley leaves
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, optional
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Microwave the squash a few minutes to soften the skin. Cut squash into 1 ½-inch-thick wedges, leaving skin on.
Scrape off seeds and strings and discard. Place the wedges and the parsnips on a large, rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Arrange wedges cut side down on baking sheet. Roast, carefully turning halfway through, until golden brown on both sides, about 30 minutes.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with balsamic vinegar if desired.
Cook’s note: You can roast the squash several hours in advance. Rewarm before serving and sprinkle with the parsley and balsamic vinegar.
Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, November 2011 issue. From and tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. 141 calories (34 percent from fat), 6 grams fat (1 gram sat. fat), 24 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 238 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 grams fiber.