Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Are you racking your brain to decide what side dishes you want to serve this Thanksgiving?  Are you tired of your tried and true side dishes and want to introduce something new to the Thanksgiving menu?  First I want to caution you against changing it up too much.  I say this because I learned from experience.  Families come to depend on a specific menu for certain holidays.   In my case I eliminated my broccoli casserole from our Christmas Eve dinner and there was much unhappiness around our dinner table.  My suggestion to you is to never eliminate, but feel free to add.  That way your dinner guests can choose to stay with their favorites or try something new.  I'm offering three suggestions for changing it up a bit this Thanksgiving.

Three Side Dishes for Thanksgiving

My first, and most favorite Thanksgiving side dish, is roasted Brussels Sprouts.  Brussels sprouts, you ask?  Yes, friends, don't go turning your nose up at the suggestion of Brussels sprouts.  I'm telling you that you can turn Brussels sprouts haters into Brussels sprouts lovers with this recipe.  I promise.  I've seen it happen.

Five Key Ingredients
Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

  • 1 1/2 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (use at least 2) finely chopped
  • 2 strips bacon, diced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cut the bottoms off your Brussels sprouts and slice in half. Place Brussels sprouts in a single layer in a baking pan. Finely chop three cloves of garlic, and slice the onion thinly. Dice the bacon (freezing the bacon first makes this easy).

Add the garlic, onion and bacon to the pan with the Brussels sprouts. Mix well to distribute the ingredients. Drizzle with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Mix again to ensure the olive oil and seasonings are well distributed.
Toss to Distribute and Season Well

Roast in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, until Brussels sprouts are well browned and the bacon is crisp. Periodically I give the Brussels sprouts a stir while they are cooking. You may want to as well.

Brown Is Good. Caramelization Is Key

Here they are in all their roasted yumminess. Brussels sprouts deliciousness...You're welcome.
You can get the printable Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe by clicking the link. 

My second suggestion is for some kicked up green beans.  Oh, sure, you can serve the standard green bean casserole, or you can offer an alternative that highlights beautiful fresh green beans tossed in a tasty vinaigrette.

Green Beans with Feta, Onions and Roasted Red Pepper
Serves 4
Green Bean Salad Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1/4 red onion, slices very thinly
  • 1/4 of a roasted red pepper, cut into thin 1" strips
  • 1 1/2 ounces feta cheese cut into small cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons Herb Vinaigrette, recipe follows
Herb Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
Mix all the ingredients together in a jar with a lid. Shake vigorously to combine. Store in your refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator to warm for 10-15 minutes before using.

Wash and prepare your green beans by trimming just the stem end of each bean.

Trim the Stem End of the Beans
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of salt. Add the beans all at once. Once the water returns to a boil, cook the beans for three minutes.

Blanch the Beans
Meanwhile prepare an ice bath for the beans. After the three minutes, remove the beans from the boiling water and place them directly into the ice bath. Once they are cold, strain them and set them aside.

Blanching and Shocking Preserves the Color
Slice the onion and red pepper. Cut the feta cheese into cubes. Combine the green beans, Feta cheese, onion and red pepper in a bowl. Pour two tablespoons of the herb vinaigrette over the mixture. Toss lightly to combine. Cover and refrigerate. Toss again before serving.

Toss the Ingredients with the Herb Vinaigrette
These beans can either be served as a stand alone salad or as a side dish so, if you want a side dish you can make ahead this one will work.. You can get the printable green beans with feta, onion, roasted red pepper and herb vinaigrette recipe by clicking the link.

My final suggestion is to think about adding a soup to your menu.  My favorite at this time of year is butternut squash soup.  Soup can be a nice transition item between your appetizers and dinner.  Is your turkey taking longer to cook than you had anticipated?  A soup can help.  You can make this soup a few days ahead, freeing up more time on Thanksgiving to spend with your family.

Butternut Squash Soup
    Butternut Squash Soup
  • 1 3 1/2-4lb butternut squash
  • 2 T canola oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 scallions finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2T honey
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bouquet garni ( 2 sprigs rosemary, 2 sprigs Italian parsley, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp peppercorns)
  • 1 ripe pear, peeled and diced, any variety

Preheat oven to 350 °
Meanwhile, peel the skin from the neck of the squash and cut it into 1/2 inch chunks. You should have about 4 cups. Don't fret if you have a little more, or a little less. It's all good.

Add the remaining oil to a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and carrots. Cook about 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until soft. Add the squash chunks, garlic, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and cook another 3 minutes. Stir in honey and cook 2 more minutes. Add stock and bouquet garni. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash is tender, approximately 15 minutes.

Add the reserved roasted squash and the diced pear. Simmer another 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the bouquet garni. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cool slightly.

Puree soup until smooth using a immersion blender. If you don't have an immersion blender you can use a counter top blender, just be sure to be careful with the hot liquid. If you'd like your soup extra smooth, press it through a fine mesh strainer. I like to leave a chunk or two of squash in my soup. I like the contrast of smooth and chunky. Warm the soup for serving, or refrigerate until later.

Here is the printable recipe for the butternut squash soup.
There you have it, three suggestions for Thanksgiving side dishes.  These are easy to prepare, tasty and relatively healthy.  They have been tested with my family and enjoyed, so I'm comfortable suggesting them for your Thanksgiving dinner.  Just remember, holidays are about tradition, so stick with what you know your family will love.

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