For all Americans, Thanksgiving may be about the proverbial turkey, tater mash and pumpkin pie. Were the expression food coma doesn’t even begin to describe your state of euphoria. And let’s face it, we eagerly await this holiday, because it brings cozy and comfortable recollections of family gatherings and the tantalizing aromas of epic cooking.
Yet, no matter how eagerly awaited the culinary offerings are, don’t lose sight of the message. It’s a time of reflection and truly being thankful for our many blessings; the everyday things we take for granted. And of course, basking in the love and companionship of kinfolk and friends.
It’s hard ti believe, this long-standing, venerated tradition has been observed since 1621, when the first settlers and Wampanoag Indians, gathered together by giving thanks for their plentiful, first Autumn harvest.
The turkey may be the main protagonist, but we all salivate, waiting with bated breath for the side trappings presented at the Thanksgiving table. For some, they are more wildly awaited than the main event – the ill-fated bird. Sides are as passionately applauded, as they are devoured – with complete abandon. And heaven forbid mom strays too far off from those dishes that walk you down Thanksgiving memory lane every year. For some, those dishes have to stay tried and true.
However, there are a few brave culinary adventurers wanting to inject a diverse kind of mojo into their sides, to pile alongside the cornucopia of food on the family table. If you fall into that crowd, you’ll jump on this bandwagon and stray from the customary; your guests and family will grovel for these recipes and they’ll be singing your accolades for decades to come! These recipes are so outstanding, I guarantee you’ll be showcasing them not just at Thanksgiving or any holiday table, but year-round, together with the Thanksgiving Basics.
For some color and tartness check out these cranberry sauces and apple chutney recipes.
SHREDDED BRUSSEL SPROUTS WITH DRIED DATES AND PISTACHIOS
Since Brussel sprouts are the in-vogue veg, they’re not only illustrated and showcased during the fall, but are available continuously throughout the year. It’s become the swanky side in any a restaurant menu, not only cooked, but shredded in salads and mixed with that superfood, the sexy kale. Considering the table will be groaning with hearty offerings, these two sprouts recipes will provide a modicum of freshness amidst all that decadence. Pick whichever strikes your fancy.
1 bag of Brussel sprouts – halved and finely shredded
3 shallots – sliced thin
½ cup of unsalted pistachios
¼ cup of chopped dried dates
1 cup of chopped Pancetta
1 TBSP of Balsamic glaze
¼ cup of low sodium chicken stock
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Shred the Brussel sprouts in a food processor on through a mandolin. In a skillet with high sides add some olive oil and 1 TBSP of butter. When frothy, add the shallots and pancetta and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the shredded sprouts, the dates, the balsamic glaze with the ¼ cup of chicken stock and cook till tender but not soggy – about 10-12 minutes. You want to retain a bit of crunch. Season with kosher salt and pepper and sprinkle the chopped pistachios just before serving.
ROASTED BRUSSEL SPROUTS WITH APPLES AND BACON
It serves about 8 people and you can vary the quantities accordingly. Additionally, this is a great dish to reheat and make the day ahead as well.
2 LB of Brussels Sprouts – trimmed and halved
2 large unpeeled apples – cored and medium diced
6 slices of apple wood smoked bacon – cut up into medium sized bite pieces
2 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
¼ cup of EVOO
2 TBSP of Maple syrup
3 Sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary
Kosher salt and Fresh ground pepper
¼ cup of low sodium chicken stock
PREHEAT OVEN TO 425F
In a small mixing bowl whisk maple syrup, balsamic, EVOO, salt and fresh cracked pepper. Place the sprouts in a large bowl and add ¾ of the vinaigrette to coat them and invert on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Bake for about 15-20 minutes till tender, turning halfway through the cooking with some tongs to ensure even browning halfway through the cooking. Add the chicken stock to the remaining vinaigrette.
In a skillet with high sides, add the cut bacon and start sweating to release some of the fat. Add the cut apple, the rest of the vinaigrette and whichever herb you are using. Sauté until the apples are cooked and no longer crunchy, but not too mushy. Incorporate the roasted sprouts and toss to mix everything together.
ORANGE/GINGER GLAZED CARROTS
This dish is outstanding throughout the year, as it’s a glamorous and colorful accompaniment to grilled meats, fish and chicken. The Thanksgiving table typically has orange-colored yams, however, this makes a nice departure from that customary take. The tangy, spicy flavor of the ginger and the sweetness of the honey is a match made in carrot heaven!
1 large bag of baby carrots – or whole baby carrots
1 TBSP of grated fresh ginger or ginger paste (Gourmet Garden brand)
1 TBSP unsalted butter
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TSP of white miso paste
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 large shallot – finely chopped
Juice and zest of half an orange
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
½ cup of low sodium chicken broth
2 TBSP of honey
1 bay leaf
After washing the carrots, make sure that they are all uniform in size – the larger ones cut in half, so they cook evenly. In a large sauté pan, add the olive oil and butter and sweat the shallot with the ginger, salt and pepper. Go easy of the salt as the miso paste is already salty. Incorporate the carrots and add the chicken stock, thyme, bay leaf, honey, miso paste, OJ and half the zest, bringing to a boil. Simmer on very low for about 15 minutes covered and an additional 5 minutes uncovered to evaporate some of the liquid and allow them to caramelize, being careful, as they burn easily. Don’t overcook them – you want them tender but still with a bit of bite to them. To serve sprinkle some chopped chives or fresh parsley and the rest of the orange zest.
KALE AND BABY SPINACH SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE SEEDS
Everyone is ready to chow down and get stuffed to a comatose state. Injecting a touch of freshness to a table laden with heavy dishes, creates a solid balance and what could be better than a crisp, green salad.
Here, kale and spinach are the perfect combination. The kale leaves are pretty hardy and won’t get wilted to a mushy mess. Just make sure you don’t pour too much dressing to drown the salad. Add the spinach leaves last, after you have allowed the salad to sit with the vinaigrette for about 20 minutes, as the kale leaves need time to absorb the dressing. Add a pinch salt and pepper to the leaves before adding the vinaigrette. Believe me, your guests will enjoy this fresh addition with their meal and it is a splendid salad to make year-round, as anything can be added to embellish it, including protein.
1 bunch of kale leaves – ribs removed and chopped finely after washing
1 bag of baby spinach – roughly chopped
1 Asian pear or Anjou pear – peeled and chopped into small cubes
½ cup of toasted almonds or pecans
½ cup of pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup of defrosted Edamame
Sprinkle of feta cheese – optional
DRESSING: 2 TBSP of pomegranate vinegar; 1 TBSP of molasses; 1 TSP of Dijon mustard; Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper; pinch of red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper and ¼ cup of EVOO – mix well with a whisk.
In a large bowl, place the shredded kale. Add the pear, pomegranate, edamame seeds and the nuts. Whisk half of the dressing and toss well. Adjust the seasonings and add more dressing if needed. Allow the flavors to marry and add the washed baby spinach last tossing again before serving. Finish with a sprinkling of feta.
PAN ROASTED SWEET POTATOES
PREHEAT OVEN TO 400F
Roasting these sweet wonders is a healthy and perfect way to add them to your holiday meal. They cook perfectly, and they are so scrumptious and easy to prepare that you’ll be wondering why you didn’t think of making them this way before!
5 large sweet potatoes – peeled and cubed into medium sized pieces (try to keep most of the pieces the same size, so they will cook evenly)
½ stick of butter
salt and fresh cracked pepper
1/2 TSP of cinnamon
1 TBSP of olive oil
2 TBSP honey
1 TSP kosher salt
¼ TSP Aleppo pepper
In a large pot add the sweet potatoes and cover with water. Parboil for about 5 minutes and drain.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter, olive oil, cinnamon, honey, kosher salt and Aleppo pepper.
Prepare a large cookie sheet lined with foil. Add the parboiled potatoes into a large bowl and add the olive oil mixture and mix well. Spread the potatoes over the cookie sheet and bake at 400F for about 20 minutes. The potatoes will be soft and a little mushy, but that will make for a really creamy sweet potato.
ROASTED BABY FINGERLING POTATOES
The ubiquitous mash makes its customary appearance at every holiday table. There are many variations that make for a moaningly-good tater mash, but if you feel you have to veer away from this ubiquitous dish, try these fingerings. You haven’t lived till you tried them, because they will bring you down to your knees. I can guarantee you’ll serve them in many occasions throughout the year, as they are completely addicting. They’re even decadent room temperature and abominably great as left overs, to make tater salad or in a breakfast hash. And to take them one step further, they are sensational with a simple vinaigrette and some chopped raw shallots for a salad with some fresh mint of basil. You’ll be flummoxed!
3 small bags of baby fingerling potatoes – can be left whole of cut lengthwise, just ensure pieces are the same for uniform cooking (Trader Joe’s sells these beauties)
1 TSP of lemon pepper
1 TSP of Tuscan seasoning
1 TSP kosher salt
4 TBSP olive oil
1 TSP smoked Spanish sweet paprika
2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup of Parmigiano
½ TSP of fresh thyme
PREHEAT OVEN TO 400F
Wash the fingerlings and dry them thoroughly with kitchen towels. Add them to a large working kitchen bowl. Add the seasoning and lastly the olive oil. With a rubber spatula mix them thoroughly and let them stand for about 1 hour before roasting, tossing a few times.
Dump the potatoes in a large cookie sheet lined with foil and spread them in a single layer. Roast till they start turning brown and looked caramelized, about 25-30 minutes. Reserve the bowl for mixing the roasted potatoes after they have cooked.
Invert them back into the bowl, add the chopped parsley, fresh thyme, Parmigiano and toss evenly to coat and serve.
FRENCH GREEN BEANS – HARICOTS VERTS
Green beans out of a can, swimming in cream of mushroom soup as a casserole just doesn’t do it for me. True, it’s a traditional Thanksgiving dish, but from a health standpoint it has zero merit, not to mention the catastrophic calories and the fact that the green bean itself is complete flavorless. As a chef, I can’t bring myself to present that goopy mess on my table.
These green beans are a tour-de-force unto themselves. They’ll absorb the butter as they gently simmer, and you won’t need to add any more when serving. This is a very French way of cooking green beans and they turn tender, not al dente. Try and get the small, thin French beans and leave them whole, if not cut regular beans into 1.5” inch pieces after the ends have been trimmed.
1 LB of French green beans
2 TBSP of unsalted butter
1 bay leaf
Low sodium chicken stock
Kosher salt and fresh cracker pepper
Toasted slivered almonds for garnish
In a medium saucepan, add the washed and trimmed beans, adding enough stock to barely cover them. Throw in the butter and bay leaf. Bring to boil and gently simmer for about 10 minutes, if they are the very thin beans, as they cook quickly. If they are regular beans, then they will need about 15-18 minutes covered.
Drain any remaining liquid when done, invert them into a bowl, removing the bay leaf, add salt and fresh cracked pepper. Place them in your serving platter and sprinkle the slivered almonds on top.