With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I thought it would be fitting to offer simple recipes for a few elegant side dishes to take some of the panic out of preparing your holiday feast. This week’s 4PM Panic post features my favorite dishes that make Thanksgiving dinner less daunting, inspired by five festive ingredients.
There has always been a debate over which cranberry sauce is the best. Of course, the easiest thing to do is open the can and be done with it. My husband loves, not likes, LOVES the gelatinous cylinder-shaped mass from a can. I prefer good old fashioned homemade cranberry sauce. With only 4 ingredients and 15 minutes of cook time I think it’s worth giving it a try.
- 1 bag fresh cranberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- the zest of one orange
- one orange sliced thinly about 10 thin slices.
- Add all ingredients to a saucepan. On medium heat simmer stirring occasionally.
- When the mixture starts to bubble and froth stir constantly as it begins to thicken.
- Remove from heat.
- Pour into a glass jar with an airtight lid.
- Keeps in the refrigerator for weeks.
2. Root Vegetables
For another easy side dish, you can easily cook your turkey on a bed of chopped root vegetables and, voila, it’s done and easy!
You can choose vegetables you like best. I used onion, tri-colored carrots, acorn squash, turnips, parsnips, whole baby portabella mushrooms, purple potatoes and redskin potatoes. Just chop them into large pieces and season with a little salt, pepper and olive oil. I added a bit of turmeric and cumin too.
Place the bird on top of the veggies and cook at 325 for the allotted time for your bird’s weight. I use a thermometer and cook until the temp reads 170 degrees. Then, I baste the bird with turkey stock and apple cider about every half hour. About, 2/3 of the way through the cooking time I remove as many of the nicely cooked browned vegetables as possible. If left there the entire time, they will overcook and burn. But when cooked just right, this side dish is so simple and rustic on a cutting board. You can also serve your bird right on top of this dish for a beautiful presentation.
3. Fresh Mushrooms
In my family, we are huge mushroom fans so all holidays have some sort of mushroom dish. I grew up with green bean casserole, my sister Catherine’s favorite and a staple on Thanksgiving tables across the country. My family tends to like Brussels sprouts better so the green beans get ditched at our house. But we keep the mushrooms, most often found in the green bean casserole in the form of soup.
This dish comes from an appetizer served in a restaurant I worked in during college called Palio in Ann Arbor MI. It’s still there and I think this dish is still on the menu. There, it was called crostini al funghi. The Mushrooms were served over small pieces of crostini which soaked up the delicious sauce. It calls for assorted mushrooms which I can always find at Heinen’s. I’m not a fan of reconstituting dried mushrooms so I always seek out fresh.
Crostini ai Funghi
- 2 tsp olive oil
- one shallot chopped
- about two pounds assorted mushrooms shiitake, chanterelle, cremini, portobello, oyster, white button your choice.
- add to sauté pan start to reduce mushrooms
- add 2 Tbs herb butter *recipe below
- 2 cloves fresh garlic chopped
- 1/2 cup sherry wine
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 Tsp fresh thyme
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger grated
- cook to reduce to a slightly thicker consistency
Ingredients (Herb Butter):
- 1 cup of white wine
- 1 Tbs minced garlic
- puree garlic and white wine and set it aside
- 1 Tbs of chopped parsley
- 1/2 of small red pepper, finely diced
- 1/2 of a small green pepper, finely diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 Tbs chopped oregano
- 1 Tbs chopped thyme
- 1 Tsp dried sage
- 2 & 1/2 pounds of unsalted butter
- Mix all together in your food processor
- Slowly add in the pureed mixture of white wine and garlic
- When it’s blended to a smooth consistency, put it in small airtight containers or roll into tubes with saran wrap to refrigerate or freeze and use as desired
- The best thing about the herb butter is that, once you’ve made it, you can keep it in your fridge or freeze it and put it in anything, from steaks right off the grill to Sautéed vegetables to pasta. We normally serve this mushroom dish on crostini but, for holidays it goes great on turkey or mashed potatoes.
Another delicious way to enjoy mushrooms with Thanksgiving dinner is in the form of a tart.
Wild Mushroom, Leek & Goat Cheese Tart
- 2 pounds assorted mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
- one chopped and well-cleaned leak
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 8 ounces crumbled fresh goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Your favorite pie crust recipe prepared.
- Sauté olive oil butter and leaks until tender
- Add mushrooms, salt, pepper and thyme cooking until mushrooms are tender
- Roll out your pie crust and place in a sprayed tart pan
- Add mushroom mixture to the crust and top with crumbled goat cheese bake at 350° about 12 minutes. It will be ready when the pie crust is golden brown
- Remove from oven garnish with an additional sprig of thyme
4. Sweet Potatoes
And how about those sweet potatoes? Sometimes they’re best mixed with butter and cream and topped with toasted marshmallows. OH my goodness just saying it makes my teeth hurt. I like actually tasting the sweet potato and with all those sweet add-ins it hard to know what the vegetable actually tastes like.
Some years I cut the potatoes into chunks, toss them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them at 400 for about 20 minutes until they’re golden and have dark edges. The natural sugars in the potatoes caramelize and taste fantastic. This year I tried to compromise. The result? A sweet potato flan, which is a bit sweet but lightened up just a bit and served in individual serving jars. The cool thing is that this can be a side dish on your holiday table, dessert or even breakfast.
Sweet Potato Flan
- 1 cup mashed sweet potato (I used leftover baked sweet potato)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Carmel Pecans or Walnuts & Maple Yogurt
- 1 tsp butter
- 1/2 cup nuts broken or whole
- 1 tsp sugar
- sea salt
- 1 cup plain greek yogurt
- 1 Tbs real Maple syrup
- Heat the oven to 325F.
- In a blender, combine all flan ingredients and purée until smooth. Divide the purée into among six custard dishes.
- Put the custard dishes in a large baking pan and pour hot water into the pan until it reaches 1 inch up the outside of the custard dish.
- Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes. (tip, put the pan into place in the oven, then carefully pour the water into the pan. This avoids splashing water into the custard cups when moving) The flan should be set and barely quiver when shaken. Let cool.
- While the flan is cooling, melt the butter in a small pan over low heat.
- Then add nuts, and sprinkle with sugar, stir to coat evenly.
- Cook while stirring frequently until the sugar coats and caramelizes the nuts. Remove to a plate and sprinkle with salt. Chop if desired.
- In a small bowl combine the yogurt and maple syrup. Taste and add maple syrup if desired.
- Serve the flan topped with a spoonful of the yogurt then topped with caramelized nuts.
5. Baby Carrots
I find simplicity is best. Sometimes things made in the simplest way tastes the best too. One of my favorites is simple roasted baby carrots.
Buy them with the stems on for a pretty presentation. Simply roast at 400° with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. I top them with crushed pistachios for a little crunch.
We hope your Thanksgiving is a happy time, filled with great food, friends and family. Happy Thanksgiving!