Thanksgiving is a day when many pots are bubbling on the stove, cutting boards are strewn across counter tops, the fragrance of herbs lingers on the cook’s hands, and a tasting spoon always produces delicious samples. This creative chaos itself is an occasion for gratitude. As we boil, chop, grate, and mash, we partake in the bounty of flavors, textures, and tastes that the harvest has offered.
The creative chaos also shows how essential side dishes are to the Thanksgiving meal. If there was only a turkey to cook, the energy level in the kitchen wouldn’t be quite as high. But then again, if there were no side dishes, there wouldn’t be such a clear illustration of all of the vegetable and fruit varieties we have been blessed with this time of year.
If you are one of the cooks to bring side dishes to this year’s Thanksgiving feast, there are many excellent recipes for mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, green beans, and bread, and since many of them passed down for generations, every family—including the Wolff family— has favorites. If you are interested in adding a few new twists on time-honored traditions, here are a few you might try.
Hearty potato recipes are good winter comfort food, which is why they find their way to many a Thanksgiving table. This Potato Artichoke Gratin recipe is delightfully cheesy and creamy, and the artichoke adds zip to the traditional gratin potato casserole.
Sweet potatoes are another taste of the season. They have so much flavor that they are delicious in simple recipes, like this Wolff family favorite, but sweet potatoes can also put on quite a party with swanky company too. In this roasted sweet potato recipe, for instance, the potatoes are cut into wedges like steak fries and rest on a thin layer of chimichurri. Salty prosciutto or speck tops off the dish. I’ve been told that the combination of distinct flavors “tastes fancy.” Chimichurri, a classic sauce from Argentina that is usually served with steak, is made from cilantro, fresh oregano, and two whole cloves of garlic in this recipe. Its vivid green hue will brighten your kitchen and your table! With all that garlic, the taste is very tangy and contrasts well with the sweet and savory bites (and don’t worry if the garlic lingers; you’re among loved ones!). It’s easy to present this recipe elegantly, too, which makes it perfect to serve as an appetizer if you prefer. And, if this dish gets you hooked on chimichurri, here are some variations and suggestions that will have your meals zinging all winter long.
Of course, green beans are an essential Thanksgiving side too. Like sweet potatoes, they are delicious when served simply. A friend of mine once steamed them, tossed them in a pan with some sautéed shallots and olive oil, and added some lemon zest at the end. Easy, simple, and tasty. I’ve been cooking them that way ever since. For a dish that takes slightly more work but is just as tasty, try this recipe for Green Beans with Sweet Onion Vinaigrette. The sweet onions and green beans blend well, and even though the onion doesn’t get cooked, the marinade tames it.
One of the best things about these recipes is that you can make them ahead of time. For the green beans, the vinaigrette’s flavors will meld if they hang out together for a while, and the recipe suggests cooking the beans the day before and chilling them, stored in a sealed bag. You can also make the chimichurri ahead of time. For the Potato Artichoke Gratin, you can postpone the final baking step, chill the dish in the fridge, and bake it the next day. It’s just a question of when to embrace the chaotic, creative process of a hearty Thanksgiving feast.