Good side dishes really help make thanksgiving dinners memorable. The turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, and pumpkin pie will probably be there year after year, so the different meals are often distinguished by the little things you change. Garlic mashed potatoes last year? Try potato gratin, twice baked, or fanned this year. Glazed carrots coming back regularly? Switch to green beans with almonds, roasted fennel, braised greens, or brussel sprouts. The one thing I tend to stay away from are cold salads- all the heat from the other dishes can wilt the lettuce, and it makes it harder to douse the whole situation in gravy. Here are a few sides we enjoyed this year!
Balsamic Brussel sprouts
Feared, hated, loved, spat out, and munched up. This is a vegetable of controversy, which is very understandable. Who wouldn’t be suspicious when they are so often boiled to death and left unseasoned? Inedible is a word that comes to mind when thinking of those flavourless mushballs. Here is a little method for more flavour than mush when it comes to your brussel sprouts, utilizing garlic, shallots, pancetta, balsamic and butter.
2 lbs brussel sprouts
1 ½ c diced pancetta, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 shallot, chopped
2 tsp thyme
¼ c butter
¼ c balsamic vinegar
1) To prepare the brussel sprouts, wash them thoroughly in a large basin and pat dry. Cut off any stems that are long, and remove any rough, fibrous looking outer leaves. After the stems are trimmed, use a paring knife to cut a small “X” into the stem. This will help the stems cook faster so the leaves aren’t over done by the time the stem is ready.
2) Fit a steamer in the bottom of a pot with enough water to just cover the steamer. Bring to a simmer and add the sprouts. Cook until just tender and remove. Overcooking will mean mush, so keep an eye on it!
3) Meanwhile, in a small pan on medium-high heat fry up the chopped pancetta until it is darkened around the edges and has released some of its fat. Add the shallots and garlic, frying until just starting to brown, and then deglaze the pan with balsamic vinegar. Add the butter and thyme, stirring to melt and combine all the flavours.
4) Put the tender brussel sprouts into a dish, and pour over the pancetta balsamic mixture. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper, then serve as is!
Gratins can be done any which way you’d like- mushrooms, yams, parsnips, leeks, onions, shallots, garlic…whatever flavours your family is a fan of. So versatile and sooooo creamy, it is a perfect special occasion dish. How often do you get this much fat and flavour in your life? So good. OH, and salting in this dish is very important. I broke out the pink Himalayan salt in generous amounts to help everything pop.
1 Tbsp butter, plus additional butter for the dish
4 large yellow potatoes, peeled
1 leek, chopped (optional)
2 ½ c mushrooms, chopped (optional)
2 shallots, chopped (optional)
4 cloves garlic (optional)
½ c parmesan cheese, separated into three piles (feel free to substitute others!)
1 oz goat cheese (optional)
1 c cream
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
zest of one lemon
Salt and pepper
1) For slicing the potatoes, using a food processor or mandolin will really help create very even, thin slices. If you don’t have either of those, definitely slice these potatoes the day before, because it will take a while! Don’t lose patience and make thick slices because those will take much longer to cook!
2) Prepare your “extras” to create a personal, flavourful filing. For us, that meant sautéing leeks until soft, then frying mushrooms with shallots and garlic.
3) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9 x 12 dish well. Layer the bottom of the dish with one layer of potatoes, overlapping edges slightly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add half of your filling, ours being the mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese. Add another layer of potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then add the rest of your filling. Sprinkle with another 1/3 of the cheese. Add the rest of the potatoes in a final layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then add the remaining cheese. Dot the top with 1 Tbsp of butter and the goat cheese.
4) Stir lemon zest, sage, and thyme into the cream. Pour cream over the dish. The milk should come up to the bottom of the top layer; if it doe not, keep adding cream until it does.
5) This gratin is going to take about an hour in the oven. I kept mine foil covered for 40 minutes, then left it uncovered for the last twenty to brown and crisp up the top a little. Make sure the potatoes are cooked all the way through when you take it out!
6) Serve with an extra sprinkle of salt and pepper!