Our family may not agree on many things, but we all agree that for Thanksgiving we eat turkey. Over the years, my kids and I enjoyed going to the grocery to find the biggest bird available. We have roasted a traditional bird, purchased a smoked turkey, cut up wild turkey breasts and made turkey nuggets, and even deep fried one in our garage. One year, in a last-minute rush, I purchased a frozen turkey breast already in a bag and baked it straight from the freezer. All were absolutely delicious, and turkey remains our traditional main dish for Thanksgiving.
Preparing and cooking a big bird not your thing? Do not give it a second thought. Simply order one cooked to your preference and focus on the side dishes. Sometimes it is fun to try a few new recipes to go along with your family favorites. Here are a few of our favorites.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
with Potatoes and Bacon
I have started with this recipe because this has become a family favorite. No matter how many times I have made it, it is always perfect and even people that normally do not like Brussels sprouts, go back for seconds.
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, quarter or halved
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
3 slices of thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch strips
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 450°. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, Brussels sprouts, garlic, onions, and bacon. Toss with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss again. Transfer the vegetables and bacon to large 8x10“ roasting dish.
Roast, stirring every 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender and well browned, about 30 to 40 minutes. Combine the melted butter and lemon juice in a small bowl. Pour the butter mixture over the roasted vegetables and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
*We have occasionally added a pound of thick asparagus stalks, cut in 1” pieces, to the roasting pan for the last 15 minutes.
Winter Roasted Vegetables
1 medium rutabaga
1 medium butternut squash
2 large sweet potatoes
3-4 large parsnips
3-4 large carrots
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons crushed dried rosemary
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Peel all the vegetables and cut into pieces of similar size, about 1” (The parsnips take longer to cook and need to be cut a little smaller.) Toss vegetables with oil and spread in a lightly greased 13 x 9“ pan. Sprinkle with rosemary and coarse kosher salt. Bake at 500° for 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender. If vegetables are browning too quickly, reduce temperature.
Parmesan Squash Soufflé
6 large yellow squash, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 cups chicken broth, homemade if possible
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 425°. Spray six (1 cup) ramekins with nonstick spray.
In a large stock pot, combine squash and chicken broth and simmer overheat until squash is very tender. About six to eight minutes. Drain. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse squash until pureed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Place squash in a fine mesh strainer and allow to drain for one hour.
Meanwhile, beat egg whites on medium high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. In a large bowl combine drained squash, egg whites, salt, pepper, and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Fold gently until just combined. Spoon into prepared ramekins and top with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Bake until firm and slightly golden on top, approximately 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Cajun Rice Dressing
I think this side goes particularly well with a deep-fried turkey.
2 whole garlic bulbs
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups cooked rice
1 recipe cornbread, crumbled (recipe to follow)
1 pound package frozen crawfish tails, thawed
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium red or green bell pepper, diced
1 large carrot, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
Cut off the pointed end of the garlic bulbs and place on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil. Fold garlic in foil and bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Cool and then squeeze cloves from bulb into a large bowl. Add rice and cornbread.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, carrot, and celery, and sauté three minutes or until tender. Add in crawfish tails and cook over medium heat about two minutes.
Stir parsley and the next three ingredients into the rice mixture. Stir in vegetables and crawfish tails, then add broth. Stir to moisten. Spoon into a lightly greased 13 x 9“ baking dish.
You can cover and chill eight hours if desired. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake covered at 350° for 45 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
1 cup stone ground cornmeal
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 rounded tsp. sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 450. Mix all wet ingredients and mix all dry ingredients. Then beat together until well mixed. Put about 2 tablespoons oil in a well-seasoned iron skillet, swirl so all sides are coated. Heat oil on stovetop until very hot. Carefully pour oil into mixture and stir well. Pour mixture into skillet and bake at 450 for 15 minutes until browned on top.
La’s Cheesy Potatoes
This is my son’s absolute favorite dish on the thanksgiving table, or any table for that matter. Not the healthiest choice, but it makes an easy side dish that is a crowd favorite.
4 large baking potatoes
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, and garlic salt to taste
1-2 cups sharp grated cheddar cheese
Wash potatoes well, but do not peel. Sliced potatoes crosswise into rounds about 1/8 inch thick. Place in rows in a well-greased baking dish overlapping slices slightly, but not layered. Melt butter and pour over potatoes. Season to taste.
Preheat oven to 450° and bake potatoes for 25 to 30 minutes until they are tender and lightly browned. Just before serving, sprinkle with grated cheese and place under the broiler until cheese melts. Serve hot.
Spicy Cranberry Salad
8 cups mixed greens
1 cup feta or blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup slivered almonds, candied (recipe to follow)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup canola oil
Mix well and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
When ready to serve, mix the greens, cranberries, and cheese with half of the dressing, being sure not to over dress. Toss in the candied almonds immediately before serving.
To make candy almonds:
Melt 4 tablespoons sugar in a nonstick skillet with one cup almonds. Stir well on medium low and allow mixture to cook for about one minute, being careful not to burn the sugar. Pour mixture on a piece of parchment paper and allow to cool. Sprinkle with coarse kosher salt, if desired. These can be made several days ahead and stored in an airtight container.
Roasted Carrot and Arugula Salad
I made this salad for the first time back in the spring and proceeded to eat almost the entire dish. I think is a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving.
For the salad, toss: 1 pound carrots, about five medium, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon water
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 400°. Toss together carrots, 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper and then spread in an even layer on a large baking sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile in a separate bowl, whisk together honey, 2 teaspoons olive oil, water, and the almonds. Pour almond mixture over the carrots and roast until carrots are tender and caramelized and almonds are golden. About 5 to 7 minutes. Allow carrot mixture to cool completely.
For the vinaigrette, whisk:
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Toss 8 cups of arugula with vinaigrette and carrot almond mixture. Serve immediately.
Amy’s Farro Salad
This recipe was a happy and delicious “mistake” that Amy Turner made when she served a farro salad out of one of the Barefoot Contessa‘s cookbooks. She and I cooked it several times before we realized that we had accidentally cooked the farro in apple cider vinegar rather than apple cider. We were happy with the end result and we have made it “our way” ever since.
1 cup pearled farro
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (see note above and feel free to substitute more cider vinegar for heightened acidity)
2 bay leaves
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
½ cup roasted, salted pistachios
1 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
About 3 thinly sliced radishes
2 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
Place farro, apple cider, apple cider vinegar, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons of salt and 2 cups of water in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil and lower the heat. Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the farro is tender. If all the liquid is absorbed before the farro is tender, add a little more water. Drain the farro if necessary and transfer it to a large serving bowl. Discard the bay leaves.
Meanwhile, in a small measuring cup, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Whisk the dressing and pour over the warm farro. Set aside an allow to cool for at least 15 minutes or store covered in the refrigerator overnight.
When ready to serve, toss the farro with the parsley, mint, tomatoes, and radishes. Add the arugula and chopped pistachios. Top with Parmesan cheese. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed
Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese
1 whole head of cauliflower, outer leaves removed
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 475°. In a large stock pot, combine wine, chicken broth, oil, salt, lemon juice, butter, red pepper flakes, sugar, bay leaf and water to a boil. Add cauliflower and reduce heat. Simmer turning occasionally until a knife can easily be inserted into the center, about 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove cauliflower from stock and allow to drain.
Put cauliflower on a heavy duty cookie sheet in a preheated 475° oven for about 30 to 40 minutes until it is brown all over. Turn halfway through if necessary.
While cauliflower is roasting, prepare the whipped goat cheese.
In the bowl of a food processor combine:
4 ounces of fresh goat cheese
3 ounces of cream cheese
3 ounces of feta cheese
1/3 cup heavy cream, or milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Process mixture until smooth and season with salt. Transfer whipped goat cheese to a serving bowl and serve with cauliflower. Can be made one day ahead and stored in the refrigerator
Spinach Salad with Pear Thyme Vinaigrette
The dressing is best made several days ahead and stored in the refrigerator.
1 Bartlett pear, peeled, cored and quartered
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 shallot, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh garlic
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
Cook the pear and wine in a small skillet over medium high heat until pear is tender, about five minutes. Transfer to a blender or bowl of a food processor and add vinegar, shallot, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper and purée until smooth. With the blender running, slowly add oil. Add fresh thyme and transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate if necessary.
2 (10 ounce) bags baby spinach
8 ounces of white mushrooms, sliced
2 Bartlett pears, cored and sliced
Toss spinach and mushrooms. Arrange pear slices on top of salad and drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve immediately.