Side Dishes for Thanksgiving
Bread Stuffing with Figs and Hazelnuts. Courtesy of Ronnie Fein
Make These Sides Ahead of Time
Make These Sides Ahead of Time
Turkey may be the star at Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s the side dishes we agonize about most. As our way of showing how thankful we are, many of us feel the need for more than the usual accompaniments. We want our table bountiful and beautiful, a feast to be grateful for.
It can be overwhelming.
Over the years, I figured out how to offer the typical overload of food and also enjoy the dinner without being too exhausted and stay sane throughout.
By preparing most of the side dishes in advance. Every year I hear some food professional or harried home cook say that certain dishes – mashed potatoes, for example -- just aren’t good unless they’re made on the spot, just before you serve them.
Don’t believe it. I defy anyone at your table to taste the difference between mashed potatoes made on Thursday or the day or so before.
The tips of planning ahead aren’t rocket science.
- Peel, trim, wash and cut all the produce you’ll be cooking; dry them and store in plastic bags or containers (those green plastic vegetable bags really do keep veggies tasting fresh longer). I wrap all in paper towels before putting them into the bags.
- Pre-cook any root vegetables (such as beets or winter squash) that you’ll use for recipes (such as beet salad or cranberry-stuffed squash).
- Cut up bread for stuffing; set aside (in containers) measured out dried fruit (such as raisins) and nuts for stuffing or other dishes.
- Pre-cook any whole grains such as barley or couscous that you might use to make a casserole.
- Serve vegetable purees, which can be prepared a day or so ahead and popped into the oven just before serving: mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, cauliflower or parsnip puree. To keep mashed potatoes tasting fresh, be sure to mix in enough liquid to make them soft and fluffy. For sweet potato casserole: reheat the dish covered with aluminum foil; if you top the dish with marshmallows, add them at the last minute and continue to bake the dish only until the marshmallows are soft and crispy looking.
- Make vegetable-based casseroles or stews instead of serving plain steamed items that take last minute cooking: ratatouille, kugel, succotash.
- Roast single vegetables: items such as cut up broccoli, cauliflower, string beans, julienned parsnips, and carrots can be prepped a day ahead and stored until you want to cook them (I pour oil and seasonings onto the vegetables and store them in plastic bags).
The bread stuffing recipe here can be completely set up two days ahead. On the day or even before that, you can cut the onion, celery, and figs, set aside measured amounts of raisins and hazelnuts, chop the parsley, dice the bread. The apples, rosemary, and thyme should be chopped as you mix the ingredients together. Cover the baking dish and store the prepared stuffing in the refrigerator.
Baked Orange Scented Cranberries is one of the easiest recipes in my repertoire and I serve it every Thanksgiving. You can make it 3-4 days ahead and serve it plain or in scooped out orange halves (which you can prepare a few days ahead).
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Apples and Honey uses very little extra sweetener because it gets lots of flavor from the cider and fruit. You can be set it up completely 2 days ahead.
A green vegetable is in order to add color. There’s so much to choose from, but most people like string beans and you can clean them and get them ready for roasting the day before Thanksgiving, as in my recipe for Roasted Green Beans with Aleppo Pepper (if you don’t have Aleppo pepper, you can substitute crushed red pepper or cayenne).
All of the recipe links can be found on my blog, Kitchen Vignettes, at www.ronniefein.com.