I accidentally set three extra spots at my holiday tables when I hosted my very first Thanksgiving dinner. Mortified, I discovered my father-in-law sitting alone at a kitchen table filled with unnecessary place settings devouring a plate full of turkey. Upon ushering him out of isolation and into the dining room with our other guests, I glanced at the half eaten turkey on the table and realized I had, in fact, forgotten to remove the bag of giblets from the bird. Nightmare.
In addition to these unexpected and horrific holiday entertaining gaffes, my first Thanksgiving menu was a traditional cliché of half cooked turkey, 1950’s three bean salad, slippery jellied cranberry sauce, boxed stuffing mix, and a condensed soup bound green bean casserole.
I was twenty-two years old and completely inexperienced when it came to holiday entertaining. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Needless to say, I count my guests more carefully, clean my poultry properly, and avoid the trap of convenience food filled side dishes these days. Over the years I’ve come a long way, but that does not mean overly complicating my Thanksgiving side dishes today.
Turkey and stuffing should be the stars of any Thanksgiving menu and the supporting cast of dishes should be a simple celebration of the bounty of the season. When combined on a plate these simple six ingredient or less sides offer a welcomed variety on any Thanksgiving menu. Pepper a few, or all of these prep in advance dishes among your family’s favorite recipes and rest assured they will fit in seamlessly at your table.
Simple side dishes, ensure you’ll be able to enjoy all of the kitchen successes (and occasional epic failures) that come along with having the courage to host a grand holiday meal. Proceed with confidence and know these recipes will help streamline your menu without sacrificing flavor. They will free you up to wrap yourself in the comfort of your family this Thanksgiving and simply enjoy the beauty of the day.
SIX SIX-INGREDIENT (OR LESS) SIDES
ONE: Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes
Flavor Profile: Nutty and Slightly Sweet/Serves Six
- 20 Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1Tablespoon Italian parsley, minced
- Salt and Pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash the Jerusalem artichokes, but do not peel. Slice the tubers lengthwise in to ¼ “ thick slices. Toss with the olive oil and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Spread on a parchment lined sheet pan in a single layer and roast 15-20 minutes until tender and golden brown.
*Roast the Jerusalem artichokes while the turkey rests.
*Prep chokes and parsley 1 day ahead.
TWO: Herb Braised Carrots
Flavor Profile: Earthy and Herbal/Serves Six
- 1 Bunch (about 12) best quality organic carrots, greens removed
- 3 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- ½ Cup orange juice
- ½ Cup chicken stock
Scrub the carrots, but do not peel. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the garlic and thyme. Saute until fragrant (about 30 seconds) before adding the carrots. Toss to coat carrots with the butter mixture and season with salt and pepper. Add the orange juice and broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover and braise until carrot are tender (about 20 minutes). Serve the carrots whole for a dramatic effect or slice on the bias for easy eating.
*Chop garlic and prep carrots 1 day ahead.
THREE: Smashed Rutabaga with Smoked Turkey
Flavor Profile: Earthy and Rich/Serves Six
- 2 Pounds Rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
- 1 smoked Turkey Neck
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 Tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
Place the rutabaga in a soup pot filled with salted cold water. Add the smoked turkey neck and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until rutabaga is very tender (about 45 minutes). Remove the neck and shred the meat from the bones (reserve). Discard the bay leaves. Drain the rutabaga in a colander and return it to the cooking pot. Mash the rutabaga with a hand masher or electric hand mixer. Add the butter and mash until melted. Fold in ½ of the reserved smoked turkey and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the rustic mash garnished with the remaining turkey. This dish pairs beautifully with cranberries.
FOUR: Fried and Soaked Sprouts
Flavor Profile: Acidic and Umami/Serves Six
- 1 anchovy fillet, rinsed and minced
- ½ Cup Balsamic vinegar
- ¼ Cup honey
- 30 Medium Brussels sprouts, halved.
- 3 Cups Canola oil for frying
Whisk the anchovy, balsamic and honey together in a large mixing bowl. Meanwhile heat the oil in a medium sauce pot until a bread cube sizzles and turns golden. Fry the spouts in batches of 10-15 at a time for about 4 minutes. Take care…sprouts will sputter as they fry. Finished spouts will be deep green and tender and have golden edges and ruffled leaves. Remove sprouts with a slotted spoon and add directly to the balsamic mixture. Repeat frying the sprouts in batches until they are all cooked. Toss with dressing and serve. Can be made an hour in advance of service; allow sprouts soak in the dressing until service.
*Slice sprouts and mix dressing 1 day ahead.
FIVE: Simple Seared Mushrooms
Flavor Profile: Earthy and Umami/Serves Six
- 8 Portabello mushroom caps, sliced ¼” thick
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
Melt the butter in a large skillet over high heat. When foam subsides add the olive oil. Place the mushrooms in the pan without over crowding (do this in two or three batches if needed). Season with salt and pepper. Sear without touching for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Flip and sear for another 2-3 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to a platter and serve.
*Slice Mushrooms 1 day ahead.
SIX:Swedish Potato Fans
Flavor Profile: Traditional/Serves Six
- 6 small russet potatoes, scrubbed
- 3 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoons rosemary, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take the potatoes and slice them in ¼” intervals without going all the way through. Toss the sliced potatoes with the butter, oil and rosemary. Insert the sliced garlic between the slices and place on a baking sheet. Season potatoes with salt and pepper. Roast for 40-50 minutes until tender and golden brown. Roast potatoes early in the day and refrigerate until turkey is done. Reheat them in a 425 degree oven while turkey rests.