As someone who prizes stuffing over turkey and prefers seconds of dinner to apple pie, I give extra thanks on Thanksgiving for side dishes. Sometimes wrongly overlooked as supporting players to turkey’s center stage, sides are an opportunity to showcase fall and winter vegetables. A bite of turkey is better when it’s mixed with something soft, crunchy or tangy on your fork. Plus they offer the most wiggle room for experimentation.
The lineup—usually laden with butter, cream, bacon or even marshmallows — doesn’t have to feel like a “brace for impact” moment (although an elastic waistband is rarely a bad choice). Without adding too many bells and whistles—or fat—these Thanksgiving dishes let vegetables speak for themselves, while still tasting indulgent for the holiday. And if you seek out local, organic and sustainably grown vegetables, you’ll be rewarded with superior nutrition and deeper flavor.
The first recipe features a vegetable children were often bribed to eat: Brussels sprouts. Yet today they pop up on chic menus once the weather turns cold, making these tiny cabbages a suddenly fashionable Thanksgiving staple.
Crispy Brussels Sprout Hash with Cider Glaze
Brussels sprouts get crispy in this dish, with crunchy hazelnuts and a cider glaze. Serve hot or room temperature; add a fried egg for breakfast if there are leftovers, but don’t count on it!
1¼ pounds Brussels sprouts, shaved on a mandoline or thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 cups apple cider
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ shallot, sliced into rings
2 teaspoons honey
freshly cracked black pepper
½ cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or foil. Divide sprouts evenly between baking sheets. Drizzle olive oil over all; sprinkle with salt. Toss sprouts to coat, then spread in single layer.
Roast sprouts until edges are brown and crispy, stirring occasionally, about 25 to 30 minutes, rotating baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through.
Meanwhile, combine cider, vinegar and shallot in small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; cook until liquid is reduced to about ½ cup and is thick and foamy when tilted, about 30 minutes. Stir in honey and cook 5 minutes longer. Glaze will be thin; it will not look like syrup. Strain through fine mesh sieve; discard shallot. Add black pepper to taste.
Remove sprouts from oven; drizzle evenly with glaze. Return spouts to oven; continue roasting until glaze is bubbly and thickened, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast hazelnuts in single layer in medium skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
In serving bowl, combine glazed sprouts and toasted hazelnuts. Grind additional black pepper over top and serve.
Parsnips rarely get the spotlight, though they’re a delicious alternative to mashed potatoes. For a little sweetness, puree the parsnips in some of the almond milk they were cooked in instead of broth.
3 pounds parsnips (4 to 5 large), cut into ½-inch chunks
4 cups almond milk
1¾ cups vegetable stock, plus more as needed
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
Put parsnips in large pot with almond milk, until covered by about 1 inch of liquid, adding water as needed. Season liberally with salt. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat; lower heat to medium. Simmer gently until parsnips are tender, about 25 minutes. Drain parsnips, reserving almond milk if desired. Return parsnips to pot.
Mash parsnips with potato masher until chunky. Add broth, 2 teaspoons salt and nutmeg; mix with masher until just combined. Transfer mash to blender or a food processor and blend until smooth, working in batches if necessary, adding more broth (or reserved almond milk) if too thick.
Season to taste with additional salt. Stir in butter and serve hot, garnished with sprinkling of nutmeg.
Images courtesy of Suzanne Lehrer.