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Thanksgiving Side Dishes to Swoon Over

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The old saying “Thanksgiving isn’t about the turkey; it’s really about the sides” is in full effect here. Below, a collection of my favorite turkey side-dish recipes from the past few years. Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!

Garlic Mashed Potatoes (pictured at top)
I made these every day (on a massive scale) as a prep cook at a French bistro. I’ll never forget the day I added too much cream and they came out soupy. That was a long day.

Lemony Braised Leeks (pictured at top)
This may seem like a throwaway recipe, but every person who tries these melt-in-your-mouth leeks wants seconds.

Sausage and Vegetable Stuffing (pictured at top)
Adapted from a recipe by Tom Colicchio
Serves 6-8

2 mild pork sausages, removed from casing
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and in 1/2-inch dice
1 small carrot in 1/4-inch dice
1 small celery stalk in 1/4-inch dice
1 small leek, white part only, rinsed of grit and finely chopped
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper 
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup chicken broth
10 oz crusty French bread, cubed and dried overnight*
1/3 cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water and drained
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

Place sausage in a nonstick pan and break up with wooden spoon over medium heat. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove sausage from pan with a slotted spoon and transfer sausage to paper-towel-lined plate. Using reserved fat in pan, add fennel, carrot, celery, leek, onion, and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently, until vegetables are lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place fennel seeds in a small skillet and toast over medium heat, tossing frequently, until fragrant and lightly colored, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs and chicken broth together. Add bread and stir until coated evenly. Add sausage, sautéed vegetables, raisins, thyme, sage, and fennel seeds. If bread cubes seem dry, add additional chicken broth, but avoid having excess liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn into a buttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish and cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Set the broiler to low, remove foil, place dish on top rack, and leave until brown and crispy, about 5 minutes.

*If you’re short on time, you can bake bread in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes to dry it out/make it crispy. It helps to have bread with a good deal of crust for this recipe.

You can make the stuffing ahead of time and then pop it in a warm oven for 5-10 minutes before serving.


Roasted Squash and Spinach Salad
A semi-warm spinach salad with delicata squash, ricotta salata, and pumpkin seeds. The drizzle of traditional balsamic vinegar at the end gives it a decadent sweetness.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Maple Syrup and Chipotles This recipe was a dark-horse winner one year. Smokey and spicy chipotle, sweet maple syrup, and the earthy “you-know-it’s-fall” flavor of sweet potatoes. 

Adapted from a recipe by Bobby Flay
Serves 6-10

5 pounds (about 10 medium or 5 large) sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1/3 to 1/2 cup maple syrup*
3/4 cup crème fraîche
4 teaspoons purée from canned chipotles
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Sea salt

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place potatoes on large baking sheet, bake until soft, 35 to 40 minutes for medium potatoes, up to 1 hour for large.

Meanwhile, combine syrup, créme fraîche, chipotle purée, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth.

When potatoes are tender, remove from oven and slice in two lengthwise. Scoop hot flesh into a potato ricer or food mill, and purée into bowl with other ingredients (you can also use an electric mixer). Stir with rubber spatula to combine. Potatoes should be light and fluffy. Taste for seasoning, transfer to warm serving bowl, serve immediately.

*Use real maple syrup, not the commercial corn syrup versions.


Cauliflower-Pancetta Gratin
The flavors of this dish open up one at a time. First it’s the creamy Mornay sauce, then it’s the salty pancetta, and finally a kick of red hot pepper at the end.

Braised Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Toasted Bread Crumbs
Adapted from a recipe by Suzanne Goin

Serves 6-8
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds baby Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed (cut larger ones in two) 
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
6 oz pancetta in small dice (1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup everyday balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup veal stock or rich chicken broth, more if needed
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix bread crumbs and thyme with 1/4 cup olive oil and spread on a cookie sheet. Toast, tossing frequently, until golden brown, 10-12 minutes.

Heat butter and remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until foamy. Add Brussels sprouts, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté, tossing frequently, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add diced pancetta, and sauté, tossing frequently, until sprouts are well browned and softened slightly, and pancetta is crisp, about 10 minutes more. Reduce heat, add shallots and garlic, and sauté until fragrant, 2 minutes.

Increase heat to high, add balsamic vinegar and stock, and cook, tossing frequently, until sprouts are glazed and tender, about 10 minutes; add more stock if needed. Taste, adjusting seasoning if necessary, and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Transfer to a warm serving bowl and scatter bread crumbs on top.

Nov. 14 2010 |
  1. Abby

    Mmmm…as a vegetarian I whole heartedly agree with the sentiment about the day really being all about the sides (well that and a kick ass apple pie!).

    The leeks look delish and we’ve tried the gratin (and loved it). If I were to do both for Thanksgiving, do you think that would be too much white on the Thanksgiving plate?

    Can’t wait to try them both either way!

  2. jane

    As long as you break it up with some greens, like the Brussels sprouts or the roasted squash and spinach salad, you should be fine. Now whether anyone EATS greens over gratin is another story, ha.

  3. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence

    Haha, I am definitely all about the Thanksgiving sides! I’d love to try those lemony braised leeks. Seems simple, but unexpected!

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