This is a column about Thanksgiving side
Not that I’m trying to get you worked up
about Thanksgiving earlier than you have
It’s just that my next column will be
about Thanksgiving leftovers, so I’m
trying to think ahead.
Anyway, none of these dishes is
exclusive to Turkey Day — they’re good
on any fall or winter menu.
And if yours is the kind of family that
is hidebound to holiday tradition,
Thanksgiving is not the time you’ll try
When my husband and I go home for the
holiday, we pretty much know what to
Every year, the same people make the
same signature dishes — mashed potatoes,
cornbread stuffing — and for the most
part, that’s really nice.
Three years ago, however, we spent
Thanksgiving stuck in an extended-stay
motel room in Colorado Springs. Not so
But I took advantage of the
circumstances to mix up the menu a
little. For example, since there were
only four of us eating, I ditched the
turkey in favor of duck.
I don’t expect you to do the same, but
here are a few ideas for at least
shaking up your side dishes.
Instead of steaming or boiling your
green beans, try sautéing them very
slowly. Here’s what you do: wash your
beans (one to two pounds) and tip and
tail them as usual.
Use a large, shallow sauté pan that can
accommodate the beans in one jumbled
layer. Add enough extra-virgin olive oil
to coat the pan and place over medium
While the pan is preheating, peel two or
three garlic cloves and slice them in
half. Add them to the oil.
When the oil is hot but not smoking, add
the beans. Stir to coat with oil. Allow
to cook at a brisk sizzle for a few
minutes, then lower the heat to
medium-low and add a quarter cup of
Cook at a low sizzle for 25 minutes,
stirring and adding more water as
required. The beans and garlic should
blister and turn brown in spots —
delicious. Be sure to evaporate any
excess water before removing the pan
If you’re making a lot of beans, you can
use two pans or cook them in batches;
they can be made a few hours ahead and
reheated in one pan (with a little
water) just before serving.
This is my mother-in-law’s specialty,
though she hasn’t made it for
Thanksgiving (yet). Preheat your oven to
400 degrees. (If you only have one oven,
and you need to use it at low
temperatures for the turkey, make this
Thanksgiving morning and reheat before
Wash and peel enough sweet potatoes to
go around. Cut small sweet potatoes in
half lengthwise and again widthwise to
make chunky quarters. Cut large sweet
potatoes into eighths.
Put the potatoes in a large shallow pan
and toss with olive oil and salt to coat
thoroughly. Roast, stirring frequently,
until the sweet potatoes are spotted
brown on the outside and soft all the
way through, about 45 minutes to an
hour, depending on the size of your
You can also make this with a mixture of
white potatoes and sweet potatoes; roast
the white potatoes for 10 to 15 minutes
on their own before adding the sweet
Savory winter squash dishes make great
Thanksgiving sides. The secret, for me,
is high-quality Parmesan cheese.
Here’s one idea: Cut a large spaghetti
squash in half lengthwise and scoop out
the seeds. Roast cut sides down until
the flesh is soft and the shell begins
to collapse — 400 degrees is a good oven
temperature but you can use another
temperature if it’s more convenient.
Remove the squash from the oven and
allow it to cool. Now scoop out the
flesh and mix it with generous
quantities of salt and heavy cream.
Transfer to a gratin dish and pat flat.
Cover the top with lots of freshly
grated Parmesan cheese. Just before
serving, return the dish to the oven and
heat until the squash is hot and the
cheese is melted and beginning to brown.