The turkey might be the centerpiece of your holiday meal, but side dishes are just as important. Seasonal veggies can be used in a host of tasty choices.
The menu for our Thanksgiving dinner has settled in very nicely through the years. We begin dinner with shrimp cocktail because the shrimp can be cooked the day before and kept in the refrigerator. I usually prepare an assortment of vegetables and side dishes. Sometimes I vary the recipe a bit but don't stray too far from tradition.
Sweet potatoes, a New World food, can be peeled, cubed, boiled and turned into mashed sweet potatoes. Because I sometimes make regular mashed potatoes with lots of butter and cream, I prefer to boil them and serve them with a slightly sweet glaze. Brown sugar and maple syrup are good choices for sweet potatoes. Parsnips are best after the first frost and come into season right around Thanksgiving. Although they can be roasted with olive oil or butter, they are especially good with honey, maple syrup and brown sugar, because they have a sweet taste once they are roasted. Parsnips also marry well with carrots, which can be pan-roasted along with them.
Brussels sprouts can be bitter if they are too big, so search out the tiniest ones you can find. I always buy my Brussels sprouts from Ben Kauffman in the Reading Terminal Market. They are about the size of a thumbnail and can be enhanced by caramelized shallots, saut�ed mushrooms and crisp pancetta or prosciutto di Parma.
I never make a tossed salad for Thanksgiving dinner. Sometimes I will prepare a relish tray of crisp raw vegetables and always include an assortment of olives. Fennel is truly delicious during the autumn and winter months. Sometimes I braise it for a hot side dish or create a salad with crisp raw fennel, sliced mushrooms and shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Because we are all busy on Thanksgiving morning -- I never miss the parade and always watch it on the Ben Franklin Parkway -- I like side dishes and vegetables that can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated. I prefer not to freeze side dishes because we all like the clear, crisp tastes of fresh vegetables.
Here are recipes to enhance the Thanksgiving turkey.
Apricot-Glazed Sweet Potatoes
From The Whole Foods Market Cookbook by Steve Petusevsky
3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon whole cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
Steam the potatoes for 10 to 12 minutes, until tender, or boil them in enough salted water to cover them for 12 to 15 minutes, until tender. Drain well.
To make the apricot glaze, place the water, syrup, brown sugar and orange juice in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about one minute. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for five minutes or until slightly thickened and syrupy. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring the glaze to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for five to seven minutes. Remove the glaze from the heat and allow it to rest for about 15 minutes. The mixture will thicken as it rests. Pour the glaze over the sweet potatoes and stir to mix well.
Serves four to six.
Note from Phyllis: Recipe can easily be doubled.
Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Shallots
2 pints fresh tiny Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 fat shallots, peeled and sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
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