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Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes

I'm making my first Thanksgiving dinner outside of my parent's house this year. We have a fairly set in stone menu for special occasions and it lacks imagination. I already know my Turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, but I'm not a big veggie eater and I don't know what kind of veggie sides to make that are a bit fancier than frozen peas. Any suggestions?

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    1. re: maplesugar

      I looked up thanksgiving sides and the first three pages did not have anything to do with what I wanted, before I created this thread. That other thanksgiving sides thread has 12 replies and there isn't anything I want there. That's why I created this new thread.

      Thanks though.

      1. re: Bryn

        For Thanksgiving, I usually make roasted sweet potatoes - (wash the potatoes, prick with a fork a couple times, and then roast on a foil lined sheet for about 45 minutes, or peel and slice, season with salt and pepper, thyme and a little brown sugar and butter and bake at 400 for about 20 mins).

        I also am a fan of green beans almondine - wash string beans and saute in olive oil with garlic or shallots. Add a splash of white wine, salt and pepper and cook until tender. Add a pat of butter and shopped toasted almonds.

        Since I married my husband, we also make stuffed mushrooms - mix breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley and chopped stems. Wet with a little olive oil and stuff into mushroom caps. Bake at 400 for about 20 mins and broil to brown if you like at the end.

        That's pretty much what we do. One year I tried brussel sprouts, but that didn't go over so well, so we're back to these traditions. Hope that helps!

    2. Our side dishes are very traditional for New England.

      Butternut or Acorn Squash. We do butternut if the number of people around the table goes over 8. The butternut squash is baked or steamed and then put through the food mill with some butter and nutmeg. Acorn squash is cut in half, baked for an hour face down, and then flipped, drizzled with a bit of butter and maple syrup and baked for an additional 15 minutes.

      Creamed Pearl Onions. This is a big project which starts with steaming a ton of onions, popping out the delicious middles and stirring into the bechamel sauce. I make this on Tuesday and warm up in a double boiler.

      Boston Baked Beans. This is another labor of love. The beans are started on Tuesday so that they can be inserted and removed from the oven so that they are never cooking at high temperatures.

      Green Tomato Relish. Just cause we always have green tomatoes at the end of the season here. I make the relish sometime in October and it is ready for the t-day table.

      Cranberry Chutney. I make a cranberry sauce/chutney with cranberries and oranges. This doesn't have any gelatin in it, so it is spooned onto the plate and mixes into other ingredients.

      These two items have been added to make my Southern husband feel at home:
      Mashed Potatoes
      Steamed Green Beans. He, and I, hate the concoction known as Green Bean Casserole, so we simply steam the beans, and toss with a little butter and lemon juice.

      Now can we talk pies???

      4 Replies
      1. re: smtucker

        My friend is bringing the pie. I just don't like that many vegetables. I was thinking baked beans, but I didn't know it went with Turkey. Thanks!

        1. re: smtucker

          I'm interested in your creamed pearl onions, are you using fresh, and would like to know if you peel them or do you buy these frozen? I make a pretty good beef bourguignon and it calls for fresh pearl onions, and let me tell ya, peeling the onions is rather tedious, but absolutely worth the effort.

          Your dish sounds delicious.

          1. re: chef chicklet

            This is the most simple recipe, but it takes lots of time. I use fresh pearl onions. I purchase the smallest ones that I can find and buy about three times more than I think I will need. I have a large steamer insert for a soup pot and steam the onions until they are softened. And then, while they are still warm, I trim off one end of each onion, and "pop" the onion out of its shell.

            The bechamel or white sauce is the standard stuff, made with whole milk. I add just a touch of dry mustard, salt and white pepper. My mother adds nutmeg, and sometimes cloves, but I don't. I prefer concentrating on the onion flavor.

            It is sinfully good, especially when it mixes into those baked beans.

            1. re: smtucker

              We always had creamed onions at Grandma Owen's TG dinners, but they were simply smallish white ones rather than pearl. I was the only kid who liked them, though Grandma's inherent laziness showed in the occasional tough outer skin left on. Her white sauce was always perfectly seasoned, though, with just a hint of nutmeg.

        2. I do homemade cranberry sauce with Gran Marnier, but also Ocean Spray canned for the non-believers; corn pudding with a little rum in it; the chipotle yam dish that you can find here (unless your family doesn't like spicy, then baked in brown sugar, butter and maple syrup), broccoli/cheese/Ritz casserole (that's for the people that only like their veggies when disguised), and some kind of green bean casserole. New fangled veg dishes do not go over at all, I usually make one new thing every year for my own benefit, and maybe one out of 10 times it goes into rotation.

          1 Reply
          1. re: coll

            My mother says the problem she found was that you can add new dishes but you can't take any away. I have taken over Thanksgiving essentially so I am still casting about for "my" dishes. Certain things will remain like the pork & chestnut stuffing- Yum!

          2. - roasted veggie medley (sweet potatoes, beets, butternut squash, onions, crimini mushrooms)
            - blanched string beans with balsamic vinaigrette (beans can be done day before)
            - stuffed mushrooms- can be done in portabellos for vegetarian main course
            - roasted brussels sprouts
            - sweet and sour red cabbage
            - roasted carrots and parsnips
            - glazed carrots with ginger
            - arugula salad with fennel

            2 Replies
            1. re: cheesecake17

              The roasted veggies are right up my alley! Thanks

              1. re: Bryn

                It's lots of peeling and chopping, but you can do it the day before. Also, add in the mushrooms when the rest of the veggies are almost done.

            2. We often have twice-baked potatoes rather than mashed at Thanksgiving. Scrub the potatoes well and bake. Then cut in half (long-ways) and scoop out the insides gently with a spoon leaving the peels/shells intact. Mash and whip the potato innards with cream, butter, salt and pepper. Stuff back into the "shells" that you have rubbed with a little olive oil and sea salt, and put a slice of your favorite cheese (we use aged Wisconsin cheddar) down the middle of each half, sprinkle with paprika and bake again on a cookie sheet until cheese is melted.

              Other sides might be:
              - Baked sweet potatoes that are then halved, peeled and sauteed in butter and brown sugar.
              - Roasted butternut squash or root veggie medley (beets, carrots, sweet potatoes).
              - Creamed peas
              - Asparagus with hollandaise
              - Baby spinach salad with vinaigrette that we make from Blood Orange infused olive oil and balsamic vinager (a local find: http://www.queencreekolivemill.com/pr...)

              2 Replies
              1. re: Jen76

                um baked potatoes for thansgiving?? how do you make a gravy volcano with baked potatoes? let alone twice baked ones. seems a little wrong to me. I can see baked sweet potatoes because those aren't vehicles for gravy.

                1. re: sparkareno

                  Er, they aren't just baked potatoes. They are essentially "mashed" and then just stuffed back into the crispy skins with cheese inside. You can't go wrong with cheese or crispy potato skins. And you can certainly still pour gravy over them or even turn them into a "volcano" if you wish (though I don't think I've done that since I was 10). Stuffing and turkey are my family's gravy vehicles of choice. To each his own.

              2. I do fennel with crunchy crumbs from epicurious. It offsets the sausage I use in the stuffing and is just different enough to satisfy the foodies.

                  1. re: roro1831

                    Unfortunately I'm in Alberta, so it would be Prairie Oyster dressing and it really isn't tyhe same thing.

                    1. re: Bryn

                      Prairie oyster as in the hangover cure, or prairie oyster as in the... um... anatomy of a former bull? O_o

                      ;)

                      1. re: LauraGrace

                        Bull... I was joking though I've never tried them.

                  2. We always have curried pearl onions, a spinach/gorgonzola souffle, and a fairly spicy cranberry chutney. Then a green salad, brocolli salad, or green bean dish which varies depending on who is coming and who volunteers for this "green" side.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: tcamp

                      i love the curried pearl onion idea. is it creamed based or is it glazed?

                    2. I am the Chowhound proclaimed (and I agree) "Thanksgiving Scrooge", so consider the source and all of that. My favorite side dishes are my Southern style green beans, my brother's sweet potatoes (made with rum, butter and pineapple) and his oystew stew Florentine.

                      1. My favorite fall vegetable is Brussel Sprouts...roasted with Pancetta or bacon. Chesse sauce is also a very traditional dish for many families. The younger kids always want the green bean casserole with fried onions. I like creamed pearl onions and peas....maybe creamed spinach too.

                        Roasted root vegetables and squashes are always nice in season. I always like to sneak in mashed turnips for myself. If you want to take an easy approach to appease most with little effort, do a medley of any of the following......which is what most restaurants do for garnish:

                        Carrots
                        Green Squash
                        Yellow Squash
                        Green Beans....Haricot Vert
                        Shallots
                        Snow Pea Pods
                        Sugar Snap Pea Pods
                        Asparagus

                        1. Last year I made this recipe for Butternut Squash Risotto.

                          http://www.foodfit.com/recipes/recipe...

                          I thought it had great autumn flavors and was differnet for our traditional family. Very savory and easy to make. Most of our stuff was in the oven, so it was a good stovetop recipe to make at the same time.

                          1. Brussels sprouts braised with bacon, which can then be served as is or (if slightly undercooked) cut in halves, covered in a good cheese sauce and finished as a gratin. Scalloped oysters, or else oyster dressing, depending partly on the cook's mood and partly on the quality of available oysters (fine=scalloped, industrial-quality=dressing). These, plus whatever cranberry thing someone wants to bring and of course the giblet gravy is all we need, given the immutable core of turkey and mashed potatoes. We will probably be just six this year, as Papa has left us and the elder niece is a New Yorker these days.

                            1. My two favorite veggie side dishes are brussel sprouts roasted with olive oil and lots of sea salt and pepper and yams that are cut in half and then I put tons of butter and brown sugar and bake those bad boys up..they caramalize up and they are so good.

                              1. My 2 recent "favs" for veggie sides are probably old news for everyone, but here goes......Brussel Sprout Hash (shredded with bacon etc. etc.) which I have served to folks that are not that fussy about sprouts - big hit......and second is the Vegetable Tian from the "for the love of cooking" blog - this one has become my latest and greatest and will likely be made for Thanksgiving in a couple weeks!!! Check 'em out on google....

                                1. Sweet potatoes are always (a must) on our Thanksgiving table in some form...Candied, with orange juice. Baked, peeled and mashed with sugar, butter, and vanilla. Then my favorite is a sweet potato casserole Baked and mashed, with eggs, condensed and evaporated milk, butter, sugar. vanilla. Then a topping of sorts made with brown sugar, flour, butter, and lots of pecans...Back in the oven for 30-45 minutes...Yum!!

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                                    Uncle Bob, I hope you know how fond I am of your posts, but no, you can't hit and run with just a tease like that. Can you please post more specifics on your sweet potato casserole? Pretty please with brown sugar and pecans on top? :)

                                  2. A couple of years ago, I made this green bean recipe from Epicurious and it has become a "must do". I've used various types of cheese... bleu, gorgonzola, feta, cojita. All are good! http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                    We always have cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, macque choux, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce with Grand Marnier, homemade rolls (lots of those), relish tray, and something with sweet potatoes. I'm always on the lookout for something cold/crunchy to add.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: onrushpam

                                      Do YOU make those rolls?
                                      Care to share the recipe? Sounds delicious.

                                      1. re: walker

                                        Yep, I make the rolls at T'giving. It's an old recipe from my sister's MIL. It uses Crisco. I've been tempted to try it with butter, but have never had a time when I could live with a failure. It's important to leave the dough quite wet... use just enough flour to be able to handle it. I use bread flour. King Arthur, if I can get it. Here's the recipe, exactly as written by my sis:

                                        Watson Bread

                                        2 cups warm water
                                        ½ c. sugar

                                        Mix these together. (I used my big mixer.) Sprinkle 1 pkg. yeast over water and let stand. (I usually use 3 tsp. from a jar of Rapid Rise, which is a little more than a package.)
                                        Let stand until foamy.

                                        Add 2 C. flour and 1 t. salt, and 12 Tbs. Shortening (Don’s mom used lard, I use Crisco, melted and cooled a little.) Mix the salt into the flour before adding to the yeast mixture.

                                        Add flour 1 Cup at a time until dough can be kneaded. It usually takes 4-5 cups total. It seems to depend on the weather and the brand of flour.

                                        Let rise until double in a greased bowl (about 2 hrs.) Make into rolls and put in pans to rise again (about 1 hr.). I put a little melted Crisco in the pan and rub the top of the rols in it before placing in the pan.

                                        Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes. Turn rolls out onto a towel. They will sweat and get soggy on the bottom if you don’t. You can also make this into loaves. Time to bake will depend on the size, but generally a little longer than the rolls.

                                    2. My family has always had the typical sides, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and candied yams with marshmallows. The first year I didn't go home for Thanksgiving, I took these yams to a friend's home. They went over well, not quite as sweet as candied yams, and more sophisticated than the mini-marshmallow topping.

                                      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                      Epicurious also has a ton of other recipes for Thanksgiving.
                                      http://www.epicurious.com/recipesmenu...

                                      1. The sweet potato casserole from Ruth's Chris Steakhouse was a huge favorite at Thanksgiving last year.
                                        http://whatdidyoueat.typepad.com/what...

                                        1. Hatch red chile and pork "gravy" to give flavor to the turkey and mashed potatoes.

                                          1. Julia Moskin wrote a great article for the New York Times on Thanksgiving Sides. The
                                            Hashed Brussels Sprouts With Lemon Zest (adapted from “The Union Square Cafe Cookbook,”) is especially good.
                                            http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/15/din...

                                            1. I love cooking for Thanksgiving! For veggies, I make a leek, onion and shallot gratin from Gourmet mag, and butternut squash that I steam and then puree w/ butter, maple syrup S&P. Even those who proclaim they don't like squash as they pass the dish, are encouraged by others to try it and I win them over!

                                              There is no Ocean Spray on my table. For purists, I make a cranberry orange relish and for me and other adventurous eaters, I made a cranberry chutney. Mmmm.

                                              Gourmet mag has great Thanksgiving issues. I saved all of them together. You may want to go to the library and request the November issues of the past couple years and you're sure to get inspiration!