Which side are you on this Thanksgiving? Dishes can be creative or traditional

A Thanksgiving feast is complete only when you stuff the table with sides. But often there is a confusion of whether to go down the tried-and-true route and please Grandma and Dad, or go the unconventional way and prepare innovative ones that will please the vegan daughter and globe-trotting cousin. Here are some traditional and nontraditional suggestions, but who says you cannot be on both sides at the same time?


When the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Mass., in 1621, corn was believed to have been part of the feast. So why not continue the tradition of preparing something that is corn-related. Serve a classic creamy corn flavored with onion or an innovative fluffy corn pudding studded with hazelnuts.

Classic Creamed Corn

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This recipe is traditionally made with fresh corn, but it also works with canned or frozen sweet corn kernels.

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

4½ cups canned or frozen corn

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup finely minced yellow or white onion

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup water, plus more if needed

In small bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, salt and pepper. Pour flour mixture over corn kernels and toss to coat.

Heat skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Add onions and saute, stirring regularly, until they soften, about 3 minutes. Add corn mixture and stir to combine. Pour in cream and water and stir to mix.

Reduce heat to low and simmer mixture, stirring frequently, until sauce is thick and creamy and kernels are tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary. Remove corm from heat and ladle into serving bowl. Serve warm

Serves 4.

— “Corn: a Savor of the South Cookbook” by Tema Flanagan (University of North Carolina Press; February 2017; $20)

Corn and Hazelnut Pudding

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The bechamel sauce can be combined with the corn, shallot and seasonings a day ahead. On Thanksgiving Day, bring it to room temperature or rewarm slightly in microwave before adding the eggs and baking the pudding.

6 tablespoons butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

3 cups half-and-half

5 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed

⅓ cup finely chopped shallot

1½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon ground white pepper

1½ cups hazelnuts

¼ cup chopped fresh chives

4 large eggs

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; whisk 1 minute. Gradually whisk in half-and-half. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium; stir constantly until mixture thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.

Add corn, shallot, salt, cayenne pepper and white pepper. Simmer 15 minutes to blend flavors, stirring often.

Remove from heat and stir in hazelnuts and chives. Transfer to large bowl.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Whisk eggs 1 at a time into corn mixture. Transfer to prepared baking dish. Bake until puffed and golden, about 40 to 45 minutes. Serve hot.

Serves 12.

— Adapted from Bon Appetit (November 2008)


Something green is always welcome in the warm brown and orange landscape of Thanksgiving’s classic foods. But it needs to be a dish that wows and comforts such as a traditional creamed spinach that is as good as the one from your favorite steakhouse or a Catalan version that is a class act and could easily become a new holiday tradition.

Creamed Spinach

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Make sauce and spinach a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate, then reheat together on the stovetop to serve. The sauce will thicken more on refrigeration. Add a little more cream or milk to the finished dish if you want creamier spinach.

For sauce

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup chopped sweet onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup heavy cream

¾ cup whole milk

Fresh nutmeg

For spinach

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds spinach

For the sauce: In heavy medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute to cook out the raw taste.

Pour in cream and milk; bring to simmer, whisking. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, until sauce is very thick and bubbly, stirring often, and scraping the sides of pan. Remove from heat. Season with salt and grate in a little fresh nutmeg.

For the spinach: Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add spinach, in batches, tossing with two spoons, adding a little water, 2 tablespoons at a time, if pan gets dry. When all spinach has been added, cover and cook, stirring often, until spinach is wilted and tender, about 5 minutes.

Transfer spinach to colander; press gently down with spoon to release excess liquid. Cool slightly, then coarsely chop on cutting board.

To serve, in large skillet, heat spinach and sauce over medium heat, stirring often until bubbly. Season to taste. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.

— Miriam Rubin

Catalan Spinach

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The tender, sauteed spinach sparkles with sweet raisins, mellow garlic and gets a crunch from the toasted pine nuts. Almonds could work, too.

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise

⅓ cup raisins

2 tablespoons pine nuts or slivered almonds

2 pounds spinach

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat oil over medium heat in Dutch oven. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, 1 minute. Add raisins and pine nuts or almonds and cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often, until nuts start to turn golden.

Add spinach, in batches, tossing with 2 spoons, until all has been added. Cook 5 more minutes, stirring often, until spinach is wilted and well cooked. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings.

— Adapted from “Catalonia: Spanish Flavors From Barcelona and Beyond” by Jose Pizarro (Hardie Grant Books; October 2017; $40)

Mashed Potato 

For a fluffy mashed potato, cover quartered potatoes with cold water in a pot. Add plenty of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until they are very tender but not crumbly. Drain, rinse with cold water and return them to the warm pot (with heat turned off) so that they can dry before they are mashed.

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

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This can be made a day ahead and covered and chilled. Reheat over medium heat, stirring often, and add ¼ cup of milk to thin out if needed.

5 pounds Yukon, scrubbed, peeled and cut into large chunks

Kosher salt, divided

1¼ sticks unsalted butter

1½ cups whole milk

1¼ cups half-and-half

1¼ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

In a pot, cover potatoes with water; bring to a boil. Add salt and cook potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine butter, milk and half-and-half and bring to simmer. Turn heat off and add cheese. Let stand for a minute and then whisk until smooth.

Mash potatoes. Fold in cheese sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Serves 10.

— Adapted from Food & Wine (November 2015)

Potato and Olive Mash

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For butterless mashed potatoes, use a good quality olive oil in place of dairy.

6 medium Yukon potatoes, peeled and cut into medium chunks

3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

Kosher salt, divided

¼ cup olive oil, plus extra to serve

⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2¾ ounces Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, garnish

Place potatoes, garlic and 1 teaspoon salt in medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to boil over medium-high heat and cook until potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes.

Drain potatoes and garlic, reserving 1 cup of water. Return to saucepan and over low heat, cook for 1 minutes so that extra water evaporates. Mash potatoes and garlic until smooth.

Stir in olive oil, cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Beat in enough reserved water to make potatoes creamy. Stir in olives. Add more salt and pepper if required.

Transfer to serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil, if desired. Garnish with thyme and serve.

Serves 5.

— Adapted from “The Potato Cookbook” by Dale Whybrow (Hardie Grant Books; October 2017; $19.99)

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are a good-for-you vegetable that’s now super trendy. Forget the sad, soggy boiled recipes of the past; today’s hip Brussels are served up shredded and sauteed. The leaves also can be pan-fried, roasted crisp in a hot oven or shaved and served raw with a sharp dressing. 

Buttered Brussels Sprouts

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Make these earlier in the day and reheat in the oven to serve. You’ll want to double the recipe for a larger crowd.

1 pound trimmed Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise

1 small sweet onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

On large, rimmed baking sheet, toss sprouts, onion and oil; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread out evenly.

Bake 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven, stir the sprouts, then scatter butter slices over all. Bake 5 to 10 more minutes, or a little longer, depending on size, until sprouts are browned and tender.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

— Adapted from “The Farmhouse Chef: Recipes and Stories From My Carolina Farm” by Jamie DeMent. (UNC Press; September 2017; $35)

Brussels Sprouts Pinzimonio

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Brussels sprouts are tossed with a garlic-infused-herby green sauce for a tangy, lively side. It’s based on a beautiful Italian starter of raw vegetables served with seasoned olive oil. 

2 teaspoons salt-cured capers or 1 tablespoon vinegar-packed

1 large garlic clove, cut up

1 medium shallot, quartered

½ cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound small-to-medium Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

Soak salt-cured capers in water 20 minutes, drain and rinse. If using vinegar-soaked capers, just rinse them.

In mini-food processor, pulse garlic, shallot and parsley until coarsely chopped. Add mustard, vinegar and capers; pulse until finely chopped (or chop garlic, shallot, parsley and capers by hand, mix in mustard and vinegar). Transfer to small bowl. Whisk in oil; season with salt and pepper. Let stand 20 minutes to develop flavors.

Meanwhile, place steamer insert into medium saucepan; add water to just below steamer and bring to boil. Add Brussels sprouts, cover and steam over medium-high heat until crisp-tender, 6 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl. Pour dressing over hot sprouts, toss and serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings.

— Adapted from “The Power Greens Cookbook: 140 Delicious Superfood Recipes” by Dana Jacobi (Ballantine Books; April 2016)

Sweet Potato

Sweet potato is the sweetheart of the feast and it doesn’t need any of that marshmallow to earn the love. It’s best to buy small- to medium-sized potatoes that are heavy for their size. And don’t get hung up on whether you call it sweet potato or yam (unless you are talking about the yucca-like real yam), as they both work here.

Sweet Potato Casserole

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I got the recipe from my friend Kristen Stagg in 2005, and it has become a mainstay at my family’s Thanksgiving ever since. I make the casserole at the very end because when it bakes it perfumes the house in the most delicious way.

For casserole

3 cups sweet potatoes, boiled and mashed

⅓ cup melted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 can (12-ounces) evaporated milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For topping

1 cup light brown sugar

½ cup flour

½ chopped mixed nuts

½ cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish; set aside.

For casserole, combine sweet potatoes, butter and sugar. Add evaporated milk and then eggs one at a time. Add vanilla extract.

For topping, combine brown sugar and flour in a small bowl. Mix nuts with flour mixture. Finally add melted butter; the mixture will be clumpy.

Sprinkle topping evenly over the sweet potatoes. Bake for 45 minutes.

Serves 12.

— Kristin Stagg

Sweet Potatoes With Bacon-Sesame Brittle

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The bacon-sesame brittle is so addictive, you may want to double the recipe so there is extra for noshing.

4 slices bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces

⅓ cup sugar

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

6 medium sweet potatoes

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 tablespoon white miso (fermented soybean paste)

⅔-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated

2 (1-inch) pieces scallion (dark green parts only), thinly sliced lengthwise

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper

Cook bacon in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat until most of the fat is rendered and bacon starts to crisp. Transfer bacon to paper-towel lined plate; reserve drippings.

Return bacon, 1 tablespoon drippings, sugar and sesame seeds to same skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar turns the color of milk chocolate, about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to prepared sheet and use spatula to spread out evenly; let cool. Break brittle into shards. (This can be made 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place sweet potatoes on foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle.

Slice potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop flesh from 8 halves into large bowl, leaving a ½-inch-thick layer inside skins. Place potato halves on same baking sheet. Scoop flesh from remaining 4 halves; discard skins. Mash flesh with a whisk.

Add eggs, butter, miso and ginger, and stir until smooth. Spoon or pipe filling into reserved skins. (Can be made 6 hours ahead and chilled.)

Bake potatoes until tops are lightly puffed and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Top potatoes with bacon-sesame brittle and scallions. Serve warm

Serves 6.

— Bonappetit.com

First Published November 1, 2017 6:00 AM


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