6 Turkey Day Sidekicks
If turkey is the crown, the glittering jewels of a Thanksgiving feast are the sides.
This proves even more true when you're served up a dry, basic turkey, overcooked to an inch of its life. It is in that moment, when sandpaper-like slice after slice is added to your plate, that a heaping helping of sweet potatoes and green beans are not only sidekicks, but the true heroes of the meal. Check out some of our favorite Turkey Day sides.
Green Beans with Marcona Almonds
1½ pounds thin green beans
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ cup Marcona almonds, divided
Bring a large saucepan half filled with salted water to a rolling boil. Add the beans, and blanch for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander, and transfer to a large bowl.
Finely chop ¼ cup Marcona almonds in a food processor or grind them into small pieces using a mortar and pestle.
Whisk together the oil and vinegar and pour over the green beans. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and chopped almonds, and toss together until the beans are coated.
Transfer the beans to a large platter, pouring any dressing remaining in the bowl over the top. Sprinkle with ½ cup whole Marcona almonds and serve. Serves 8.
With this dish, strong acidity in your wine to match the vinegar component in the dressing is vital, and a young, fresh Verdejo with a zesty Sauvignon Blanc-like character will do the trick. The 2012 Verdejo from Blanco Nieva in Rueda ($22; 90 points) is a pungent wine with nettle, green apple and passion fruit aromas and flavors, along with integrated green, herbal characteristics that won’t stick out when paired with the beans.
Baked Acorn Squash Casserole
Recipe courtesy of Ruben Gomez, winery chef at Iron Horse Winery in Sonoma
2 cups acorn squash, peeled, seeded and sliced into 1/8-inch slices
1 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
4 ounces butter melted
½ cup romano pecorino cheese, finely grated
2 whole eggs
2 cups half and half or heavy cream
2 pinch nutmeg ground fresh
1 lemon zest chopped fine
1 tablespoon thyme chopped fine
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 250°F. Place the squash, ginger, garlic, sugar, melted butter and cheese in a large mixing bowl. Toss these ingredients until all are coated well and place in an 8-inch-square pan or casserole. In a separate bowl beat eggs, cream, nutmeg, lemon, salt and pepper until well blended. Pour the custard mixture over the squash and cover with aluminum foil. Place the casserole in the middle of the oven on a larger baking pan. Fill the larger pan with hot water to create a water bath. Do not fill the water bath higher than halfway up the side of your squash pan. Cook the casserole for an hour or more until a knife penetrates the squash easily. Allow the casserole to cool until it sets then slice into squares. Serves 6 to 8.
Texas Carrot Souffle
Recipe courtesy of David Rosengarten and adapted from Willy Ray's in Beaumont, Texas
1 pound large carrots
8 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
NOTE: This recipe makes enough carrot soufflé to feed six people. For a twelve-person party, you'll want to double the recipe; simply prepare two batches of it, working simultaneously, in two 8" cake pans. For shopping, of course, you'll need to double the list above.
Peel the carrots; discard ends. Cut the carrots into 1-inch chunks.
Put carrots into the work bowl of a food processor; add enough water to just cover carrots. Pulse carrots until they're coarsely chopped; be careful not to overprocess as you do not want purée. Drain the carrots in a colander, reserve, and rinse out the work bowl of the food processor.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add ½ cup of the sugar and the drained carrots. Cook, uncovered, until the carrots are candied and nearly translucent; this could take from 30 to 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, as the sugar mixture can scorch easily once the liquids from the carrots and butter evaporate. Remove from heat and cool.
When the candied carrot mixture has cooled, transfer it to the rinsed work bowl of the food processor. Add the remaining ½ cup of sugar, the eggs, the vanilla extract, the flour, the baking powder, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, and a pinch of salt. Pulse, scraping down the sides as needed, until the ingredients are just combined. (You still want to see discrete pieces of carrot. Do not purée.)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Lightly film an 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Transfer carrot mixture to the cake pan. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for approximately 60 minutes, or until the top just begins to brown. Place on buffet table so guests may scoop out their own helpings. Makes 6 servings.
Pumpkin and Ricotta Byrek
Recipe courtesy Thomas Lents, executive chef, Sixteen Restaurant, Chicago
Lents serves these Albanian-inspired tarts as a snack to open his decadent fall tasting menu at Sixteen, but they also make a satisfying main course.
1 small pumpkin (about 2 pounds)
1 package puff pastry, thawed
⅓ cup minced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons honey, plus additional for garnish
¾ cup ricotta cheese
½ cup feta cheese, plus additional for garnish
½ cup cooked spinach or chard, chopped
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350°F. Poke steam holes all over the pumpkin with a sharp knife. Place it in a baking pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a knife easily slides through. Let the pumpkin cool, then cut in half. Discard the seeds and pulp, and scoop out the flesh.
Unroll the puff pastry. Using a ring cutter, cut into 3-inch circles (if serving as an appetizer), or 7-inch circles (if serving as an entrée). Put the pastry circles on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 12–15 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.
Meanwhile, in a large pan over medium heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil until light brown. Add the honey and reduce until sticky. Mix in the pumpkin, mashing coarsely. Fold in the rest of the ingredients and heat through.
Dollop the filling decoratively atop the puff pastry circles (or use a pastry bag, using the largest tip), and garnish with feta, a drizzle of honey and pepper. Serves 24 as an appetizer, or 4 as an entrée.
“The perception of bruised red berries and pears in Henriot Brut Rosé Champagne NV plays incredibly well with the ricotta cheese,” says Dan Pilkey, Sixteen’s restaurant director and sommelier. “It drinks mature and with subtle CO2.”
Mama’s Sweet Potato Soufflé
Courtesy of Chef Virginia Willis' book, Bon Appétit, Ya'll! (Ten Speed Press, 2008)
[Willis] prefers using fresh sweet potatoes over the canned variety. However, not everyone feels this way. Around the fall holidays, towering mountains of canned yams are constructed in grocery stores throughout the South. Truth is, the contents are not yams at all. What are often labeled and sold as yams are actually sweet potatoes. Botanically speaking, yams are tubers and members of the lily family; sweet potatoes are the root of a member of the morning glory family. There are many varieties of both that differ in size, taste, shape and color.
When [Willis] doubted Mama about the amount of butter and sugar in this dish for a mere four sweet potatoes, she laughed and said, “Y’all always like it this way.” Feel free to reduce the amount of sugar and butter in the sweet potato base as your conscience or waistline see fit.
4 sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided, plus 1 tablespoon, melted, for greasing the baking dish
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
⅓ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush an ovenproof casserole with one tablespoon of the melted butter.
Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and roast until very tender, about 1 hour. Cool to room temperature. Peel the potatoes and discard the skins. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and mash until smooth.
To the sweet potatoes, add ½ cup of the melted butter, the granulated sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining ½ cup of melted butter, light brown sugar, flour, and pecans. Stir until combined and sprinkle over the casserole.
Bake the casserole until bubbly and heated through, about 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly before serving. Serves 6–8.
Kale with Bacon and Pine Nuts
Lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur kale, Tuscan kale and cavolo nero, has a husky, almost meat-like depth of flavor and a texture that is sturdier, even when tender, than other winter greens. These qualities, combined with the smokiness of the bacon in this recipe, make a perfect counterpoint to the creamy risotto.
3 bunches (about 2½ pounds) lacinato kale
5 bacon slices, preferably dry-cured
1 shallot, minced
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
Red pepper flakes
Zest of 1 lemon
½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
Use a sharp paring knife to remove the stems and tough ribs from the kale. Cut the leaves into 2-inch-wide crosswise slices. Put the cut leaves into a large colander; rinse but do not dry as you want water to cling to the leaves. Set aside.
Fry the bacon in a large deep saute pan until crisp; transfer to absorbent paper to drain. (Once cool, crumble the bacon.) Pour off all but about 1⁄3 cup of the bacon fat, return the pan to medium heat, add the shallot and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Season with salt and 2 or 3 pinches of pepper flakes. Add the kale and sauté for about 2 minutes, stirring all the while. Cover the pan and cook over low heat until the kale is tender, about 12 to 15 minutes; uncover and stir now and then. Remove from the heat. Fold in the lemon zest, half the bacon and half the pine nuts, taste and correct for salt. Transfer to a serving bowl, scatter the remaining bacon and pine nuts on top and serve. Serves 6 to 8.
Kale is almost always a side dish and as such, should be taken into consideration when selecting a wine for the main course. Lacinato kale’s texture, which is rich and velvety, engages well with most Pinot Noir and the bacon in this particular preparation furthers the resonance. Should this dish take center stage on your table, you can stick with a Pinot Noir or shift to a plush white wine, such as Peter Michael Winery Cuvée Indigene Chardonnay.