Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I got up bright and early on Thursday to feed the animals and begin making side dishes: Mashed potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Cauliflower & Leek Gratin and Green Bean Casserole. The type A personality I am, added with zero awareness at 6am, made a comprehensive hour-by-hour list of what needed to mixed, mashed, stirred, whirred and forked so it would all come together by 11:30am when my family came with turkey, stuffing, and cranberries. While much teasing ensued for this list, I am really glad I thought through the process the day before to make sure I had the ingredients (yes, there was a last minute trip to Lund’s Wednesday evening), and in the morning haze I would know what needed to happen first (which was take out the butter to soften and start the oven, and yes, I needed a list to remember that). Sometimes 6am and 5 pounds of potatoes is daunting. Or really quiet and boring as this picture illustrates:

I’m really happy with both how the side dishes turned out and that I experimented a little: trying something new (Cauliflower Gratin), finally mastered a classic (Green Bean Casserole), embraced a twist to a favorite (Sweet Potatoes) and did not fuss over simplicity (Mashed Potatoes).

Green Bean Casserole, Martha Stewart
We’ve used this recipe since 2000, when Martha Stewart first published it. It makes eating green beans a joy. Side note: was really excited that one of the mushrooms for the Green Bean Casserole was in the shape of a heart, so I could post and send to Ateqah, my college friend and blogger of Hearts, Hearts, Hearts!

Cauliflower, Leek and Bacon Gratin
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, which was adapted from Ina Garten.

1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
3 large leeks, cut into thin strips
2 strips of thick bacon
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain. *As I cut the cauliflower, I put them right into a pot of cold water, then brought the whole thing to boil together on the stove; it took about 12 minutes total and didn’t make the cauliflower too tender this way.

Meanwhile, cook bacon until browned on both sides, set aside to cool and then cut into small strips; add to cooked/drained cauliflower. In same pan with bacon fat, add leeks and saute on medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, until firm yet tender (my take on it is that they slightly sigh at about 8 minutes – something breaks down to soften but retains a bit of shape). Set this aside to cool once cooked and then add to cauliflower/bacon pot.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower/leek/bacon mixture on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Sweet Potatoes with Pecan & Brown Sugar topping
Followed exactly from Pioneer Woman and glad I did because it tasted like candy! Of note, I really love the way she writes recipes, with the measurement of the ingredient within the recipe – example: “Put 1 cup of flour in the pan” versus “Add flour to the pan” (which you need to go back up to the ingredients list to see how much flour). It was an awesome, though small, improvement to making this recipe go faster. Perhaps it’s how my brain works though…
* 4 whole Medium Sweet Potatoes
* 1 cup Sugar
* 1 cup Milk
* 2 whole Eggs
* 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
* 1 teaspoon Salt
* 1 cup Brown Sugar
* 1 cup Pecans
* ½ cups Flour
* ¾ sticks Butter

Wash 4 medium sweet potatoes and bake them in a 375-degree oven until fork tender, about 30-35 minutes. When they are finished cooking slice them open and scrape out the flesh into a large bowl.

Add 1 cup of (regular grandulated) sugar, 1 cup of milk, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon of salt. With a potato masher, mash them up just enough—you don’t want to be perfectly smooth.

Now, in a separate bowl, add 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup pecans, chopped (that means measure a cup of pecans, then chop them), ½ cup flour, and ¾ stick of butter. With a pastry cutter or fork, mash together until thoroughly combined.

Spread the sweet potato mixture into a regular baking dish and sprinkle the crumb mixture all over the top.

Bake in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Once the family showed up, we took a couple of pictures for this ole blog, and captured this one of my mom feeding Cassidy turkey on the side, putting Cass into a turkey coma later on:

And even Luda got some:

Then we plated:

And set up the buffet:

It all came together perfectly, if not a little delayed. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!


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