I’ve always been more of a side-dish fanatic.
Even when Wagu steak is the overpriced entree, I go for the fried corn, sautéed green beans, or cauliflower gratin. Fried chicken is a beautiful thing—and I’ve been known to tear into it whilst standing over the kitchen sink—but I can really fill up on the accompanying mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, or cornbread.
So when the chow fest known as Thanksgiving rolls around each November, my recipe research goes right to the sides.
Mind you, I’m all for most of the traditional dishes (except you: green bean casserole…gag), but my eyes light up when savvy cooks introduce clever cocktails, appetizers or desserts.
Anything pumpkin is on overdrive each fall, and in my mind you can’t go wrong with that orange goodness. (Consider the Pumpkin Martini. Yes—Martini! Or Pumpkin Creme Brûlée!) But so are the seasonal spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves. And they work in so many recipes. Breads, dips, desserts, cookies, coffees, even vegetables can all benefit from these spices.
Not a fan of anything using pumpkin or seasonal herbs? Then would you consider a charcuterie appetizer at your gathering? Caramel corn? How about a baked side with “au gratin” in the title? I love a tasty and overlooked Waldorf salad: It’s fruit, veggies and nuts, people! Yum.
Now, I will draw the line at bringing back the ol’ Jello ring. Remember that molded salad from your childhood? Ours had shaved carrots in it. Yes…carrots. Its time has passed. Except…I just spotted a recipe for a Sangria Ring. Hmm. Creative.
But you see what I mean here: There’s a lot of room for creativity to accompany your juicy turkey. Every holiday could benefit from a little stirring up in the kitchen. Do some online investigating. Pour through some old cookbooks. Surprise your guests. Surprise yourself.
And who knows? You might just create a new Thanksgiving tradition.
A Michigan farm girl transplanted to the South offering hospitality hacks.