Favorite Thanksgiving Side Dishes

I am currently persona non grata in my corner of Steubenville. Not because of any advice I’ve been dishing out as of late, but rather because of what I won’t be dishing out next week: Thanksgiving Dinner.

For years, mostly because of the hassle of traveling 1280 miles, roundtrip, on Thanksgiving weekend, I’ve stayed in Steubenville for the holiday and opened my home to whomever didn’t have one that day. One year, that number was as large as 25. Another year, it was as small as four.

A few special friends, however, have always been around the table, and those are the ones  less than pleased about Chris and I going to my parents this Thanksgiving. (His family gets us for Christmas).

I’m looking forward to being with all my nieces and nephews next week, but I have to admit, I’m a little sad too. There’s no holiday I like better than Thanksgiving, and (in all humility) there’s also no meal I cook better than Thanksgiving Dinner. People have flown across the country for my mashed potatoes and stuffing. Some of those people also are under the impression that my gravy is a beverage. (“Just because something has brandy in it,” I tell them, “doesn’t  mean you can drink it.” They never listen.)

It’s not only the company or food that makes Thanksgiving special for me,  though. It’s also the chance to pull out all the decorating stops and set the most elegant table I can muster. In grad school, that wasn’t much. But here’s what we did last year.

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Family, however, comes before fancy china, so all that prettiness will have to stay tucked away until next year. Besides, I’ll still get to do a fair bit of cooking at home, and there will be exceptionally cute children around the table this Thanksgiving…something which last year’s dinner was sorely (and unusually) lacking.

Regardless, before I head off for Illinois, I figured it couldn’t hurt to share a secret or two with you folks. So, for your eating pleasure, here are three staples of my Thanksgiving table: Creamy Garlic Whipped Potatoes, Roasted Winter Vegetables, and Stir-fried Kale and Bacon.

For those who need to concern themselves with such things, all are gluten-free, and two are Paleo-friendly. They’re also incredibly tasty. Lunches this past week (as I’ve made and photographed the recipes) have been affairs to remember!

(Oh, and one last thing. Maybe, if certain people are reading this, they can just cook the recipes themselves and be less grumpy with me.)

Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Serves:8
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

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Notes: These are very special potatoes (repeat: very special potatoes), made on very special occasions. Accordingly, none of the fat or calories count. So, don’t even let yourself think about it when making these. Add dairy fat with abandon, and give praise to God for the cow. Also, save yourself some stress and make these on Thanksgiving morning, several hours before you eat. Then, keep them warm in a crockpot (set on low) until dinner time, stirring occasionally to prevent browning (I usually leave mine in there for about 4 hours).

Ingredients

  • Idaho potatoes, 5 pounds
  • Cream cheese, 1 block, room temperature
  • Garlic, 1 head
  • Butter, 4 Tablespoons, room temperature
  • Whipping Cream, 1 cup
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil, 1 teaspoon

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400. Peel the outer layer of skin off the garlic, trim the top off it, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap in aluminum foil. Cook for 30 minutes (while peeling and boiling the potatoes). When soft, set aside and open up the foil so the garlic can cool.
  2. Peel, wash, and cube potatoes. In a large pot, (just) cover them with cold water, and bring to a boil.
  3. When the potatoes crumble at the touch of a fork, remove from heat and drain.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mash the potatoes.
  5. Next, add in the cream cheese, butter, and garlic (skin completely removed). Begin whipping, using a hand or stand mixer.
  6. Slowly add in cream. If the potatoes seem too thick, add a bit of milk (or more cream if you’re feeling extra indulgent).
  7. Salt and pepper to taste. Note: whipped potatoes need a healthy amount of salt to be worth their salt, so don’t be afraid here. I use about three to four teaspoons of kosher salt when I make mine. I start with two teaspoons, then add by the .5 teaspoon until I’m happy.

Roasted Winter Vegetables
Serves: 8
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

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Note: Most of the people who eat at my table on a regular basis are obsessed with brussels sprouts. They are comfort food to us. Which sounds like crazy talk until you eat them, all caramelized and infused with garlic and oil and completely yummy. This version, however, takes our favorite vegetable to a whole new level. I recommend cutting up all the vegetables the night before or early the morning of Thanksgiving. Then, when the turkey comes out of the oven to rest before carving, scatter the vegetables on trays and pop them in the oven 25 minutes before you sit down. I also typically cook the bacon on the stovetop, a few minutes before putting the vegetables in the oven. Just keep warm with foil until ready to use. 

Ingredients

  • Brussels sprouts, 1 pound
  • Butternut Squash, medium  (3 cups chopped)
  • Garlic, 10 cloves, peeled and smashed
  • Bacon, 5-6 strips
  • Pecans, .5 cup
  • Olive oil, 4 Tablespoons
  • Kosher Salt, 1 teaspoon

Instructions

  1. Peel and remove seeds from squash. Cut flesh into small cubes (1-2 inches). Trim the stems off the brussels sprouts, then cut each one in half lengthwise. Set aside until ready to use.
  2. On the stovetop (ideally when the turkey has about 15 minutes left in the oven), fry the bacon; drain; then crumble.
  3. Arrange the sprouts flat side down on a baking pan (lined with parchment paper). Arrange the squash on another. Divide the smashed garlic cloves evenly between the two pans. Drizzle vegetables with 2 T. each of oil, and .5 teaspoon each of kosher salt.
  4. Cook in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes (until the sprouts are caramelized on the bottom), adding the pecans to the pans in the last several minutes of cooking.
  5. In a serving dish, combine the vegetables together with the bacon. Toss and serve immediately.

Stir-Fried Kale and Bacon
Serves: 8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

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Notes: There are lots of variations of this recipe floating around the Internet. This one is a bit faster, as I don’t think blanching the kale first is necessary. I also recommend using garlic and crushed red pepper flakes to give it an extra kick, and skipping the vinegar that some recipes recommend. That hides too much of the tasty bacon flavor. Also, keep in mind, this is a great dish if you’re working with limited oven space, as you can fry it up on the stovetop while the turkey rests. Lastly, like with the other dishes, cut up the kale earlier in the day, and pull it out when you’re ready to use it. So much less stressful!

Ingredients

  • 4 bunches of Lacinto or Tuscan Kale (the regular stuff works fine too, in a pinch)
  • 12 slices of uncooked bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • Kosher salt
  • Crushed red pepper

Instructions

  1. Wash the kale, trim it of its stems (including the part that runs up the center between the leaves), then cut the leaves into wide ribbons, about an inch thick. Set aside until ready to use.
  2. Fry bacon over medium heat in a large frying pan until almost (but not quite) crisp.
  3. Remove some of the grease from the pan, making sure to leave about 4 Tablespoons worth (along with the bacon) in the frying pan.
  4. Add garlic, and cook with bacon for 30 seconds or so.
  5. Slowly begin adding kale to the pan. You won’t be able to fit it all in at once, but as the leaves start to wilt, keep adding more until it’s all in there.
  6. Add two healthy pinches of salt  (a scant .5 teaspoon) and a good sprinkling of crushed red pepper (.25 to .5 teaspoon).
  7. Cook for 4-6 minutes, or until the leaves have all wilted and are tender to the bite. Serve immediately.

14 thoughts on “Favorite Thanksgiving Side Dishes

    • Emily says:

      Hmmmm…the bagged stuff really isn’t quite as good for this dish. It’s roughly chopped so all those bitter stems are in there. That doesn’t make for the best frying. The bagged stuff is best for smoothies and soups (picked over). If you want to brave it, though, one large bag (at least the kind they sell around here) would be 3-4 bunches of the Tuscan kale, 2-3 of regular kale. I’m not sure about the wright, but I can try to check when I got to the store. Regardless, I’d ask the folks in the produce department. Most stores carry the unbagged kale now. They just might be hiding it!

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      • Mary H. says:

        Good to know — that the bagged kale doesn’t work as well in this recipe. I’ll check other stores for kale in bunches.

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  1. tubbs says:

    Thanks for the wonderful veggie stuff.
    Your table is beautiful.
    But it’s funny how one doesn’t need the Rosenthal, the Baccarat, and the Christofel to make a table look awesome. Artsy creative types – the people I envy – can make twigs and crockery look like an Edwardian production.

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    • Emily says:

      Yes, we’re very fortunate here in Steubenville that so few people appreciate Grandma’s china and silver. All it takes is a lot of patience, and over enough years, with enough trips to Goodwill, you can put a pretty table together without a whole lot of effort or creativity. Thrift stores and junk shops have been a God-send to me.

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    • Emily says:

      Thanks! They are! I got the whole set for $75 at an antique store in Ohio a few years back. It’s missing a few salad plates and things like that, but I’m always on the lookout for them!

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  2. T-ster says:

    And I can confirm that these potatoes are delicious. I have tried making mashed potatoes a zillion times, from various recipes that claim to have cracked the secret to fluffy whipped tastiness, only to be sadly disappointed.
    Now I know the secret: this recipe! So Thank you.
    Did you come up with it on your own or was it from somewhere ? I would never have thought to include cream cheese. Or roasted garlic. Also, as an aside, if you wanted to make cheesy mashed potatoes, do you think you could just add in cheese to the same recipe?

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    • Emily says:

      So glad you liked them! They’ve become the standard recipe with my friends and family as well. I made this recipe up more than a decade ago. I think we were low on cream, so I tossed in some cream cheese to see if that helped. And it did! The roasted garlic I’d seen on restaurant menus, so I knew that would work.
      If you want to add cheese, I think that would be delicious. I’ve used this recipe in cottage pie before, putting cheese on top of the potatoes, and it was tasty. Mixing it in probably wouldn’t change that. Let me know how it goes, though!

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