I’m usually in charge of the cooking on Thanksgiving, and while I look forward to it all year, I consider the turkey an obligation, nothing more. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ All I really want to cook, and all I really want to eat, are the sides — the actual, low-key superstars of the table.
I usually make two kinds of potatoes (a buttery mash and a cheesy gratin); a big pot of greens; a ton of rich, stock-soaked stuffing baked in a thin layer in a wide casserole dish for maximum crunchy bits; and a mix of roasted vegetables with whole cloves of garlic and sprigs of thyme, with some zhug on the side to dab on anything and everything.
I haven’t started my planning yet, but I’m hoping to draft this year’s sides, write down a shopping list, and get my pie dough (more on that below) in the freezer over the weekend. Whew! If you’re still getting organized, we’ve got a fresh spread of 20 delicious vegetarian sides for you, and a few of my favorites are below.
Kay Chun’s stuffed onions are so pretty and so luxurious — the rice is full of pistachios and dried cherries (though you can play around with the nuts and fruits) and stained with saffron. If you’re on the fence about buying saffron for the occasion, don’t forget that there are smart ways to stretch it!
Greens are absolutely key to the holiday table, and I love how Von Diaz emphasizes their sweetness and silkiness by simmering them in coconut milk. You can season with salt, of course, but soy sauce works really well, too.
The big starches — potatoes, plantains, yuca, etc. — are so comforting and so beloved, I think it’s only a party if you have more than one on the table. Yewande Komolafe’s plantains are perfect for the occasion, with a little sweet and savory edge — they’re glazed with brown sugar and ginger!
When you’re editing your list of sides, go for the widest possible range of ingredients, textures and flavors. I love Melissa Clark’s stuffing because it showcases the smoky, satisfying flavor of roasted chestnuts, but tucks them among other tastes of fall: celery and fennel, thyme and sage.
Sue Li’s roasted carrots are so simple to make, but there’s a tiny flourish in the finish: a fast, flavor-packed dressing of sherry vinegar, ginger and almonds, which is tossed with the carrots right when they come out of the oven. You could add a big handful of torn herbs, too.
One More Thing!
Melissa’s recipe makes one disk, so I usually triple it for three pies. You can definitely make it by hand if you prefer (I like to cut the butter quite small in that case, and freeze it, so my warm hands don’t get the butter sweaty and squishy!).
Pulse 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour and ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt with 10 tablespoons of cold, unsalted cubed butter. When the mixture forms big, bean-size pieces, slowly add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until it comes together (you shouldn’t need more than 4 tablespoons). Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and press into a disk. Wrap up tightly with plastic wrap and freeze until pie-making day.
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