10 Unexpected Side Dishes That Will Elevate Your Turkey Day to Pro Level
Thanksgiving dinner is hands down the best obligatory meal of the year. From the lovingly prepared food to the slow unearthing of long-buried family secrets, there’s no better time to enjoy the talents of your tongue than at a table full of strangers who you’re related to by blood or zip codes. And while the standard fare of turkey, stuffing, gravy, and mashed potatoes are considered perfection by many, our belief is that this A-team of heavy starches can be elevated with the addition of a few simple side dishes. Be the hero your dad never was with these unexpectedly delicious dishes that all but guarantee you won’t be chosen for dish duty.
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Skillet Roasted Maple Potatoes
Thanksgiving dinner is all about hearty soul food. Sweeten up this starchy classic with a maple twist. Any small potato like a fingerling will work best. Roast for 20 minutes at 400°F. Then throw the potatoes into a medium hot skillet and sauté with butter and real maple syrup (2 tablespoons for every pound of potatoes). Add some fresh thyme, salt, and pepper to taste. Sauté 5 minutes or until desired crispness is achieved. Add bacon bits if you wish to anger the vegans.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Few things warm the cockles of the heart like a smooth and tasty autumnal soup. Butternut squash is the gift that keeps on giving as it's easy to prepare and tastes magnificent topped with crème fraîche and pepper. Be sure to lightly brown the squash tops during the roasting phase for extra flavor. This is the perfect pregame starter to open up your palate for a 24-hour food coma.
Porchetta Cornbread Stuffing
What happens when you take two legendary sides and combine them into one? Drooling, lots of drooling. Prepare the cornbread using a variation of this recipe and sprinkle in porchetta from your local Italian market. By the time dessert rolls around, your knuckles will be sore from all the fist bumps.
Rainbow Roasted Carrots
Start with the freshest carrots you can get your hands on. Coat them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and a dash of paprika. Next comes the duck fat. A lot goes a long way, but half measures will also lead to savory tongue orgasms. Heat the fat on a warm skillet and bathe the carrots until well coated. Place them in oven at 250°F for 2 hours and baste periodically (if you're into that sort of thing). Finish off on the stovetop at high heat with rosemary, garlic, thyme, butter and a pinch of salt. Serve warm and winking.
Spice up your turkey lard with sage and apple cider. Not only does it scream fall, it will add a sweet caboose to your gravy train. Follow this simple recipe and make it your own with a twist of orange zest or homemade stock broth. It's so good, you will literally be dipping your thumbs in it.
Cheese Platter Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese has no health benefits whatsoever, but damn is it hard to stop eating, especially when you upgrade to an artisanal blend of designer cheeses that are only worth splurging for on special occasions. Let your personality shine through by hand-selecting three complimentary fromages. We personally love starting with a French Camembert base for its flavor-packed gooeyness. Ratio in some white cheddar goat cheese from Sonoma for sharp gaminess, then add a Wisconsin Muenster for abiding backbone. Golden brown that sucker, then finish off with a dusting of hard Italian Parmesan and tuck in. Just expect any dinner conversation to halt while guests drape their lips over this culinary miracle. Pretentious and delicious.
Blueberry Pancake Dinner Rolls
Not your average dinner roll, these pancake-based super buns roll breakfast, dessert, and dinner into one bite-sized wonder. Follow this recipe and replace the all-purpose flour with your favorite pancake mix. Drop some fresh blueberries in and voilá! You have yourself an off-the-wall comfort food that pairs perfectly with turkey and cranberries.
Autumn Garden Salad
Fresh greens have never been a staple of Thanksgiving feasts. But that doesn't mean we wouldn't all love a bite of veggies between spoonfuls of meat and gravy. Fall's bounty is beckoning to be harvested onto your plate. Think roasted squash, tart apples, seeds, and greens. This recipe reunites candied walnuts with pears and endives. Be creative. Just remember to emphasize fresh, seasonal pickings with flavors that warm the heart.
Cranberry Sauce With Apricot and Zest
Make your cranberry-hating girlfriend a believer with this insanely simple yet delicious recipe. In a saucepan, mix together 1 cup each of fresh orange juice, raisins, dried chopped apricots, and water. Add 4 cups of cranberries and a 1/2 cup of sugar. Bring mixture to a boil while stirring in a tablespoon of orange zest. Cook for 8-10 minutes, let cool, and chill overnight. Then get ready to clean the ceiling as people's minds will be blown.
A Second Turkey
There's an art to upstaging the main turkey without being a dick. And it's all dependent upon the size and deliciousness of the wingman. Aim for at least 5 pounds lighter and prepare your turkey in a manner that's radically different than your host's bird. Deep fried, smoked, or brined in an onion citrus melange are all valid options that will make your turkey day assist an act of heroism.