Recipes for Green Beans Five Ways; Spoonbread Corn Pudding; Stouthearted Carrots; Tangerine Glazed Carrots; Lightened Up Brussels Sprouts with Bacon; Wild Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts; Shaved Butternut Squash With Dates; and Roasted Beets.
The vegetables at a Thanksgiving feast are not just the sidekicks. They are a big part of the main act when you count the taste, texture, color, flavor and many preparation possibilities.
“Everyone knows the turkey doesn’t carry the feast solo,” says Jeanne Ambrose, editor of Taste of Home. “When people reach for second helpings, it’s usually the side dishes they want. It doesn’t take much to transform basic vegetables into the talk of the table.”
Your family might revolt when it comes to messing with the recipe for mashed potatoes or gravy, but vegetables are fair game for surprising creations. In fact, it’s a good idea to try at least one or two unexpected vegetable dishes; that is how new family traditions are born.
Put a spin on the tried-and-true by garnishing vegetables with fried quinoa or toasted nuts for more texture. Or pucker and brighten up flavors with a squeeze of lemon.
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Add some fat, too, maybe bacon fat or a little bit of cured meat or fish. “Butter makes everything better,” Ambrose says.
When boiling vegetables, add vinegar or dry white wine to the water for another flavor boost.
Seasoning vegetables well is important, so don’t forget the salt and pepper. Rather than waiting until the end, season as they cook so you can taste the effect.
Most home cooks want simplicity in their vegetable sides and something that can be made ahead of time, Ambrose says.
“The simplest thing to do with them is to roast them.” Roasting concentrates the flavors and caramelizes the natural sugars. It also mellows strong-flavored broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.
When adding herbs, incorporate them at the right time for maximum flavor. It’s best to add hearty herbs such as thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram or sage when vegetables are cooking or roasting. But delicate herbs such as chives, tarragon, cilantro and parsley should be saved for the end as they will lose their fresh flavor and verdant color.
Green beans, carrots, Brussels sprouts, beets and corn are regulars at the Thanksgiving table. Here are some variations that will keep everybody happy:
GREEN BEANS FIVE WAYS
Makes 6 servings
2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed
½ cup water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
In a large skillet over medium-high, combine the green beans and water. Cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, or until just tender and bright green. Drain any water that has not evaporated and stir in the butter. Season with salt and pepper. Continue the recipe using one of the following variations:
HERBED: Stir in 2 tablespoons each of chopped fresh thyme, chives and parsley.
TOASTED CRUMBS: In a small skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add 1 cup panko breadcrumbs, a pinch of salt and 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika. Cook until toasted and fragrant, stirring constantly, four to five minutes. Sprinkle over the cooked and seasoned green beans.
SPICY GARLIC HONEY: Stir in a hefty pinch of red pepper flakes, 1 to 2 finely minced cloves of garlic and a drizzle of honey.
CRANBERRY NUT: Finely chop ½ cup dried cranberries and ½ cup toasted sliced almonds. Sprinkle over the top of the cooked and seasoned green beans.
MAPLE SOY: Leave off the salt and instead drizzle with a little soy sauce and maple syrup.
— The Associated Press
SPOONBREAD CORN PUDDING
Makes 8 servings
4 tablespoons (½stick) unsalted butter, plus extra
3¼ cups whole milk, divided
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup cornmeal
2 cups corn kernels (from 3 to 4 ears of corn or frozen kernels)
Large pinch cayenne pepper
4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Heat oven to 400 F. Butter a shallow 1½- or 2-quart baking dish.
2. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the butter, 3 cups of the milk, the sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer. When the butter has melted, reduce the heat to medium-low. Whisking constantly, add the cornmeal in a slow, steady drizzle. Whisk in the corn kernels and cayenne and continue whisking for another four or five minutes, or until the mixture is thick. Remove from the heat and transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining ¼ cup of milk. Set aside.
4. In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.
5. Add about ½ cup of the cornmeal mixture to the bowl with the egg yolks and stir quickly to combine. Turn the yolk mixture into the bowl with the rest of the cornmeal mixture and whisk to combine. Fold about a third of the egg-white mixture into the cornmeal mixture, which will lighten the batter, then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites so that they are almost incorporated. You will see a white streak or two, which is fine.
6. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking dish and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is browned and puffy. When you shake the pan the spoonbread should jiggle slightly, though not so much that it looks liquidy in the middle. Remove and cool slightly on a wire rack. Serve warm.
— Katie Workman, The Associated Press
Makes 4 servings
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup stout beer, such as Guinness
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Flaky salt, such as Maldon
1. Peel and trim carrots. Slice on the diagonal into 1-inch-thick ovals.
2. Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Slide in carrots and toss to coat.
3. Pour in beer and honey; stir in kosher salt and pepper. Heat to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until little liquid remains, about 25 minutes. Lower heat and, watching closely, stir until liquid has disappeared and carrots are sticky with glaze (but not scorched), about five minutes. Deglaze pan with lemon juice.
4. Scrape carrots into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with thyme and flaky salt.
— By Leah Eskin, Chicago Tribune (TNS)
Makes 4 servings
2 pounds carrots, sliced thickly
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Juice of 6 tangerines
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon butter
Chives to garnish
1. Simmer carrots in a skillet with vinegar, tangerine juice and salt until tender, for eight to 10 minutes.
2. Season with pepper. Then stir in butter.
3. Garnish with chopped chives.
— Adapted from Food Network magazine, October 2011
LIGHTENED UP BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BACON
Makes 6 servings
1 pound Brussels sprouts
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon smoked paprika, divided
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 slices bacon, cut into small strips or cubes
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch cubes
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1. Heat the oven to 425 F. Set a rimmed baking sheet in the oven to heat.
2. Cut the sprouts into quarters, then place them in a medium bowl. Toss with the oil, half of the smoked paprika, and generous pinches of salt and pepper. Remove the hot baking sheet from oven and line with kitchen parchment (be careful!). Scatter the sprouts on hot pan, then roast until tender on the inside and crispy dark golden brown on the outside, 13 to 15 minutes, turning halfway through.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it turns crispy. Add the shallots, apple and remaining smoked paprika, then cook for another five minutes, or until soft. If the bacon has not given off enough fat to sauté with, you may need to add a teaspoon of olive oil. Increase the heat to high, then add the vinegar and 1 tablespoon of water. Stir to deglaze the pan (don’t have your face too close to the pan or you will inhale quite an intense whiff of vinegar).
4. Add the roasted Brussels sprouts to the skillet and stir to coat. Transfer to a serving dish.
— Melissa d’Arabian, The Associated Press
WILD MUSHROOMS AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH CHESTNUTS
Makes 8 to 10 servings
1 pound wild mushrooms, cut into large bite-size pieces (a mix of chanterelles, oyster mushrooms and maitake is nice)
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed
½ teaspoon black pepper, as needed
2 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
6 ounces chestnuts (1 cup), crumbled
¼ cup brandy
1½ tablespoons cider vinegar, more as needed
¼ cup chopped soft herbs, such as dill, tarragon, chives and parsley
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread mushrooms on one rimmed baking sheet; toss with 1/4 cup oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. On a separate rimmed baking sheet, toss Brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
2. Roast both pans of vegetables, tossing occasionally, until vegetables are well browned and tender, 20 to 25 minutes. (The mushrooms may be done before the sprouts, so keep an eye on them.)
3. While the vegetables cook, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots, cinnamon stick and a pinch of salt; cook, tossing occasionally, until shallots are caramelized and tender, five to 10 minutes.
4. Toss chestnuts into pan and brown lightly, about five minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in brandy. Return pan to medium-high heat and cook until liquid has evaporated. Discard cinnamon stick.
5. In a large bowl, toss together vegetables, chestnut mixture and vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Toss in herbs and serve at once.
— Melissa Clark, The New York Times
SHAVED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH DATES
Makes 6 servings
1½ pounds young butternut squash, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (from ½ lemon)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (from ½ lemon), more as needed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of sugar
Fine sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
½ cup dates, pitted and roughly chopped
¼ cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons toasted pumpkinseeds
1. Cut the squash into 2-inch chunks. Using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, shave the chunks into thin slivers.
2. Place squash shavings in large bowl and add lemon zest and juice, olive oil and sugar. Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper and toss to coat. Macerate for 10 minutes, or until shavings tenderize (this could take up to 30 minutes, and once tender you can hold them for up to six hours). Toss with dates and season to taste with more salt and lemon juice.
3. Pour buttermilk into a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Smear the buttermilk on a serving platter and top with shaved mixture. Sprinkle with pumpkinseeds.
— Melissa Clark, The New York Times
PARSNIP GRATIN WITH TURMERIC AND CUMIN
For this savory gratin, the parsnips are parboiled and splashed with cream seasoned with turmeric, cumin and cayenne, then topped with feta and baked. It is an unlikely combination perhaps, but quite delicious, proving once again that parsnips can shine in many guises.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
3 pounds parsnips
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter, for greasing dish
2 cups heavy cream
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon toasted and ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Peel parsnips and quarter lengthwise. With a paring knife, remove and discard hard central core. Cut parsnips into 3-inch batons. Parboil for two minutes, then drain and spread out on a baking sheet to cool briefly.
2. Butter a 9- by 12-inch shallow earthenware baking dish. Arrange parsnips in dish in one layer. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
3. Whisk together cream, turmeric and cumin. Season with salt and pepper and add a small pinch of cayenne.
4. Pour cream mixture over parsnips and sprinkle with feta. Bake for about 30 minutes, until bubbling and nicely browned.
— David Tanis, The New York Times
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1½ teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
Juice of 1 large orange
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Remove the tops and the roots of the beets and peel each one with a vegetable peeler. Cut the beets in 1½-inch chunks. (Small beets can be halved, medium ones cut in quarters, and large beets cut in eighths.)
3. Place the cut beets on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning once or twice with a spatula, until the beets are tender. Remove from the oven and immediately toss with the vinegar and orange juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve warm.
— From “Barefoot in Paris” by Ina Garten