If you’re like me, Thanksgiving is ALL about the sides: crispy, custardy stuffing rubbing elbows with creamy, thyme-scented, Gruyère-crusted scalloped potatoes, the happiest union under a blanket of gravy, punctuated by tart dollops of cranberry sauce.
Thanksgiving is shaping up to be quite different this year, not so much the cozy party of twelve I had originally imagined, but an even cozier party of six, a fancier family dinner, the humans surrounding the table, with any luck, a bit more presentable than usual.
Alas. 2020. Who knew?
Below you will find a recipe for a very classic bread stuffing from my cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs. It’s seasoned with Bell’s Seasoning, which, if you are unfamiliar, is a finely ground mix of rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, marjoram, thyme, and pepper. Just pulling out the box every year makes me happy, filling me with nostalgia for Thanksgivings past, occasions attended without fail by all of my favorite people.
The below selection of Thanksgiving side dishes is organized as follows:
Vegetable Side Dishes
There was a stretch of years during which my mother commenced each of her Thanksgiving dinners with butternut squash soup. Just before serving, she drizzled over top a cranberry coulis and a little crème fraîche. The contrast of colors made for a beautiful presentation, but those festive swirls tasted good, too, offering complementary pops of sweetness and tang. I should really get the recipe… stay tuned.
I love starting Thanksgiving with a small bowl of soup. Any of the below four would be nice.
Do yourself a favor and, as soon as you can, make a large batch of shallot vinaigrette. This recipe yields a quart, plenty for dressing many a salad in the weeks ahead. Incidentally, I find this dressing actually turns out better in the large-batch form because the shallots get more finely chopped in the food processor (as opposed to when chopped by hand) and, in turn, their flavor better permeates the dressing.
If you are unfamiliar with this dressing, after you purée the shallots, you let them soak in white balsamic vinegar (or other) for at least 15 minutes. This step draws out their sweetness and tempers their bite.
After the 15 minutes, you whisk in the olive oil. I store the dressing in these quart containers and stash it in the fridge for weeks. Be sure to give it ample time to come to room temperature before using it.
On holidays such as Thanksgiving, when there is such a variety of dishes on the table, I am inclined to simply toss some good greens with the shallot vinaigrette and call the salad done. But I do love the two salads below, both of which are substantial and festive. If your gathering is shaping up to be a small one, and you’re thinking about paring down your menu, a heartier salad in the mix might be a nice option.
And if you are altogether yeast averse, biscuits are a great alternative, wonderful to have on hand for leftovers as well. Here are two favorites:
Stuffing Two Ways
Below you will find a recipe for a no-frills stuffing: olive oil-toasted bread tossed with sautéed onions and celery, Bell’s seasonings, and copious amounts of butter. It, along with the kale version, hands down every year is my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal.
Know you can customize the seasonings and add-ins of this recipe to your liking. Also: you can make it ahead and freeze it. See instructions in the post for how to freeze it.
A round-up for 25 Thanksgiving side dishes, plus a classic bread stuffing from my cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs.
Notes: If you’re using my mother’s peasant bread for the stuffing, you don’t need to remove the crust. If you are using crusty bread, remove the crust. 1.5 lbs of bread is roughly 1.5 loaves of peasant bread.
Bell’s Seasoning is readily available at most grocery stores. It’s a mix of finely ground rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, marjoram, thyme, and pepper. If you can’t find it, I would imagine using some combination of the noted dried herbs would work. A smaller amount of chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, sage, and oregano would also be nice.
1½ pounds peasant bread, torn into 1– to 2-inch pieces (about 12 cups)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, toss the bread with ¼ cup oil; it will feel saturated. Season the bread with salt and pepper to taste. Spread it onto a sheet pan in a single layer, reserving the bowl. Transfer the pan to the oven and toast the bread for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Set it aside to cool briefly.
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, melt the butter with the remaining ¼ cup oil over medium heat. Add the onions and celery, season with a pinch of salt, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring, until soft and beginning to color.
Return the toasted bread to the reserved bowl. When the onions and celery have finished cooking, scrape them into the bowl over the bread. Sprinkle with the Bell’s. Add 1 cup stock, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Toss. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed — this is your chance to get the seasoning right before you add the egg. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining ½ cup stock with the egg and add it to the bowl. Toss them to combine.
Grease a 9 × 13-inch baking pan with the softened butter and spread the mixture into it. Cover the pan with foil, transfer it to the center rack of the oven, and bake the stuffing for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan and bake the stuffing for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the bread is golden. Remove the stuffing and let it stand for 10 minutes before serving it.