Chefs' Favorite Thanksgiving Sides

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Find roasted mushrooms, creamed kale and other inspired Thanksgiving side dishes that chefs love.

Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.

The turkey may take center stage on the Thanksgiving table, but it’s the sides that ultimately steal the show. Today, chefs and home cooks are stepping away from ho-hum dishes such as bland mashed potatoes and soggy green beans. Taking their place are inspired sides that sing with spice and unexpected flavors, making for a truly festive meal.

A Superb Substitution

Chef Anthony Meidenbauer of Block 16 Hospitality keeps things simple with his Thanksgiving side by switching out classic spinach and replacing it with kale for a refined riff on a creamed classic.

Creamed Kale

Ingredients:

8 cups fresh kale, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced

1/2 pound butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups half-and-half

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Wash and dry kale thoroughly. Chop leaves into 1-inch pieces. In a large saute pan over medium heat, lightly cook kale down in small batches with olive oil until wilted. Place cooked kale to the side.

In medium saucepan, add butter over medium heat and allow to melt. Then add garlic and allow to brown lightly. Add flour and cook for 5 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly. Slowly add half-and-half and heavy cream.

Cook for 5 to 7 minutes over medium heat and allow to thicken. Add wilted kale and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Roasted Mushrooms with Jalapeno Cheddar Drop-Biscuit Gratin

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 cups Roasted Mushrooms*

2 cups queso plus 2 teaspoons black pepper

1/4 cup savory herbs (equal parts chopped rosemary, sage, Italian parsley)

1/2 cup roasted garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat large skillet on medium-high heat. Add Roasted Mushrooms and saute. Reduce heat. Add queso, pepper, herbs and roasted garlic. Toss together and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.

Divide and place into four 5-inch cast-iron skillets. Top with crumbled Jalapeno Cheddar Drop Biscuits**.

Bake in oven for 5 to 7 minutes at 425 degrees F.

*Roasted Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1 cup shiitake mushrooms, halved

1 cup oyster mushrooms, stemmed

1 cup cremini mushrooms, halved

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup Chef Kenny’s Fried Chicken Seasoning

Directions:

Preheat oven at 425 degrees F. Combine all ingredients into a bowl and toss together gently. Place on baking sheet. Place baking sheet in oven and roast mushrooms for 20 minutes. Remove and reserve.

**Jalapeno Cheddar Drop Biscuits

Ingredients:

1 quart all-purpose flour

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 each jalapeno peppers, chopped

1 cup grated cheese blend (cheddar/Monterey Jack)

1 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup ice water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine all dry ingredients into a bowl along with cheese and jalapeno peppers and mix together well. Add shortening and cut in until the size of small peas. Add buttermilk and ice water. Mix until mixture forms soft dough.

Line half sheet pan with parchment paper. Use 1.5-ounce scoop to drop dough on sheet pan, 4 down and 3 across.

Place in oven and bake for 8 minutes. Rotate pan. Bake for another 8 minutes and remove. Reserve. Brush with butter if desired.

A Kicked-Up Classic

Bryan Voltaggio, owner of the restaurant Family Meal in Frederick, Md., likes to spice up his vegetables the Argentinian way, by adding a punch of chimichurri to his simply roasted carrots.

Roasted Carrots with Chimichurri

Ingredients:

Carrots

13 medium carrots (about 2 1/2 pounds)

2 tablespoons light olive oil

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground Szechuan peppercorns

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Chimichurri Sauce

2 1/2 ounces carrot greens

1 ounce flat-leaf parsley or baby spinach

1 clove garlic

2 1/2 tablespoons light olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon piment d’Espelette

Small carrot greens for serving

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Peel the carrots and trim the ends.Set a large skillet with a lid, or a Dutch oven, over high heat and add the olive oil. When it begins to simmer, add the carrots and cook, stirring until they are golden-brown and caramelized.

Add the cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns and salt. Stir to blend. Cover and transfer to the oven to cook for 35 minutes or until the carrots are completely tender.

To make the Chimichurri Sauce: Start with a large pot of salted water. Set it over high heat and bring to a boil. Prepare an ice bath. Blanch the carrot greens for 2 to 3 minutes and transfer to the ice bath. Blanch the parsley for 1 minute and transfer to the ice bath. Once cool, squeeze out the parsley and carrot greens and put in a blender. Add the garlic, oil, red wine vinegar, salt and piment d’Espelette and puree until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.

Remove the carrots from the oven, cut into bite-size pieces and transfer to a serving bowl. Spoon some of the Chimichurri Sauce over the carrots and serve the rest alongside. Garnish with small carrot greens and serve family style.

Roasted Mushrooms with Jalapeno Cheddar Drop-Biscuit Gratin photo courtesy of Kristen Penoyer