The Big Book of Sides — Off the Shelf

Add The Big Book of Sides by Rick Rodgers to your cookbook collection and you'll never wonder what you're going to serve with dinner again.

The holiday season is here and it’s time to make room on the shelf for books that will make holiday menu planning easy and fun. Rick Rodgers' The Big Book of Sides is the perfect answer to everything from your most-elaborate holiday meals to your year-round weeknight family dinners.

The book is broken down into sections based on ingredients and preparation method, starting with Getting It to the Table, then covering Eat Your Vegetables, From the Root Cellar, A Hill of Beans and others. It’s a brilliant layout, making it easy for you to select a recipe based on what you’ve already got in the pantry or the refrigerator. The book boasts over 450 recipes, which means you’ll never be left scrambling to come up with a new way to serve potatoes again. It covers everything from classics, like Potato Rolls, from-scratch Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese, and Potato and Fennel Gratin to new favorites, like Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Maple Syrup and Carrot Ribbons with Pomegranate Dressing (recipe below for you to try at home). The Getting It to the Table chapter even includes comprehensive menus for all your special occasions, from Old-Fashioned to New-Fashioned Thanksgivings, to a New Year’s Day Open House, to a Sunday Roast Pork Dinner.

Rodgers was kind enough to share his top-five tips for using sides to build a holiday menu that everyone will love. You can order your copy of The Big Book of Sides here.

1. The traditional Thanksgiving side dishes can be drab. Search for ones that have color and flavor to brighten the plate (like the Roasted Beets with Orange and Balsamic Glaze).

2. Nostalgia is an important “ingredient" in the holiday menu. Don’t stray too far from the expected, especially if your audience is expecting family favorites. Offer two versions of the same dish, such as canned cranberry sauce and an easy fresh, homemade version, such as Cranberry and Dried Pineapple Mostarda. Or make a basic stuffing and embellish half of it with sauteed mushrooms or oysters (or both!).

3. Be careful of offering too many sides that need to be baked, or will you have a traffic jam in your oven. Use your outdoor gas grill as an auxiliary oven, cooking the food with indirect medium (about 350 degrees F) heat, and look for recipes that can be reheated in a microwave. And be sure to include items that are cooked on top of the stove.

4. Buy inexpensive new potholders and kitchen towels to help pass hot casseroles at the table. The battered ones I use for my daily cooking are not fit for company.

5. If making a recipe for the first time, read it through a couple of times to absorb it. Use the mise en place technique (measure out all of the ingredients before cooking) so the final preparation goes smoothly. Photocopy the recipe and tape it at eye level so the entire magazine or book doesn’t take up valuable counter space.

What are your favorite holiday tips and tricks? Tell us in the comments!

Carrot Ribbons with Pomegranate Dressing
Makes 6-8 servings

Serve with sliced roast beef tenderloin, leg of lamb, lamb chops, roast chicken, roast duck, fish fillets, or sauteed shrimp.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Make Ahead: The salad can be refrigerated for up to 8 hours.

This salad of orange curlicues of carrot topped with garnet pomegranate seeds is one of my favorite cold-weather dishes. Inspired by Turkish cuisine, the dressing uses tart pomegranate molasses and paprika-like Aleppo pepper, which can be found at Mediterranean grocers and online. But if you don’t feel like going that route, the suggested substitutes also make a lovely salad without any drop in quality.

1 1/2 pounds large carrots (sometimes called chef ’s carrots), peeled
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (see Note, following)
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup pomegranate arils (seeds)
4 large scallions (white and green parts), chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or cilantro

Place a carrot on a work surface. Using a sturdy vegetable peeler, and pressing hard on the carrot, shave off wide, thick slices and transfer them to a large bowl of iced water. The carrots can stand in the water for up to 1 hour. Drain them well and pat dry with kitchen towels.

Process the vinegar, pomegranate molasses, Aleppo pepper, dry mustard, and oil together in a blender until thickened and emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss the carrots, 1/2 cup of the pomegranate arils, the scallions, and mint together. Add the dressing and toss again. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Transfer the slaw to a serving platter. (The salad can be covered loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 8 hours.) Just before serving, top it with the remaining pomegranate arils. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Note: Substitute 2 tablespoons pomegranate-flavored balsamic vinegar for the sherry vinegar and pomegranate molasses, if desired.

Excerpted from The Big Book of Sides with permission from Penguin Random House. Photography courtesy of © Ben Fink.

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