Thanksgiving Sides

Cooking and serving tips for Thanksgiving side dishes

Think about color, texture, and flavor when planning your Thanksgiving meal. Brighten up your table with ruby-red creanberry relish, vibrant sweet potatoes and a fresh green salad to to avoid the all-beige blahs.

Casseroles of all sorts make it easy to satisfy a crowd and can almost always be made in advance. For dishes with crunchy toppings, add those just before re-heating.

Side dishes are a great way to account for everyone's tastes and dietary restrictions. Include something for both vegetarians and true meat and potato fans alike.

If this is your first Thanksgiving, stick to sides that you know well. Add a few ingredients to make them special for the holidays. For example, toasted almonds on green beans or roasted garlic in mashed potatoes can add a festive flair.

And if guests ask what to bring, suggest another side. You can never have too many.

Salads:

  • Clean your greens the day before. Spin them dry and place in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel.

  • Make your dressing earlier in the day in a glass jar with a lid. Give it a quick shake before dressing your greens — this can be done right before sitting down.

  • For a professional touch, light salt and pepper the greens as you dress them.

  • Salads are a perfect vehicle for little seasonal touches, like dried cranberries, nuts or diced apples.
     

Soups:

  • Most soups can be made the day before and reheated for serving.

  • If you're serving a lot of people, make sure you give your soup adequate time to reheat slowly and evenly.
     

Squash:

  • Roasting the squash brings out the richness and makes the texture denser.

  • It's often easier to work with a roasted squash than the extremely firm raw one.

  • Hard-skinned squash can be stored for weeks at room temperature.

  • And when need be, they can often be pressed into double-duty as an impromptu table decoration.
     

Vegetables:

  • Although Green Bean Casserole is an American classic, try substituting fresh ingredients for a contemporary take.

  • Blanch (drop into boiling water, cook until slightly tender and them immerse in iced water) fresh vegetables the day before. Right before serving, give a quick reheat in boiling water.
     

Potatoes:

  • Don't make mashed potatoes in a food processor — they get gummy.

  • When making mashed potatoes, have all your added ingredients warm or hot.

  • Hold mashed potatoes in the top of a double boiler or in a slow-cooker.
     

Sweet Potatoes:

  • If you like your sweet potatoes really sweet, instead of marshmallows try adding banana, honey or maple syrup.

  • Try a roasted sweet potato with just butter, salt and pepper — you'll be pleasantly surprised.
     

Dinner Rolls:

  • You can shape your bread dough in advance and freeze the rolls on a baking sheet. Thaw them at room temperature and time the actual baking for when your guests arrive — nothing is as welcoming as the smell of baking bread.
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