Hollieats: Super sides for Thanksgiving

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Photo by Askar Abayev/Pexels

I love the food served at holidays this time of the year, whether it be at Thanksgiving or later in the season. There’s a comforting nostalgia in the classic American desserts and dishes, as well as the cultural ones my family and other people’s families celebrate with. Last year, I touched upon a few of my favorite festive foods, but I would be remiss to not discuss my favorite part of Thanksgiving: the sides. I love the classics like mashed potatoes, stuffing, mac and cheese or some sort of roasted vegetable (squash, carrots or even Brussels sprouts will do). I’m sure some people have their tried-and-true recipes for these sides, but have you ever considered spicing up your Thanksgiving spread? (Not literally, although I wouldn’t be against it.) I just mean consider doing variations of these traditional sides, like some other potato dish or a less conventional stuffing recipe. Here are two I think you could try making this Thanksgiving! Although they may take a bit more work than your usual reliable recipes, it would be fun to make with family and friends. 

Creamy potatoes au gratin (from Ahead of Thyme) 

Ingredients 

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced 
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter 
  • ½ medium onion, diced finely 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 1.5 cups whole milk 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste 
  • 1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded 
  • ¼ cup Grana Padano or parmesan cheese, shredded 
  • Fresh green onions, chopped (optional, for garnish) 

Instructions 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 9 by 9 inch baking dish. Layer potatoes in the baking dish. 
  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook until soft and translucent (about three minutes). 
  1. Whisk in flour and continue to whisk until browned (about 30 seconds to one minute). Gradually whisk in milk, and add salt and pepper. Continuously whisk until mixture has thickened, about two to three minutes. 
  1. Turn heat down to low and add cheeses. Stir continuously until melted (about 30 seconds). 
  1. Pour cheese sauce on top of the potatoes, and cover with aluminum foil. 
  1. Place into oven and bake for one hour. Uncover and continue to bake for 20-30 minutes, or until lightly browned, potatoes are tender and mixture has thickened. 
  1. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper and green onions. Serve immediately and enjoy! 

Pecan sausage croissant stuffing (from No Spoon Necessary) 

Ingredients 

  • 6 croissants, split in half lengthwise 
  • 1 pound pork sausage, crumbled 
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 2 yellow onions, diced 
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped 
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped 
  • 1.25 cups pecans, chopped 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped 
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped 
  • 1.5 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped 
  • ½ cup white wine 
  • 1.25 cup chicken stock 
  • 2 large eggs, beaten 
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper 

Instructions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 2.5 quart (or 8 by 11 inch) baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside. 
  1. Toast Croissants: Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy clean-up. Place croissant halves (cut side down) on prepared baking sheets and bake until slightly crisp, about four to six minutes. Remove from oven, set aside and let cool. Once cooled, roughly cut or tear croissants and place in a large mixing bowl. Set aside. 
  1. Cook the Sausage:  Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the sausage.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Cook until browned (about six to eight minutes), breaking up into crumbles as you cook. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate, and allow to drain and slightly cool. Transfer to the mixing bowl with the croissants pieces. 
  1. Caramelize the Onions: Remove all but one tablespoon sausage fat from the skillet, if necessary, and add butter. Once the butter is melted, add the onions, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium low heat until onions are soft and caramelized (about 20 minutes). 
  1. Add in the celery and cook for an additional five minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until aromatic (about one minute). Add in the wine and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Cook until liquid is almost completely absorbed (about three  minutes). Stir in the sage, thyme and rosemary. Cook for one to two minutes. Remove from heat. 
  1. Mix & Assemble: Transfer the onion mixture to the mixing bowl with sausage and croissants. Add the stock, eggs, pecans, ¼ tsp salt and ⅛ tsp pepper. Stir gently until combined. Transfer stuffing to prepared baking dish. 
  1. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until heated throughout. 
  • If the top of the stuffing browns before the stuffing is cooked through, gently tent the dish with foil while baking. 
  1. Serve: Let the stuffing sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy! 

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