Side by side: Try something new at the holiday table

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 19, 2019

By Deirdre Parker Smith

Yes, Thanksgiving meals must be on the traditional side.

We don’t want to rock the gravy boat or poo-poo your potatoes.

But, it’s nice, maybe, to try one new dish once in a while. It may become a favorite.

In my husband’s family, children and grandchildren have married and started their own traditions, so Thanksgiving is a little of a blend. Here’s the cranberry crumble from one family, the pumpkin cheesecake from another, but we will still have deviled eggs and macaroni and cheese, no matter what.

It’s good to find some side dishes that aren’t too boring, or too complicated or require oven time that cuts into the rest of the meal.

This recipe is for a stuffing, which is actually a dressing, because it cooks outside the bird. So, think of it as a side dish. It doesn’t have too many calories, and is low in sodium, fat and carbs, so families who are on various diets might find it a good compromise.

Cranberry Pecan Wild Rice Stuffing

2 cups wild rice and long grain blend

2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup orange juice

1 Tbsp. orange zest

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper, or more to taste

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, combine the rice blend, broth, orange juice, orange zest, cinnamon, salt and pepper.

Cover tightly with foil and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 1 hour or until liquid is absorbed and rice is fluffy and tender.

Carefully stir in pecans and cranberries in the last 10 minutes of cooking and return to oven.

Remove from oven, let stand 8-10 minutes before fluffing with a fork and serving.

Onion Rings and Things

This may be the dish that gives Brussels sprouts a thumbs-up. Combine them with rich sweet potatoes and toss with just a little red wine vinegar or balsamic to blend and wake up the flavors.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

1 pound Brussels spouts, trimmed

1 large sweet potato (1 pound)

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tsp. cumin

1/4-1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 Tbsp. red wine or balsamic vinegar

Fresh thyme, to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Trim Brussels sprouts by trimming the stem and removing any yellow leaves. Cut large ones in half. Add to a large bowl.

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces. Add to bowl.

Smash 2 cloves of garlic and add to bowl.

Pour the olive oil over the vegetables. Add cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat.

Line a large sheet pan with foil for easier cleanup. Drizzle a little olive oil onto the pan and spread it with your hand. Pour the veggies onto the pan.

Roast at 400 for 30-40 minutes, until veggies are brown and a fork slides into them easily.

Place the veggies in a serving bowl and toss with the vinegar. Garnish with fresh thyme and serve hot. Could also sprinkle a little parmesan cheese over the top.

The Food Charlatan

Dare we offer an alternative to the mushy green beans with the heavy cream soup and fried onion? Yeah, we dare. This one is faster, and cooks on the stovetop, saving premium oven space. For traditionalists, go ahead with the old-fashioned casserole. This is a lighter take with more green bean flavor.

Stovetop Steam-Fried Green Beans and Mushrooms

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. butter

3 large shallots sliced thinly

8 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, sliced thinly

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/4 pounds green beans, stem ends trimmed

1/4 cup chicken, turkey or vegetable broth

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat, swirling it around to coat the pan. When the butter is fully melted and has stopped foaming, add the shallots, mushrooms and salt. Sauté until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the green beans and stir to evenly distribute the shallots and mushrooms. Pour the broth over the vegetables and cover the pan. Let cook, covered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, for another 5 minutes.

Serve the beans in a shallow bowl, pouring the mushrooms and shallots over the top.

You can keep the beans warm in a slow cooker or covered dish for one hour.

the kitchn

This slaw will hold up well if you make the dressing earlier to toss on the cabbage mix. Some reviewers have said they add sliced kale to the cabbage. You can also switch the almonds for walnuts or pistachios or even sunflower seeds, whatever you like.

Thanksgiving Slaw

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. maple syrup

4 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 medium red onion, chopped fine

1 small head green (or red) cabbage, about 1 1/2 pounds, shredded

3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

3/4 cup dried cranberries

3/4 cup flat leaf Italian parsley, coarsely chopped

Kosher salt

Finely ground black pepper

Make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, oil, maple syrup, Dijon mustard and salt together in a large bowl. Add the red onion and stir to combine. Let sit at least 10 minutes for flavors to blend.

Meanwhile, cut the cabbage into eight wedges, then remove the core from each piece. Thinly slice the cabbage crosswise to shred.

Add the shredded cabbage, almonds, cranberries and parsley to the dressing and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

This can sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours without wilting.

the kitchn

Yes, there are a lot of cranberries in these recipes, but this is the time of year when you can get fresh cranberries. The tart sweetness of the berry is a complement to the heavy gravy, stuffing, potatoes and the rest of it.

I love cranberries so much, I buy extra bags during the holidays and freeze to use later. We have a go-to cranberry relish we make, but this sauce sounds delicious, and may end up on a table at some point between now and Valentine’s Day!

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

12-ounce bag cranberries, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup honey

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

2-3-inch cinnamon stick

4 green cardamom pods or 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. dried cardamom

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Zest from 1 orange, about 1 Tbsp.

2 Tbsp. finely chopped candied ginger

1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, optional

Bring the cranberries, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon stick, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves and 1/2 to 3/4 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover and allow to simmer on medium-low for 10-12 minutes, or until cranberries are bursting and the mixture thickens.

Add the orange zest, chopped candied ginger and Grand Marnier and stir to combine. Simmer another minute or 2. Do not overcook; some cranberries can be whole. Sauce will continue thickening once removed from heat, as well.

Remove cardamom pods and cinnamon stick and serve warm, at room temperature or cool. If making ahead, allow the sauce to come to room temperature before serving for best flavor.