The good stuff on the side…

By Cornelia Read


Okay, when it comes to food for Thanksgiving, I think the turkey is the lame part of the meal. What’s good is the stuff on the side–stuffing especially.

I’m at the age (and have been for a while) when this holiday is usually a gathering of a bunch of people and all of us cook, which is way nicer than the days when I was responsible for the whole shebang myself, but also nicer than the days when I was little and had to eat whatever the fuck was put in front of me no matter what.

It’s great fun to just get to concentrate on doing a few side dishes and doing them well. Riffs on the traditional stuff, as it were.

If you’re in the same position for coming up with a couple of things for this meal, here are some groovy things to try your hand at in the coming week.

This was just in the New York Times food section a couple of weeks ago, and I made it for dinner a few days ago:

Roasted Cauliflower and Raisins with Anchovy Vinaigrette

Time: 45 minutes

1 large cauliflower, cored, trimmed and separated into florets 
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sherry or balsamic vinegar, or to taste
4 minced anchovy fillets, with a little of their oil, or to taste
½ cup raisins, preferably golden
½ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put cauliflower in roasting pan, drizzle with 3 tablespoons oil and some salt and pepper; toss. Roast, turning once or twice, for 15 minutes or so, until cauliflower just starts to soften.

2. Meanwhile, make vinaigrette by combining remaining oil with vinegar, anchovies and a little salt and pepper; taste and adjust seasoning. Remove pan, drizzle cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette, and toss. Roast, turning once, until a thin-bladed knife pierces a piece with little resistance, for 15 minutes. (Recipe may be cooled at this point, covered tightly and refrigerated for 2 days.)

2. At last minute, put cauliflower in salad bowl and add raisins, parsley and remaining vinaigrette and toss. Taste and sprinkle with salt, if needed, and lots of pepper, then serve.

Yield: 8 servings.

Here’s some thing newish to do with sweet potatoes, if you’re sick of the whole marshmallow thing: mash them with one chipotle pepper from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, with a nice big spoonful of the adobo mixed in. A little orange juice, maybe, with zest of the orange. Top with some crumbled bacon. Gives them a nice smoky-sweet savor that rounds the whole thing out.

And if you’re sick of same-old same-old turnips, there’s a beautiful recipe for turnips mashed with some rice and cream in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking:



1. Bring the milk to a simmer. Add rice, butter, and garlic

2. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for ten minutes.

3. Stir in turnips. Add more milk if needed to submerge the vegetables.

4. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until turnips are tender.

5. When the liquid is almost absorbed, puree in a food mill or food processor.

6. Reheat before seasoning. Stir in butter or cream and adjust seasonings.

7. Garnish with fresh parsley.


This is a deeply gorgeous way to serve turnips–they come out sweet and creamy and with a beautifully silky texture. They do look an AWFUL lot like mashed potatoes, though, so you might want to stir in some turmeric just to give them a little visual difference.

Also, I’ve become a huge convert to Brussels sprouts over the last couple of years. Because basically when you have anemia, they taste better than cheesecake.

Take some sprouts, cut the ends off, and toss them in a baking pan with a bunch of cloves of garlic, a generous dollop of olive oil, and the juice and zest of at least one lemon. Roast them in a 400-degree oven for about half and hour, tossing around occasionally. They’re good to go when they’re starting to brown on the outer leaves and aren’t too crunchy any more if you stick a fork in them.

Okay, ‘ratis, what’s your favorite thing to cook for Thanksgiving?

23 thoughts on “The good stuff on the side…

  1. Reine

    Cornelia . . . wow! I have to try both those best-sounding veggie recipes I've ever seen! I just off-loaded them to my recipe file. Thank you huge tons! They'll be great with my:

    Calvados Walnut Upside-Down Cake: With Caramel Sauce

    3 to 4 Green Apples (about 1 1/2 lbs)
    1 1/2 Sticks (3/4 C) Butter
    2/3 C. Sugar
    1/2 C. Coarsely Chopped Walnuts
    1/2 Green Apple
    1 1/2 C. All-Purpose Flour
    1 1/2 t. Baking Powder
    3/4 t. Salt
    1/2 t. Cinnamon
    1 Stick (1/2 C.) Butter, Softened
    2/3 C. Sugar
    1 T. Calvados Brandy
    2 T. minced peeled fresh ginger
    2 Large Eggs
    1/2 C. Sour Cream
For Calvados Caramel Sauce:
    1 1/2 C. sugar
    1/2 C. water
    3 T. Calvados Brandy
    2 T. Butter

    Have a great Thanksgiving.


  2. Reine

    Whoops – forgot the instructions!

    Calvadose Walnut Upside-Down Cake Instructions:
    Make topping:
    Peel, core, and quarter apples.
    In cast iron skillet: Melt butter slowly to keep from separating.
    Stir in sugar, combining well.
    Arrange apple quarters decoratively, cut sides up, in skillet and sprinkle walnuts evenly in between apples.
    Cook mixture, undisturbed, 25 to 35 minutes, or until apples are tender in centers and sugar is a golden caramel.
    Preheat oven to 375°F.
Make cake batter while topping is cooking:
    Peel apple and chop fine.
    Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together.
    In separate bowl: Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
    Beat in Calvados brandy and ginger.
    Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
    Beat in sour cream.
    On low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture until just combined.
    Fold chopped apple into batter.
    Remove skillet from heat and spoon batter evenly over topping.
    Spread batter with metal spatula (being careful not to disturb topping), leaving a 1/4-inch border of cooked apples uncovered.
    Put skillet in a shallow baking pan and bake cake in middle of oven 25 to 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out with crumbs adhering and cake is golden brown.
    Cool cake in skillet on a rack 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around edge of skillet and carefully invert cake onto a plate.
    Serve cake warm or at room temperature with caramel sauce.
If you don't have a cast iron skillet you can't make this, and you're probably not from around here.

  3. PD Martin

    Yum! We don't have Thanksgiving here, so the turkey has to wait for Christmas. And we often don't do turkey (one year it was nearly 40C – I think that's about 110F) so it's a bit hot for a roast some years. But we go for loads of seafood. Yum! Have a good Thanksgiving everyone 🙂

  4. Sarah W

    Forty (plus) clove garlic turkey in the big double-sized crockpot, so the oven can be dedicated to sides like my MIL's spinach casserole and the outrageously yummy pearl onions au gratin that one of our several Permanent Thanksgiving Guests assembles in our kitchen each year (we joke that it's her cover charge).

    But I think we'll be adding mashed turnips–without turmeric, just to see what the kids do. Thank you!

  5. Pari Noskin

    Sarah, I love 40-clove chicken! Yum.

    This year, believe it or not, I'm going to bake some sweet potatoes au naturel AND make some with marshmallows (is there a recipe for that) since one of my kids has always craved it and I'm now looking for my own Thanksgiving traditions.

    I also plan to roast some chestnuts and saute them with onion and mushrooms as a side dish.

    Sounds pretty lame, but I'm looking forward to it. And I do love turkey.

  6. Shizuka

    We mix things up every year — The word "traditions" makes me feel a little itchy and trapped — but one constant for the past few years is roasted garlic chicken. It's brined overnight and the juiciness is amazing.

    If we have more people, we just make more chickens. Sides this year include, if we don't change our minds, green beans with shallots and funghi porcini, carmelized brussel sprouts with pancetta, roasted lemon potatoes, and oyster stuffing. And Victorian sponge with cherries instead of the usual pies. Maybe some homemade apricot and walnut truffles.

    Now that I see it all on the screen, it looks like a pretty weird combination of things.

  7. Cornelia Read

    Reine, that cake sounds AMAZING! I once made a great Martha Stewart Calvados Apple Tart for someone's birthday cake, and the combo is a lovely one. Yours sounds even better!!

    Sarah, turkey with 40-plus garlic cloves, YUM!!!

    Pari, I would like to try EVERYTHING you just mentioned!!!!

    Shizuka, that sounds like an amazing vig to charge for Thanksgiving attendance, and can I see you sometime now that I'm actually living in NYC?

    Stepeh, not Wheaties? Thanksgiving of Champions…

    David, since my favorite memories are those of fucking, I suppose that's what the use of profanity with nostalgia adds for me. Chacun a son gutter…

    Alex, YEA GUAC!!

  8. Allison Davis

    You all are making me crazy hungry. Cooking is therapy for me. Last weekend I pickled okra. This week was yellow split pea soup and ham hocks. Here's my Thanksigving favorites.

    Rutabagas were our traditional vegetable. Something to do with my father I am sure. He mashes one large rutabaga with a pound of carrots, purees them and then we would smother it with gravy. It always looked good, too, next to the stuffing and mashed potatotes. We weren't big on sweet potatoes.

    I've done a bit more on the old rutabega thing and make a gratin. First, you get out the mandoline slicer (always puts a little risk into the cooking).

    2-3 medium size rutabagas
    2-33 medium size turnips
    3 cups heavy cream
    3-1/2 Tablespons maple syrup
    1/8 teasp ground cayenne
    pinch ground nutmet
    butter for greasing
    3/4 teap sale
    1/2 teasp pepper
    2-1.2 teaps chopped (fresh I splurg for this) rosemary
    2-1/2 teasp chopped fresh thyme
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    Preheat oven to 400

    Trim the veggies and slice thinly with the mandolin — keep the pretty slices for the top.

    Whisk the cream, maple syrup (this is a key ingredient), cayenne and nutmeg together, slowly bring to a boil over medium heat then turn off.

    Grease a 12-inch (oval is pretty) gratin dish with butter. In a large bowl, toss the veggies with salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme.

    Arrange 1/3 of slices, pour the sauce, sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese, arrange the next layer, ending with the pretty slices on top with cheese. It'll bubble over so don't overfill and you might put foil or a baking sheet underneath. Cover in foil and bake 30 minutes, remove the foil, remove from the oven, with a spatula press down on the veggies to submerge them in cream. RETURN TO OVEN, for another 50 minutes, pressing down twice more during that time to get the veggies submerged.

    Then let it rest about 10 minutes before serving so the liquid is absorbed. It is amazing.

  9. Reine

    Cornelia, I have wonderful memories of fucking, too. Perhaps that's why I always seek the word out in print media. Glorious word – and so . . . onomatopoeic.

    My recipe, I think, started out in BON APPÉTIT or GOURMET. My niece Cathy <3 gave it to me.

  10. Catherine

    I'm also Australian so Thanksgiving is not on the menu here…Hope everyone it applies to has a great time though.

    As someone out of the Thanksgiving loop I have to ask what is whole adding marshmallows to sweet potatoes? Does anyone know how that came about?

    Culturally here sweet potato is mainly a savoury dish. I grew up with it as a roast vegetable to accompany roast potato and pumpkin.

    These days if I'm wanting a side dish or snack I peel and cut them into wedges to fill a couple of trays, parboil them then slow roast with a assistance of a good slosh of olive oil. I roast them till they're crunchy and a little bit caramelised.Probably about an hour, maybe a little more. I sprinkle them with herb salt and cracked pepper. Then I mix a tablespoon of aioli mayonnaise with a couple of tablespoons of natural yoghurt to drizzle lightly as a side dish, or as a dip when eating them as a snack.

    I'm interested to see what orange peel and bacon would do to sweet potato.

    Oh another easy side dish is to top and tail green beans and group them tightly on a tray then roast them (again with a little slosh of olive oil ) and some finely sliced onion. It probably takes only 10 to 15 minutes in an average oven. I serve these with a drizzle of caramelised balsamic vinegar.

  11. Reine

    Hi Allison,

    I love the sound of putting maple syrup into . . . oh what the fuck– anything. i have obviously been wrong in thinking rutabagas are turnips. How do you tell them apart? What is the difference. I could look it up, couldn't I? Well . . . will do.

    Sarah, I have to try making that turkey. Scout won a free turkey, and we love garlic at our house.

  12. Reine

    Truth in posting: I need a lot of help cooking these days, so I try to focus on just one thing, a little like the way Cornelia's family mixes it up. I totally love that. This year I see I will have to do this multiple times over the season, so I can have a chance to try all of these out.

  13. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Cornelia

    No thanksgiving here in the UK, either, but give it a few years and I'm sure the supermarkets will have cottoned on as a way to encourage us to buy more food. Turkey has to wait for Christmas here, too. I'll probably do slow-cooked lamb – a half-shoulder in a crockpot with stock made with soy sauce, ginger, honey, balsamic vinegar and the secret ingredient – Marmite. Leave it for about six hours on low and then put out spoons for the gravy.

    Suddenly I'm hungry again …

  14. Sarah W


    All you do for forty clove turkey is put whatever herbs you want under the skin of the bird or its component parts (we sometimes do a Frankenturkey thing with one or two breasts and multiple legs so each kid — and my Dad — gets one), sprinkle with salt and pepper (if wanted),and sear it in a hot, oiled skillet, if possible (I use my heavy wok if I'm doing a whole turkey at once, but this step can be skipped if browned skin isn't important to you).

    Construct a platform of four or so large stalks of celery in the bottom of the crockpot, arrange the turkey on top, and fill the remaining space and any cavities with onion chunks, baby carrots, and as many unpeeled cloves of garlic as you can stand.

    Cover tightly with foil, clap the lid on, and cook on high for 5-7 hours or low for 8-10, depending on your crock pot and how early in the day you can face dealing with raw turkey.

    Remove the turkey when it's done and let it rest on a platter while you strain all the liquid into a container for gravy tonight and soup tomorrow.

    In our house, we rescue all the cooked garlic cloves we can find and put them in a bowl to spread on my husband's homemade bread, and rinse off as many of the baby carrots as we can for my youngest daughter, who loves "turkey carrots."

  15. Shizuka

    I'm now starving just thinking about all that food.
    I have a party to cook for on Sunday after Thanksgiving and may try the rutabagas.

    Cornelia, I'd love to hang in LES or Brooklyn or whatever other cool New York place with you.
    Drinks at that Chinatown faux-apothecary bar, maybe?

  16. Reine

    Sarah W, thank you for that fantastic bit of instructions. i'll gather the troops for assembly! Thanks for the gravy and soup tip, too.

    Sometimes I layer tons of long onion slices and garlic in a baking pan and put a couple of big chickens or small turkey on top. Then I roast it as usual. The broth makes a very flavorful onion soup, much like the beef variety.

    Catherine, I think marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes are a southern delicacy? Very sweet . . . but not as sweet as when made with yams.

    I love to bake a whole pumpkin. Just cut a lid in the top. Set aside. Clean out the seeds and yuckie stuff. Put maple syrup in the bottom. Cover with the lid. Put on baking sheet. Bake at 325F for an hour?

  17. Reine

    Zoë, I just saw your lamb recipe. Talk about salivating! Marmite is the wonder of all things meat. Amazing stuff. My mum used to make popovers and used marmite with the gravy that — I don't know — any roast I guess. Then she did something with all of that with the popovers. I wasn't paying attention . . . but it was delicious.

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