The first mistake you can make on Thanksgiving is thinking it's all about the bird.
A turkey is only as good as the sides it's served with.
Don't worry: even if you totally neglected those sides until this very moment, it's a salvageable situation.
Because we linked up with Abra Berens — executive chef at Chicago grocer extraordinaire Local Foods — for three dead simple Thanksgiving side recipes even the procrastinators among you can pull off.
As easy as these dishes are to make, do not let that fool you. What you have below are the makings of a delicious spread that depends on flipping classic flavors on their heads, with the belief that oftentimes, simplicity is the best cooking policy.
Green Bean Casserole
"The image of a casserole often conjures up memories of over-cooked vegetables in gloppy cream of mushroom soup. I like to play with those ideas and turn them into something light and delicious while keeping the old adage in place. Here, the mushroomy mayo replaces the gelatinous can of "soup" and the crispy blanched green beans are a delight to bite through. As Midwesterners, I think it is time to reclaim the casserole!" —AB
2 lbs green beans
8-12 oz crimini mushrooms (depending on how mushroomy you like it)
¾ C mayonnaise
½ tsp smokey paprika
1 lemon, zest and juice
½ C breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic
¼ C olive oil
1. Brush the mushrooms clean and slice thinly and toss with a glug of oil and sprinkle of salt and pepper. Pan roast mushrooms until cooked through and slightly crispy. Set aside.
2. Snap the stem ends from the green beans, wash and allow to dry thoroughly.
3. When mushrooms are cool, combine with the mayonnaise, paprika, lemon zest and juice. Add salt to taste.
4. Mince the garlic cloves and cook in the olive oil until tender but not brown. Add the breadcrumbs and toast in oil.
5. In a separate pan heat a glug of oil. Add the green beans with a pinch of salt and cook until bright green
6. Remove from the heat. Top with mushroom mayo and breadcrumbs and serve.
Bacon Maple Sweet Potatoes
"There is nothing more heavenly than the combination of salt, sweet and spice. These sweet potatoes are a marked improvement from a bland mashed topped with marshmallows. Here the potatoes are roasted (which can be done in advance) until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside and compliment the salt of the bacon, the sweet of the maple and the spice of the mustard. If you wanted to top it with marshmallows you wouldn't be wrong, but I encourage you to place them under the broiler to char and add a layer of burnt bitterness to their sweet interior." —AB
3 large sweet potatoes
8 oz bacon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 C maple syrup
1 T dijon mustard
1 T olive oil
1. Heat oven to 400 F.
2. Cut the potatoes in large chunks. Cut the bacon into 1/4” thick pieces
3. In a frying pan, heat the bacon until fat is rendered but bacon not yet crispy.
4. Toss the potatoes with the bacon and fat and salt and pepper and transfer to a sheet tray and bake until potatoes are tender and bacon is crispy.
6. Whisk together the maple syrup, mustard and olive oil
7. When potatoes are done, remove from oven and dress with the maple syrup mixture and serve.
Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
"Many classic Thanksgiving dishes are cooked to tender and woefully lack in fresh rawness to contrast. This Brussels Sprout salad has become a classic on my family's table because after years of brow-beating, my loved ones now enjoy vegetables as much as stuffing (or so they tell me). It also is a kitchen pleaser because it can be prepared hours and days in advance. The Brussels won't wilt if shaved on Tuesday or Wednesday and because they are raw they don't take precious oven or burner space away from the bird or the gravy." —AB
2 lbs brussels sprouts
1 bunch parsley, chopped
8 oz salty hard cheese (parmesan, pecorino, vento)
1 C hazelnuts
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 T sherry vinegar (substitute red wine or apple cider)
1/2 C olive oil
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1. With a sharp knife or mandolin, shave the brussels sprouts into thin ribbons
2. Toast the hazelnuts until golden and fragrant. After, gently rub off some of the skins and crush the hazelnuts with the back of a frying pan.
3. Combine the lemon juice, zest, vinegar and olive oil to make vinaigrette seasoning.
4. Dress the brussels sprouts and parsley with the vinaigrette seasoning with salt and the black pepper
5. Cut thick shavings of the cheese.
6. Place a layer of the brussels sprouts on a serving platter, sprinkle with hazelnuts and a handful of the cheese. Continue to layer until all sprouts are gone finishing with the hazelnuts and cheese. Enjoy!
Nota bene: Turkey Day leftovers? Check out chef Beren's recipe for Turkey and Dumplings right here.