When the heart-small Grinch finally came around to the Who-way of thinking, he took knife in hand and carved the roast beast himself. Such a mensch he turned out to be. • Dr. Seuss' beloved transformation of a simply awful guy makes much of the big roast, which in the book rests on a black and white platter surrounded by vague veggies. The roast may be plenty big to feed Cindy Lou Who and all of Whoville, but we think bright sides are in order. • What's a plate-sized slice of beast without some starch or a creamy vegetable dish to go with it?
With the help of recent cookbooks and magazines and the Internet, we found a quintet of recipes that will be just as at home with cured ham as they are with beef, pork or turkey. Perhaps even a Christmas goose or leg of lamb.
We know oven space is at a premium for big holiday meals. To cope with that, two of the recipes — Red Cabbage With Bacon and Apples and Potato Chive Pancakes — are cooked on the stove. The red cabbage pairs perfectly with roast pork, but it's tasty alongside nearly anything. The potato pancake is just an overgrown latke served in wedges. When the crispy potato cake meets juicy meat on your dinner plate, well, that's a Merry Christmas for sure.
The other three dishes require oven time but can be prepared to a certain point and then finished (or heated) while the beast is resting.
(Always let the roast sit out of the oven for at least 15 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to settle into the meat; cut the meat right away and the juices will run out, contributing to dry meat. Tent loosely with foil to keep warm.)
Our favorite of the five is Elegant Vegetable Casserole from Healthy Cooking, a special holiday edition of Taste of Home magazine. It may be more aptly named Striped Vegetable Casserole because parsnip-potato mash, butternut squash mash and a spinach souffle are nestled side-by-side in a casserole dish, then baked.
Your guests can dig into whichever section suits their fancy. And here's a bonus: Make it quicker with the help of prepared foods. Substitute store-bought mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes for the parsnip and squash mashes respectively. Then take the time to make the spinach portion yourself, which is already easy thanks to frozen spinach.
Ina Garten's Cauliflower Gratin is a dish that will make detractors of the cruciferous vegetable change their minds. A creamy white sauce cradling the florets goes gooey with Swiss cheese and a tad nutty with Parmesan. A good offering for a potluck or a buffet table brightened with flickering candles.
The simplest of all is Oven Roasted Grape Tomatoes With Fresh Chives. Only 15 minutes in a hot oven and the little ruby morsels implode, their sweetness intensified by the heat. The recipe calls for chives — 1/4 cup — but you can use a combination of other fresh herbs. (Even dried if you'd like but reduce the amount to about 1 tablespoon.) Parsley mellows stronger herbs. Pair it with sage for turkey, thyme for pork, rosemary for lamb, and almost anything (oregano or basil) with beef. This is a dish that reheats well for leftovers. It can be dumped over pasta and drizzled with olive oil for a take-along work lunch.
Even the Grinch would agree. These side dishes are perfectly suited for roast beast.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8586.
Potato Chive Pancake
1 bag (16 ounces) frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives or scallions
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 tablespoon (or more) olive oil
Place potatoes between paper towels; press to remove excess moisture. Transfer potatoes and chives to a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.
In a medium nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium. Add potato mixture; press with a heatproof spatula to flatten and form into one even pancake. Cook till underside is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Slide pancake onto a plate; invert onto second plate. Slide pancake (browned side up) back into skillet. Continue to cook until underside is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes more. Slice into wedges before serving.
Serves 6 as side dish.
Elegant Vegetable Casserole
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 4 medium)
4 medium parsnips, peeled and cubed
1 (8-ounce) carton reduced-fat sour cream
3 tablespoons nonfat milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 3 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon nonfat milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and sqeezed dry
1 1/2 cups shredded low-fat Swiss cheese
3/4 cup soft bread crumbs
1 small onion, grated
Place potatoes and parsnips in a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes
or until tender. Drain. Mash with sour cream, milk and salt. Set aside.
Place squash in another large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. Drain, mash with salt and nutmeg and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, millk, and salt. Stir in the spinach, cheese, bread crumbs and onion. Place half of the parsnip potatoes at one end of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Add squash to dish forming a stripe next to the parsnip potatoes. Repeat with spinach. Place remaining parsnip potatoes at the opposite end of the dish. (Dish will be full.)
Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the middle reads 160 degrees.
Source: Taste of Home's Healthy Cooking magazine
1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.
Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.
Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8- by 11- by 2-inch baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Serves 4 to 6.
Source: Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten.
Red Cabbage With Bacon and Apples
4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large head red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 apples, halved, cored and sliced
3/4 cup red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the bacon until lightly browned, but not crispy, about 4 minutes.
Add the cabbage, onion and apples. Stir well to coat with bacon drippings. Cover and cook until the vegetables and apples are limp, about 15 minutes. Add the vinegar, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Stir well, then season with salt and pepper.
Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for another 20 minutes. The dish now can be served, or held at this stage for an hour or more. If holding, add several additional tablespoons of vinegar or water to keep it moist.
Serves 8 to 10.
Source: Associated Press
Oven-Roasted Grape Tomatoes With Chives
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh chives
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a baking sheet with a rim, toss tomatoes, oil, and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until tomatoes are browned on the bottom and begin to collapse, about 15 minutes. Toss with chives.
Serves 4 to 6.
Source: Everyday Food