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3 ideas for alternative Thanksgiving sides

This is the year to shake it up.
Bring Brussels sprouts to the table this Thanksgiving.
Bring Brussels sprouts to the table this Thanksgiving. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Nov. 18, 2020

You know you’re going to make mashed potatoes. And stuffing. And probably some sort of green bean casserole.

But this nontraditional Thanksgiving is the time to experiment, and sides are a great vessel for such creativity. Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to try, but none of your extended family likes. Or something that just doesn’t scale nicely for 10-plus people but will work for this year’s small gathering. Use this weird year as an opportunity to branch out a little.

Here are three ideas for sides to try if you’re looking for something different.

Brussels Slaw With Hazelnuts

I love having something crunchy and green on the table amid all the (wonderful, delicious) starches, and Brussels sprouts make for a nice hearty slaw or salad. The added hazelnut crunch is what makes this worthy of a spot on your Thanksgiving table. You could also use pecans if that’s all you have or can find at the store.

For the sprouts:

1 pound Brussels sprouts, shredded (about 6 cups)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the hazelnut crunch:

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup packed fresh rosemary leaves

2 tablespoons julienned lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh juice (from 1 to 2 lemons)

1 cup hazelnuts (5 ounces), coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons sugar

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Make the sprouts: Toss together sprouts, juice and oil and season with salt and pepper.

Make the hazelnut crunch: Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high. Add rosemary and lemon zest and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add hazelnuts and cook, stirring frequently, until nuts are golden brown and rosemary and lemon zest are crisp, 1 to 2 minutes more.

Add sugar and lemon juice and continue cooking, stirring, until liquid darkens and nuts begin to caramelize, just a few seconds. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Break apart into smaller pieces as desired. Crunch can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days.

Add sprouts to a serving dish and sprinkle with ¾ to 1 cup crunch just before serving.

Source: Adapted from

Cauliflower Gratin

Sick of the same old veggies on Thanksgiving? Give cauliflower the gratin treatment and it’ll fit right in with the rest of the meal.

1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets

Kosher salt

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, divided

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups hot milk

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg

¾ cup freshly grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese, divided

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan

¼ cup 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, ½ cup of the Swiss or Gruyere and the Parmesan.

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Pour ⅓ of the sauce into 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 ¼ 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.

Source: Food Network

Sweet Potato and Pepper Hash

If you’re not into a bread stuffing, this could almost (I said “almost”) take its place. The sausage and slightly spicy peppers make this a savory addition to the side offerings.

2 large sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

½ pound pork or chicken sausage

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 poblano pepper, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 jalapeno, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium pot of boiling, salted water, cook the sweet potatoes until almost tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned and crumbly, about 10 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the poblano, onion, jalapeno and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage, cumin and sweet potatoes and cook for 5 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Source: Adapted from Rachael Ray