My favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner is the array of side dishes, and I know I’m not alone, but let’s remember, they are not only for “The Bird.” Try them any time this winter with roast pork loin or a baked ham and you’ll be happy you did. Here is a dressing baked until crisp and crunchy on top. Thin green beans, roasted shallots and fennel are combined in a flavorful, sophisticated side, and creamy mashed sweet potatoes are a sweet and savory partner topped with blue cheese and crunchy candied pecans. Try them and you’ll see.
CLASSIC DRESSING FOR TURKEY (8 to 10 servings)
This is the dressing I grew up with. My mother used dried herbs but it is much, much better with fresh. The dressing, up to the final baking, can be made a day in advance.
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter plus more for the baking dish
1 pound good quality day-old white bread, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 10 cups)
2-1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
1-1/2 cups of 1/4-inch sliced celery
1 seeded and cubed Granny Smith apple
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 large eggs, beaten
Heat oven to 250 degrees. Scatter bread pieces in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet (or use 2 sheets.) Bake, stirring occasionally, until dried out, about 1 hour. Cool and then transfer to a very large bowl. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and celery. Stir often until just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add to bowl with the bread, stir in herbs, salt and pepper. Drizzle in 1-1/4 cups broth and toss gently with a fork or your clean hands. Let cool.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the inside of a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish with extra butter. Whisk remaining broth and the 2 eggs in a small bowl. Add to the bread mixture and fold gently until thoroughly combined. Transfer to the prepared dish, cover with foil and bake about 40 minutes. If making ahead, uncover, let cool, then cover again and refrigerate. Bring back to room temperature before finishing the baking below.
Bake dressing, uncovered, until set, and top is browned and crisp, 45 minutes longer.
GREEN BEANS, ROASTED FENNEL & SHALLOTS
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
4 large fresh fennel bulbs, trimmed
1-1/4 pounds shallots, peeled, halved through root end
8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 pounds small slender green beans, trimmed
Heat oven to 450. Spray 2 rimmed baking sheets. Cut fennel bulbs lengthwise in half. Cut halves lengthwise into 1/2-inch wedges with some core attached to each. Combine fennel and shallots in a large bowl. Add 6 tablespoons olive oil and stir to coat. Arrange fennel and shallots in a single layer on prepared sheet(s). Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and golden, stirring every 10 minutes, about 35 minutes total.
Cook green beans in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain. Rinse with cold water, drain again and pat dry.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add roasted vegetables and green beans. Toss until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
SWEET POTATOES WITH BLUE CHEESE & PECANS
(8 to 10 servings)
3 pounds sweet potatoes (about 6)
1 (8-ounce) package light cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, room temperature
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup mild crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup store-bought candied pecans
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Roast sweet potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet until tender, about 1 hour. Cool slightly.
Remove and discard skins, Transfer sweet potatoes to a large heavy saucepan over low heat. Add cream cheese and butter. Mash until well-blended and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Stir over low heat until hot.
Spoon into a warm serving dish and garnish with cheese and pecans.