We all know that turkey is great and all, but the real stars of Thanksgiving are the side dishes. It’s also one of the only times of year that mashed potatoes, stuffing, and mac and cheese are part of a legit food group, so you have to partake. These are 4 unique Thanksgiving side dish recipes that mix it up a bit for your Thanksgiving meal.
The Recipe: Fennel Potatoes
We know that the mashed potatoes are a staple of Thanksgiving dinner. However, sometimes you eat more potatoes than you need to because you’re just not satiated with bland spuds. Of course, if you make our mashed potato recipe that’s not the case, especially if you top them with white truffle. However, if you’re looking for unique Thanksgiving side dish recipes, potatoes, and fennel fits the bill. The fennel creates a nuanced but distinct uniqueness to the spuds, and then when you add that butter on top, it’s heaven. This unique Thanksgiving side dish recipe just may show up throughout the year.
5 lb bag of potatoes, approximately 10-12 potatoes
2 sticks of Organic salted butter
2 bulbs Fennel
Sea salt for boiling
Let the butter sit out on the countertop until softened, at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Peel the potatoes and place them in a Dutch oven or pot of cold very salted water. The water should cover the potatoes. Bring the potatoes to a boil then reduce heat to medium. By simmering your potatoes you’ll get a fluffier consistency in the dish. Cook for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. If you cook the potatoes with enough salt, you won’t have to add any additional salt to the potatoes when this unique Thanksgiving side dish recipe is done.
While the potatoes are boiling, prep the fennel. Cut the base of the fennel off, then cut the bulb in half. Slice each half of the fennel thinly or use a vegetable peeler. The fennel should almost be translucent ribbons optimally so they will almost melt into the potatoes. However, even if you just slice them thin you’ll still get a good result. Save some of the green fronds of the fennel for garnish later.
Once the potatoes are cooked, set aside about 3/4 cup of water and then drain the potatoes well. Coat the Dutch oven bottom with a generous layer of olive oil. Place the potatoes and reserved water back into the pot and mix in the fennel. Add more olive oil if needed and sauté for about 4-5 minutes. Cover the potatoes and fennel and reduce heat to medium-low to low. Add in one of the sticks of butter and with a fork, roughly break apart the potatoes. Continue to cook for another 10-12 minutes, until the fennel almost melts into the potatoes. Lastly, add the second stick of butter. Serve as soon as possible. This is not a recipe to make the day before, as potatoes are best freshly cooked. Garnish with some of the green fennel fronds.
The Recipe: Syrian Spinach
This unique Thanksgiving side dish recipe is something I picked up when I was in Damascus this past summer. My most memorable meal was my first meal in Syria at restaurant Naranj. In Syrian style, the table was full of some of the most delicious Middle Eastern food I’ve ever had in my life.
I grew up with a Lebanese family, so quite familiar with the cuisine. I’m fascinated by the subtle differences between the Lebanese and Syrian cuisine. It’s in everything from the falafel to the baba ghanoush, to the baklavas. For example, the Syrian falafel is super light and is shaped like a donut. Their baba is less of a thick purée and more of a simple mashed. Where the Lebanese will sometimes add whole pomegranate to finish the baba, the Syrians add a drizzle of pomegranate glaze.
As for the baklavas – well I definitely can’t weigh in as no one made better than my adopted Lebanese mom Frieda. She was the base for my full knowledge of the best Middle Eastern food in the world along with the best hospitality. The Syrian baklavas though is a close second.
This Syrian Spinach is inspired by the dish I had at Naranj. You’re guaranteed to have the most unique Thanksgiving side dish recipe with this dish on the table.
3 16-ounce packs of Baby spinach, pre-washed
1 1//2 large Onions
Fleur de Sel
Fried onions for garnish
Toasted walnuts for garnish
Meyer lemon wedges for garnish
The key to this unique Thanksgiving side dish recipe is caramelizing the onion. The sweetness of the onion mellows out the spinach, and may even be enticing enough for kids who don’t like veggies.
First, slice the onions thin. In a heavy pot like a Dutch oven, add olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the onions and stir constantly for about 3-4 minutes. Reduce the flame to medium, and continue to occasionally stir the onions so that they don’t brown. At about the 8-9 minute mark, reduce the heat further to medium-low. Continue to cook over the low flame, stirring occasionally as the onions slowly caramelize for about 15 minutes more.
Once the onions are caramelized, start to stir in the spinach in batches until wilted. Continue to add the spinach until all three containers are mixed in well with the caramelized onions. Cover the spinach and cook for about 5 more minutes. Top with the fried onions and walnuts and serve either hot or at room temperature.
The Recipe: Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios, Pomegranate and Mint
For the record, I loved Brussels sprouts back in 2001, way before they became the trendy vegetable. I used to always eat them roasted though, with the simple preparation of olive oil and salt. However, about 8 years ago, I had shaved Brussels sprouts salad, and that was a game changer. Similar to how chopped salads taste different, the flavors sing when you add mint, pomegranate, and pistachio to shaved Brussels.
2 lbs Brussels sprouts
Fleur du Sel
1 cup Pomegranate
1 cup Shelled pistachios
1/2 cup Chopped Mint
In your food processor, grate the Brussels sprouts and set aside until you’re ready to cook. Next, in a sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium flame, then add in the pistachios. Toast the pistachios for about 3-4 minutes, making sure that they don’t burn. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of Fleur du Sel.
Separately, in a large sauté pan, heat olive oil on medium-high flame. Add in the shaved Brussels sprouts and brown for about 6-7 minutes. Sprinkle in about 1/2 tablespoon of Fleur du Sel. When the Brussels sprouts are golden brown, add in the dried cherries and pistachios. Continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat.
In your blender, combine the juice of a Meyer lemon and a cup of extra virgin olive oil with 1/2 cup parmesan or feta cheese, and a dash of Fleur du sel. Set aside.
Stir in chopped mint. Pour the dressing mixture over the dish and gently toss. Garnish with a few whole mint leaves. You can serve the Brussels sprouts hot or at room temperature.
The Recipe: Popovers with Gruyere & Chives
Bonus: Whipped Chive Butter
I’ve been obsessed with popovers since I was a kid. I have fond memories of when my Dad would take me to Neiman Marcus in Oak Brook, Illinois to eat at the Zodiac Cafe. They would bring out the piping hot popovers with the strawberry butter, and I was in heaven. So it’s only appropriate for Thanksgiving, which is centered around family, that as a unique Thanksgiving side dish recipe, we have the popover.
I’ve said this before, but the key to a successful popover is using a special popover pan. Otherwise, you won’t get the same puffed-up effect and the dense egg yet airy fluffiness inside. There are a few reasons for this. First, the popover pan is deep enough to achieve the right height. Second, it also has the right coating so the popover won’t stick. Third, because there is air between each popover in the special pan, it allows for that steam to come out and the popover to puff up. Neiman Marcus used to sell the perfect pan, but they haven’t restocked in a while. So you can check out Williams Sonoma, as they have the next best option.
Makes 12 popovers
3 cups flour
3 cups room temperature whole milk,
6 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons sea salt
Cooking spray or 2 tablespoons melted butter to brush the popover pan
Microplaned Gruyere cheese
Place the eggs, butter, and whole milk out on the counter for about an hour before you cook the popovers.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
In a large bowl, beat the eggs and the whole milk. Drop in the flour, one cup at a time, until all the lumps are gone and the batter is smooth. Add in the melted butter and the sea salt, along with the chives.
Pour your batter into the greased popover pan and place in the oven. Don’t even think about opening the oven; I know you’ll be tempted. Bake for 25 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 10-15 minutes. The popovers will be nice and golden brown.
While your popovers are baking, break out your stand mixer. Take two sticks of room-temperature salted butter. Whip on the highest setting for about 2 minutes. Fold in snipped chives and add sea salt to taste. Set aside.
Serve hot, right out of the oven, with whipped chive butter.