Metro-East Living

Friendsgiving deserves special side dishes for the unique celebration

Caramelized Butternut with Sherry, Maple and Blue Cheese
Caramelized Butternut with Sherry, Maple and Blue Cheese

Holding a Friendsgiving this year? It’s become a popular pre-holiday event.

The moved-up Thanksgiving can be held for a variety of reasons, from work schedules that mean you’ll miss the day itself or gathering people you know you won’t see on Nov. 24, to seeking companionship with co-workers and friends over a meal when families are too far away to visit.

Heck, you can even throw one as a rehearsal for Thanksgiving to make sure you get it right. Who wouldn’t want to eat turkey and dressing twice in the same month?

Well, whether you’re planning a Friendsgiving for this weekend or getting ready for the Thanksgiving feast itself, you know it cannot be done alone. We all need help, and extra oven space. And refrigerator space. Maybe some counter space, too.

Most people I know who “do” Thanksgiving dinner willingly ask for help: Everybody brings a dish. Organized cooks assign side dishes while they provide the major main dish: turkey and dressing.

So that leaves many of us with the smaller, but still important, task of creating a memorable side dish.

And while I believe in tradition and edible family requirements, there’s still room for something new to compliment the big bird.

Here are a handful of recipes that will produce side dishes that will leave your friends and family asking for more: flavorful, colorful and a bit different from the usual Thanksgiving Day fare.

About those mashed potatoes ...

Light or delicate. Mashed potatoes require potatoes that you typically bake, like russets. They have a high starch content and low sugar, so these kinds of potatoes whip up nice and fluffy.

Hot, hot, hot. Mash the potatoes while they’re still hot for the lightest texture. If you’re looking for fluffier texture, run the potatoes through a ricer or use a potato masher.

Avoid the mixer. An electric mixer will overwork potatoes and make them a bit gummy.

Put down the knife. Don’t cut the potatoes before you boil them; cook them whole. Cut potatoes are more likely to soak up water as they cook, and nobody wants soggy mashed potatoes.

Lemony Green Beans With Almond Breadcrumbs

1/2 cup blanched and slivered almonds

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Flaky sea salt


1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed

Lightly toast almonds in a skillet over medium heat. Let cool, then transfer to a food processor and grind to the consistency of breadcrumbs.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add almonds, breadcrumbs, garlic, and lemon zest and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and golden. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Set aside.

Place lemon juice in a small bowl and slowly whisk in the remaining olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain green beans, return to the pot, and toss with the lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette.

To serve, arrange green beans on a platter, drizzling with vinaigrette left at the bottom of the pot. Sprinkle almond and breadcrumb mixture on top.

Yield: 6 servings.

Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion Gratin

2 tablespoons butter

3 medium onions, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

3 cups heavy whipping cream

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 sprigs fresh sage

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch slices

2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

In 12-inch skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add onions and salt; cook 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are dark golden brown. Add balsamic vinegar; cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or until onions are dark brown.

In a 5-quart Dutch oven, add whipping cream, thyme, sage, garlic and pepper. Heat to boiling over medium heat. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Remove thyme, sage and garlic. Return heat to medium; add sweet potatoes and Yukon Gold potatoes. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until potatoes are hot.

Spread one-third of the onions in baking dish. Layer half of the potato mixture, another one-third of the onions and 1/3 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Repeat with remaining potato mixture and onions.

Drizzle any remaining cream over onions, and sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese over top. Cover with foil; bake 15 minutes. Remove foil; bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender, browned and bubbly. Remove from oven; let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Tips: Make sure to get the red-skinned, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes for this dish. They tend to be a bit sweeter and contrast nicely with the Yukon Golds.

Also, resist the urge to use half-and-half or milk in place of the heavy whipping cream, as it tends to break and result in a sauce with a curdled appearance.

Yield: 10 servings.

Caramelized Butternut with Sherry, Maple and Blue Cheese

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons each: dry sherry, pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 medium butternut squash (3 1/2 pounds total, halved, seeded, peeled)

4 ounces (1/2 cup) blue cheese or feta cheese crumbles

1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves, plus rosemary sprigs for garnish

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, optional

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Position the oven rack in the top third of the oven.

Mix oil, sherry, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Cut the butternut into 1-inch pieces. Put onto 1 large or 2 small rimmed baking sheet(s). Toss butternut with oil mixture to coat it nicely.

Roast butternut on the top rack of the oven, stirring several times, until fork tender, about 25 minutes. Cool. Refrigerate covered up to 4 days.

To reheat, turn broiler on. Place squash on a baking sheet. Broil 6 inches from heat source, until squash has golden edges, usually 2 to 4 minutes. Put squash into a deep serving bowl. Stir in cheese and chopped rosemary. Toss to mix. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, if desired. Serve garnished with rosemary sprigs.

Tip: 8 cups of cut-up butternut squash yields 2.4 pounds. Or, use precut squash.

Yield: 8 servings.

Chicago Tribune

Roasted Garlic Smashed Potatoes


1 head garlic

Olive oil

Salt and pepper


2 pounds potatoes

Coarse sea salt

6 tablespoons softened butter

1 head roasted garlic

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, more if desired

2/3 cup sour cream, more if desired

Freshly ground black pepper

Roasted garlic

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut the top of the pointy tip off the garlic (no peeling necessary), just enough to expose the tips of the cloves.

Place the garlic on a small sheet of foil and drizzle a little olive oil over the cut end of the garlic head, then sprinkle a pinch each of salt and pepper. Seal the garlic head in the foil.

Place the garlic in the center of the oven (place the foil directly on the rack; you don’t need to put it on a baking sheet) and roast the garlic until the cloves have softened and the garlic is aromatic, 45 minutes to an hour (the garlic can be roasted while you cook the potatoes). Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Smashed potatoes

Place the potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover by 1 inch and add 1 1/2 tablespoons salt. Cover and bring to a boil, cooking until the potatoes are soft and a knife easily pierces the potatoes, 30 to 50 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. Drain the water out of the pot.

Add the butter to the pot, and squeeze the soft roasted garlic cloves out of their skins into the pot. Use a potato masher to coarsely smash the potatoes and garlic together. Pour over the heavy cream and sour cream and continue to mash to combine (for a coarser texture, stir in the heavy and sour creams with a spatula or wooden spoon). Season the potatoes with 3/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper.

Taste the potatoes, adding additional heavy or sour cream if desired, and adjusting the seasoning if needed. Serve immediately.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Los Angeles Times

Grilled Cabbage Salad with Apples, Raisins and Warm Bacon Dressing

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 red cabbage

1/2 green cabbage

1/2 cup olive oil

1 medium tart apple, like Granny Smith

3 slices bacon, chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place raisins and vinegar in small bowl. Let soak while you prepare the cabbage.

Cut cabbage halves in thirds, leaving each portion with a part of the core so it will stay together.

Preheat gas grill and oil grill grates or light charcoal (the charcoal is ready when the coals are glowing red and coated with light gray ash). Spread out coals and oil grill grates. Grill cabbage; once cabbage has grill marks on one side, turn it. The cabbage is done when it has grill marks on all sides and has softened, about 12-15 minutes.

Remove the cabbage from grill and place on a cutting board. Remove core, slice cabbage and place in a large bowl. Set aside.

Peel, core and slice apple. Place apple slices in cold water so they don’t turn brown. Set aside.

Heat medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped bacon, sauté until brown and crisp, about 5 minutes.

Add shallot to bacon, stir and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add vinegar, raisins and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and stir to fully combine. Pour over cabbage. Toss well; using your hands is best.

Drain apple slices. Top cabbage with apple and toasted pine nuts and serve.

Yield: 12 to 15 servings.