What are the best Thanksgiving side dishes?
Turkey? Who cares about the Turkey when there are so many wonderful side dishes?
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of year for Americans and America. It’s where we celebrate by eating gluttonous amount of high-fat, high-calorie food and we love every second of it. For some though, the highlight of the Thanksgiving meal centers around the bird which is a concept I do not understand. I agree that the bird is necessary because without the bird there is no gravy but there is no need for the turkey in my house (Also, in Texas it snowed one year on Thanksgiving and the people bringing the turkey couldn’t come – best Thanksgiving ever!!). So what are the best Thanksgiving side dishes?
Some of the side dishes that we eat are due to tradition – cranberries, which grow in bogs and the thought alone gives me the creeps – or, we used to have people come over who insisted on creamed onions and peas (which I’m sure is illegal in many states because it makes no logical sense, it doesn’t taste good and it’s a pain to make.)
However, I, an admitted lover of the side dishes, do believe that there are some that are imperative because they are delicious and some that are necessary because they are tradition. Here is my list of must haves:
There is no Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes. Otherwise what would you do with all that gravy?? A Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes would be like a house without a roof. Different people prefer them different ways but they all work fine. Skin on or off? Garlic? Bacon? The only way that you can go wrong with Mashed Potatoes for Thanksgiving is to not put any butter in them (and I do believe that we should try and eat better but Thanksgiving is NOT on my list of healthy eating days).
It’s old, it’s tired and it’s kind of blah. But it is what Grandma served and Thanksgiving is nothing if not about tradition. I know that it’s made with canned mushroom soup and topped with those weird fried onions but you can get those weird onions in different flavors now and, it’s 2016, we have learned to spice things up a bit. This could be a hit again with the right combination of ingredients. It would still be traditional – just different.
Admittedly it’s rather blah. It’s just old bread that is re-hydrated but it’s hard to go wrong here as well (except if you use Stove Top which is fine for a Sunday meal but not for Thanksgiving). I’ve had stuffing with Oysters for Thanksgiving – which was different but still tasty – and I have had Stuffing with Chestnuts. My preference will always be Pepperidge Farm though, because that is how my mother made it.
I don’t know why this is necessary unless it is some way to pay respect to the ancestors of the Wampanoag Nation – the Native American tribe that kept the Pilgrims alive during that first Thanksgiving. But, as good as bowl of corn can be, it is not good enough for Thanksgiving. No matter what you do a bowl of corn just doesn’t cut it.
Yet, if you add some eggs and cream and butter you can have – corn pudding. It’s soft and fluffy like a pudding but still corny (ha – couldn’t resist) enough that you can taste the corn. There are thousands of recipes out there. Try it.
Necessary to have but there are so many ways of cooking them that is gets confusing. And, I know it’s tradition and important, but why are there marshmallows all over the dish? Are they hiding something? And do you know how easy it is to burn marshmallows in an oven and ruin this dish? Surprisingly easy. Scarily easy.
About 10 years ago I found a recipe for Sweet Potatoes that I liked – a lot. It called for chunks of potatoes with maple syrup and brown sugar and it was good, and no marshmallows.
An interesting tidbit of information is that all cans of cranberries are upside down so that they can plop out and still maintain the beautiful ridges that make canned cranberries what they are, Seriously. And I know that for some people those jellied upside down canned cranberries are the best thing ever.
People, I have a secret to tell you. Cranberries do not grow in cans (they grow in bogs but that’s another issue). You can purchase whole cranberries and make recipes with them. Really. They exist.
which would make a wonderful table decoration. The sprig of green certainly puts me in the holiday mood.
which is surprisingly attractive and may even taste good.
I know some of you love your upside down jellied cranberry and more power to you, but some of us are not fans of it and maybe another option would be good as well – especially for those of us not a fan of the canned concoction of cranberries.
I’m not sure why – maybe it’s an homage to the Indians who helped the Pilgrims through that 1st Thanksgiving – but there is always a squash dish on the table and there should be. For most of my life we had a butternut squash thing – it was thicker than a soup and filled with cream and butter. It was wonderful. But then my mother died and I stupidly did not get the recipe from her. A few years later I tried to make it and made a wonderful burned mess.
However, life handed me a gift when I went to the Cotton Patch Cafe for lunch one day and had their “squash casserole.” I asked the restaurant and they laughed because it’s the most asked question they get. I went home and googled and found a “copycat” recipe. We made it for a potluck at work and the entire thing was eaten and no one died so we made it again the next day for Thanksgiving.
I would not suggest that you read the nutritional information on this recipe though. No one needs that kind of negativity in their life – especially on Thanksgiving. And, let’s be honest, this isn’t a dish you make every day, or even every month. It’s a once a year thing. Cheesy, squash (yellow summer squash), sour cream (and if you want to pretend to be healthy use ½ sour cream and ½ Greek yogurt. It’s amazing.
That is my list of the best Thanksgiving side dishes and that is the only reason that I like Thanksgiving anymore. One more piece of advice though: whoever you convince to cook the bird please remind them to take out the bag of “stuff” from the carcass. It’s not good to cook the bag in there and that’s where the gross stuff is that is used to make the gravy.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
(And don’t forget to ask your parents for the recipes for your favorite dishes. You’ll regret it if you don’t.) It’s one day of the year. Don’t check the nutritional facts on these recipes. Just eat and enjoy.