Thanksgiving Sides, Light and Heavy


Photo by Regina Charboneau

To try baked tomatoes stuffed with Natchez spinach, click here. To try hearts of romaine with artichokes and preserved lemon vinaigrette, click here.

So far I have covered cornbread dressings and brisket of beef for a Southern-style Thanksgiving. I would like to share a few different ideas for side dishes and a couple of recipes.

Thanksgiving to Americans is what a smorgasbord is to the Scandinavians: a buffet filled with an array of dishes. I think what makes everyone love Thanksgiving meal is the variety of choices we have to put on our plate. When I plan a holiday meal, I think of each category--main dishes of poultry and meat, starches, vegetables, salads, chutneys, gravies and sauces, breads, and desserts. Like everyone in America I start with turkey, and I add brisket for a variety. I don't do a fish because if someone is a non-meat eater there are so many vegetarian choices that there plate is easily filled.

There are never just mashed potatoes but always a cornbread dressing and I often prepare my wild mushroom brioche dressing. It is one of the few days in the South that everyone can look beyond green beans and prepare creamed spinach, yams, squash, asparagus, and many other side dishes. Salads are always more thought-out than usual and are needed to lighten the meal. It is the time of year for chutneys, brandied cranberries, and the rich gravy that comes with the roasting of the poultry or meat. There is never just one dessert--typically two or three. There has to be a pumpkin or sweet potato pie (never both) and pecan pie, a Southern staple. I always have to make something chocolate to balance the menu. There is something about pie and Thanksgiving that seems to be one and the same.

With every heavy dish, I try to come up with a lighter dish.

I could make a meal of creamed spinach, and my recipe is so rich it's only legal to eat it twice a year: Thanksgiving and Christmas. The good thing is it freezes well, and you can make it ahead of time. My family and friends refer to this as Natchez Spinach because everyone in Natchez makes a version of it. It brings traditional creamed spinach to a new level with cream cheese, sharp cheddar, and pickled jalapeno. I make this ahead and then use it to stuff tomatoes for baking on Thanksgiving Day. This is a colorful, flavorful side dish with all the comfort you are looking for on a Holiday Menu.

With every heavy dish, I try to come up with a lighter dish. My favorite holiday salad is hearts of romaine with artichoke hearts in preserved lemon vinaigrette. Preserved lemons can be purchased, but they are not difficult to make and keep for a very long time if refrigerated. I do a quick version and keep them in my refrigerator for roasting chicken, sautéeing shrimp, or making this tangy-lemony vinaigrette. This vinaigrette can be made several days ahead, and I always marinate my artichoke hearts in it two days ahead. This is also a good dressing for a salad with fresh pears, toasted pecans, and dried cranberries if you prefer something different.

Here are my recipes for baked tomatoes stuffed with Natchez spinach, preserved lemons, and hearts of romaine with artichokes in preserved lemon vinaigrette. Next week I will give you my recipe for baked yams with cranberry-mango chutney when I cover chutney and sauce recipes.

Recipe: Baked Tomatoes Stuffed with Natchez Spinach
Recipe: Hearts of Romaine with Artichokes and Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

Jump to comments
Presented by

Regina Charboneau is the owner of Twin Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Natchez, Mississippi. She is the author of Regina's Table at Twin Oaks. More

Regina Charboneau is the owner of Twin Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Natchez, Mississippi. She is the author of two cookbooks: A Collection of Seasonal Menus & Recipes from Regina's Kitchen and Regina's Table at Twin Oaks.
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Social Security: The Greatest Government Policy of All Time?

It's the most effective anti-poverty program in U.S. history. So why do some people hate it?

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



More in Health

From This Author

Just In