4 New Sides for Thanksgiving


Photo by Ellen Silverman

Years ago my family stopped being nuclear and evolved into an extended and very eclectic family of friends. My Thanksgiving dinners have evolved too, from the traditional menu of my childhood to the wondrous offerings of many cooks who come together yearly, each bringing a different dish, to form a collective feast.

In this way Thanksgiving has become the ultimate potluck dinner, a fabulous array of the "best of" each cook. The overused phrase "new traditions" is all too apt. We enjoy innovations of the traditional themes--stuffing, cranberry sauce, side dishes, pies--that always seem to embody the originality and generosity of the makers. Favorite dishes are requested the following Thanksgiving, to become a time-honored custom.

Purees using the season's produce--chestnuts, winter squashes, and root vegetables like celery root and turnips--make appealing plays on the classic Thanksgiving mashed potatoes. Their velvety texture and rich, spicy flavors seems to unify the other elements of the feast. These purees are also unexpectedly virtuous, requiring minimal enrichment of cream or butter due to their naturally creamy textures (and a few tricks I use to enhance them).

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Throughout the cooler months, these unexpected purees are also great accompaniments to simple roasted meats and poultry such as pork, lamb, venison and chicken, and game birds like duck and quail. All can be doubled or tripled to serve more, and can be made up to 2 days in advance. Reheat them in a double boiler, adding a little chicken broth, water or cream to thin them if necessary.

Spiced Winter Squash Puree with Roasted Garlic
Celery Root and Apple Puree
Chestnut Puree with Fennel Seed and Bay Leaf
Roasted Chestnuts for Cooking or Eating