For first time hosts, Thanksgiving can feel like a whole lot to tackle while getting an ensemble of food on the table that you and your guests will love. Now assuming that you have the basics (Turkey, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, and Stuffing) covered, your dinner might be looking a bit bleak in the assortment of brown to white. To help spruce up the dinner table and the plates around it, we’d recommend a trio of easy-to-make Thanksgiving Recipes to help round out your festive dinner and make sure all of your guests are happy (and blissfully overfed).
First off, French Green Beans and Shallots:
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
- About 1 cup water
- 3/4 pound (12 ounces) haricots verts (French string beans)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
This super simple recipe takes relatively no effort at all to cook, and helps bring a sweet crisp vegetable element to the table that can be often lacking. This recipe is something I personally favor over the more often served Green Bean Casseroles as it is easier, healthier, and opens up room for other casseroles like baked mac & cheese.
Cooking these bad boys starts off with sauteing the shallots in the olive oil for about 8 minutes to help diffuse that shallot flavor through the oil. After that, add everything else but the water, mix it up while heating on high for about 2 minutes and then add half a cup of water and cook until the water has evaporated. Take your time and taste the beans for doneness, adding too much water and not cooking it off can dilute that tasty shallot flavor you worked up earlier, and overcooking your beans will ruin their wonderful texture and bold sweetness.
A personal favorite, Candied Yams (Without the yams):
- 4 pounds sweet potatoes (about 8 medium), peeled
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 cup pecans
While yams can be great, sweet potatoes are probably one of the most underrated vegetables around, which is probably why all the best pumpkin pies are also made from sweet potatoes, they’re just that delicious.
This recipe starts off nice and simple, mix your brown sugar, sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a dutch oven with the butter, make sure this mixes well into a festive glaze, then add all of your sweet potatoes, which we recommend cutting into 1 inch thick rounds, but it’s your party and you can take some artistic liberties. Once the potatoes are in, stir them up real good until they are universally coated with that delicious sauce and let them cook covered for about half an hour. While those are on the stove, you’ll want to take your pecans and roast them in the oven at 350 F until dark brown, then chop those bad boys up and garnish your finished product with them, they’ll make a big difference in contrast in the final dish.
Speaking of other casseroles - Spinach Gratin:
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 4 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large)
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups milk
- 3 pounds frozen chopped spinach, defrosted (5 (10-ounce) packages)
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
This is probably the best and only way to get a lot of young ones to eat spinach and like it, and when cooked right can be a bombshell of a side dish. Of course you can flop the procedure and end up with a dish full of glop to be prodded disdainfully, but no guts no glory.
This bad boy starts out in a heavy bottomed saute pan with butter and onions, cooking until the onions acquire that translucent appearance, then add your flour and nutmeg and cook those into the onions and butter for about 2 minutes. Once your butter and flour of mixed well, add your cream and milk and cook until thickened, forming the backbone of this casserole.
For this recipe we typically use frozen spinach, which you should defrost for about 10 minutes before you start, then squeeze out the excess moisture before adding it to your white sauce and onions. Then follow that up with ½ cup parmesan, salt and pepper and transfer that all into a baking dish, where then you’ll add the other ½ cup of parmesan on top along with the grated Gruyere which will cook into a delicious crispy cheese topping when cooked in the oven at 425 for 20 minutes.
This dish is best served immediately after cooking, which can be tough to work out along with any other last minute prepare items. But, the 20 minute cook time does mean that if you have a helping hand in the kitchen you can whip this up and throw it in the oven the moment you pull the turkey out and have both ready for the table 20 minutes later along with any stove-top dishes and other casseroles.