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This Thanksgiving, take a cue from five chefs’ flavorful sides—heavy on the veg—and serve some soon-to-be new traditions for your family’s feast
From the kitchen of: Chef Justin Pfau, Harold’s Cabin
Hometown: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Local Since: 2014
First F&B Gig: “The midnight to 8 a.m. barista/baker at Boogies Café in Kalamazoo”
Favorite Turkey-day Dish: “Sweet potato fries; my sister loves them, too.”
Thanksgiving Memories: “My mom is a nurse, and she did in-home care. She’d often invite her patients and their families to our Thanksgiving dinners. Over the years, many of her patients became part of our family.”
This Year, Find Justin: “With my Cabin family and my sister in Charleston”
About the Dish: “This is a traditional squash casserole that reflects Harold’s Cabin’s mission of seasonality; many of the ingredients we use are grown in our rooftop garden. This recipe can be used as a starting point and can easily be modified to reflect the cook’s taste or the garden’s offerings. Bacon or smoked ham could be great additions.”
Chef’s Tip: “Do your best to remove all excess water from the squash and the onions to concentrate the flavor and to make sure the casserole sets properly.”
Recipe: (Serves 8-10)
11 lbs. mixed zucchini and yellow squash, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
3 lbs. white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. sugar
6 short thyme stems
2 fresh bay leaves
1/4-inch strip of lemon peel with the pith removed
3 cups water
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup mayonnaise, Duke’s preferred
11/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese, divided
Fresh ground pepper
1 Tbs. lemon zest
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
23/4 cups dried bread crumbs or panko, divided
1 Tbs. unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place the squash in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle lightly with salt, and toss gently. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until just dry but not browned. (Work in batches if necessary and change parchment paper if it gets wet.) Cool to room temperature. Set aside two cups of the sliced squash to use to gussy up the top of your casserole before baking.
Place the onions in a pot. Add the garlic, one tablespoon of salt, sugar, thyme, bay leaves, and lemon peel. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until all the water has evaporated, but the onions have not browned, about five minutes. Discard the lemon peel, thyme, and bay leaves. Spread the onions out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cool to room temperature.
In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, yolks, mayonnaise, and 1 1/4 cups of the cheese. Add the onions and season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Add all but two tablespoons of the parsley. Combine the squash, onion mixture, and two cups of the bread crumbs in a large bowl and mix well.
Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F.
Grease a 12- by seven- by 1 3/4-inch baking dish with the room temperature butter and add the squash mixture. Arrange the reserved slices of squash around the top of your casserole to make an attractive presentation.
In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining bread crumbs, parsley, and cheese with the melted butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper, mix well, and sprinkle on top of the casserole.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until hot through. (If it needs more time, bake it longer—use your best judgment.) Serve immediately.
Pear Salad with Apple-Pear Vinaigrette
From the kitchen of: Chef April Robinson, Butter Tapas
First F&B Gig: “I worked at Taco Bell when I was 16 years old and at Olive Garden at 17.”
Favorite Turkey-day Dish: “My grandmother’s stuffing”
Thanksgiving Memories: “We spend all day preparing for a 30-minute meal—and then there’s the clean up. I think Thanksgiving’s more about the fellowship during cooking than the actual eating. Of course, I always find a way to add more to the menu!”
This Year, Find April: “At my mom’s house in Charleston”
About the Dish: “I’ve been making this salad for a long time. Everyone loves it, and it has become a staple. It’s a simple recipe to follow.”
Recipe: (Serves 6)
1 cup pecan halves
1 Tbs. melted unsalted butter
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
21 oz. mesclun greens, washed and patted dry
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 Bartlett pears, peeled and sliced
Pear-apple vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 325°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Toss the pecans in a bowl with the butter and salt. Spread them out on the baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on the baking sheet and store in an airtight container.
Pile the greens on a serving platter and sprinkle with pecans, tomato, and feta cheese. Garnish with the pear slices and drizzle with the dressing.
For the pear-apple vinaigrette:
2 cups apple juice
2 cups pear nectar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 Tbs. cinnamon
1/2 cup champagne vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Combine the apple juice, pear nectar, white sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the mixture until it is reduced by half. Cool to room temperature. Whisk in the champagne vinegar, then slowly whisk in the olive oil. You can make the vinaigrette ahead, refrigerate it, and whisk it to re-emulsify.
Green-Chile Corn Pudding
From the kitchen of: Chef & pitmaster John Lewis, Lewis Barbecue
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Local Since: January 2015
First F&B Gig: “Baker at Austin’s New World Bakery at age 18”
Favorite Turkey-day Dish: “My mom’s green chile and squash casserole that she makes every year; it’s spicy and comforting.”
Most Memorable Thanksgiving: “The first time we had smoked turkey”
This Year, Find John: “In Charleston, smoking brisket for Black Friday!”
About the Dish: “This is one of the most popular sides at Lewis Barbecue, and it’s inspired by the Hatch green chiles I grew up on in El Paso. It’s a great blend of spice and richness, which pairs well with meat.”
Chef’s Tip: “If you don’t have fresh chiles, you can use canned—they’re easy to find in the grocery store. And you can always swap in a milder chile if you don’t like a lot of heat.”
Recipe: (Serves 10)
1/2 cup chopped roasted Hatch green chiles (4 or 5 chiles), or substitute canned chiles
1 lb. frozen corn kernels, defrosted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
5 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup 1/2-inch cubed mild cheddar cheese
13/4 cup freshly cut corn kernels (about 2 ears)
4 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
Roast the Hatch green chiles over a hot open flame on a grill or gas burner, turning them until the skins blacken and separate, about four to five minutes on each side. Place the chiles in a sealable bag and let them steam in their own heat for one hour. Peel off the skins and remove the seeds. Roughly chop the chiles in a food processor and reserve.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Place a 12-inch round cast-iron pan in to heat.
Process the frozen corn in a food processor until pureed.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder, and garlic in a mixing bowl and blend together until homogenous.
Beat the eggs in a separate mixing bowl. Whisk in the heavy cream. Stir in the corn puree, chopped chiles, cubed cheese, and fresh corn kernels. Add the dry ingredients and whisk together until well combined.
Remove the hot pan from the oven and add the butter. Let the butter heat until it foams and the milk solids are lightly toasted, placing it over medium-high heat on the stove if necessary. Swirl the butter so that it fully coats the bottom of the pan.
Pour the corn pudding batter into the pan. Sprinkle with the shredded cheese and put in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. The cheese should be nicely browned, and the pudding should be set, but not firm, in the center. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes, then serve.
Wilted Brussels Sprout Leaves with Feta, Cranberries, & Shallots
From the kitchen of: Chef Kevin Johnson, The Grocery
Hometown: Fairfax, Virginia
Local Since: 1993; “I lived in Charleston until ’96 and returned in 2003.”
First F&B gig: “A vegan bakery in Mount Pleasant’s Moultrie Plaza”
Favorite Turkey-day Dish: “Cornbread dressing, which I’ve been eating since I was a child; this is the only day I have an excuse to enjoy it.”
Most Memorable Thanksgiving: “After having to work on the holiday for so many years, we finally got to host a Thanksgiving for the first time about five years ago.”
This Year, Find Kevin: “At home, with my family”
About the Dish: “I started bringing Brussels sprouts to my wife’s family Thanksgiving years ago. They always enjoyed them, so I kept bringing them in one form or another. This version is a nice ‘break’ from the other dishes on the Thanksgiving table. The crunchy leaves add texture, and the bright acidity and herbs offer a counter to the more traditional flavors.”
Recipe: (Serves 8-12)
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, trimmed root ends, leaves separated, cores discarded
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups dried cranberries
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup very thinly sliced scallions
1/2 cup very thinly sliced flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup very thinly sliced mint leaves
2 Tbs. minced tarragon
2 Tbs. minced celery heart leaves
2 cups crispy shallots, from 4-5 shallots
if making fresh (see chef’s note)
1/4-1/3 cup Banyuls vinaigrette
Heat a very small amount of olive oil in a skillet over high heat (just enough oil to make a thin sheen in the pan). Working in batches, quickly sear the leaves, 30 seconds to one minute. Add more oil to the pan if necessary between batches.
After each batch is seared, transfer the leaves to a large bowl and season with a touch of salt and pepper. Don’t worry about the leaves being served hot; room temperature is ideal. This step can be done 30 to 45 minutes before serving.
Add the cranberries, feta, scallions, parsley, mint, tarragon, and celery leaves to the bowl with the Brussels sprout leaves. Add just enough of the vinaigrette to coat everything and combine well. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if desired.
Toss in the shallots and serve immediately.
For the Banyuls vinaigrette: (Makes about 1 cup)
1/4 cup minced shallot
3 Tbs. minced celery heart
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup Banyuls vinegar (available online or substitute sherry vinegar)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Combine the shallot, celery heart, garlic, and vinegar in a small jar or container with a lid. Season with a big pinch of salt and few cranks of a pepper mill. Let stand for 15 minutes Add the oil, close the container, and shake to combine. Shake well before using.
Chef’s note on crispy shallots: “If you’re an overambitious cook, you can make your own crispy shallots,” says Johnson. Here’s his method: Peel the shallots, leaving them completely intact to get perfect rings, slice them paper thin with a mandoline, soak in enough buttermilk to cover, drain, dredge in a mixture of half cornstarch and half all-purpose flour, deep fry on your stove in canola oil until crispy, and drain. Alternatively, go to H&L Asian Market (or your local Asian market) and pick up a container of crispy shallots.
Photographs (2) by Katie Fiedler
From the kitchen of: Chef Ben McLean, Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oysters
Hometown: Clemson, South Carolina
Local Since: March 2009
First F&B Gig: “Dishwasher at age 16”
Favorite Turkey-day Dish: “It’s a tie between giblet gravy and homemade dressing. They’re such simplistic uses of all the trimmings and juices of the bird—and really make the meal for me.”
Thanksgiving Memories: “I always remember helping my grandmother cook the meal and getting to spend time with family. I was about eight when I first realized the joy in creating something memorable for a group.”
This Year, Find Ben: “Here in Charleston with my immediate family, or in Wilmington, North Carolina, with my girlfriend’s family. Either way, I’ll be behind a stove and enjoying both the food and the chance to commune with others.”
About the Dish: “It’s a classic presentation of potatoes utilizing time-honored flavors and technique. It fits in with Leon’s concept of simple, delicious, approachable menu items. We especially wanted to provide an incredible potato offering without being beholden to French fries.”
Chef’s Tip: “Use a mandoline to thinly slice the potatoes. If you don’t have a mandoline, be brave and get one! They’re so useful.”
Recipe: (Serves 15-18, approx. 1 cup each)
4 cups heavy cream
3 Tbs. kosher salt
1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
15 white potatoes, peeled (about 7 1/2 lbs.)
6 cups shredded Gruyère cheese
Fresh thyme, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Heat the cream, salt, and thyme leaves in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
Slice potatoes 1/16th-inch thick or less, preferably with a mandoline. Layer them in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish, overlapping, until they reach 3/4 inch from the top edge.
Stir the cream to be sure that the salt has completely dissolved, then pour it over the potatoes. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake the potatoes for 75 to 90 minutes, or until a toothpick meets no resistance when inserted in the middle.
Spread the cheese on top and place the potatoes back in the oven, uncovered. Continue to bake until the cheese has fully melted, but not browned, about 10 minutes.
Allow to rest for 10 minutes. (The dish can be pre-scored if an exact number of servings is crucial.) Garnish with sprigs of fresh thyme and serve.