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Our Favorite Holiday Side Dishes

Written by the YesChef staff

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Nancy Silverton Teaches her California Cuisine
Nancy Silverton Teaches her California Cuisine
Nancy Silverton
Teaches her California Cuisine
For food lovers in the United States and in many parts of the world, there is no time of year more exciting than the holidays. This most boisterous and gluttonous of seasons is a time when large groups of extended families and friends of the family often meet up for feasts. The centerpiece of these feasts is often a gigantic, (ideally) juicy game bird like a turkey or a chicken – or a meat dish starring pork, beef, or lamb – but it’s the array of holiday side dishes that are sometimes the best part of holiday eating. Holiday side dishes can make or break a holiday meal and be a source of delicious leftover lunches, dinners, and breakfasts for several days afterward. This article will explore what some of the best holiday side dishes are and will detail some delicious and original holiday side dish recipes that have been dreamed up by some of the world’s greatest chefs.
Nancy Silverton
Teaches her California Cuisine

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What are Holiday Side Dishes?

Holiday side dishes are the fixings that you pack on your plate as an accompaniment to the main holiday course. Some of the main holiday side dishes are sweet potatoes, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls such as cornbread, macaroni and cheese, and a variety of casseroles like green bean casserole. Other staples of the holiday plate include comparatively healthier components like salads and roasted vegetables like squash and Brussels sprouts.

What are the Most Popular Holiday Side Dishes?

Some of the most popular holiday side dishes are creamy mashed potatoes and roasted sweet potatoes; roasted carrots; macaroni and cheese; cranberry sauce; fall salad or roasted vegetables; green bean casserole; pasta salad; rice; stuffing; and – because you haven’t had enough carbs already – cornbread, biscuits, or dinner rolls.

How Far in Advance Can You Make Holiday Side Dishes?

Because holiday meals tend to be massive – holiday chefs are typically cooking for lots of hungry family members and friends – there is tons of prep work and cooking involved. Starting that process well in advance is very important. Luckily, much of that work can be done as far as several days in advance. Casseroles, like of the green bean variety, can be made a few days ahead of time and then reheated. Gravies, sauces, and marinades will also taste great even if you make them three or four days in advance. In many cases, they taste better because the delicious flavors have time to develop and the dish stays fresh. Stuffing, which can be time-consuming to create, can be made a number of days ahead of time, frozen, and then be baked on the gathering day – and still taste unbelievable. Potatoes can be boiled in advance and kept in the fridge before being roasted for a big occasion. Roasted brussels sprouts can be made prior to your holiday meal, too. Side dishes you definitely do not want to attempt to make in advance are rolls and cornbread (they’ve got to be fresh!) and mashed potatoes, which reheat poorly and come together better when not made too far ahead of time.

What Should You Make for the Holidays?

To complement your main holiday course and add a diversity of color, taste, and texture to your holiday plate, there are plenty of options to consider. You can make mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and / or roasted potatoes. You can make a casserole like green bean casserole, rolls or cornbread, and greens and vegetables like some salads and roasted vegetable dishes. You can make Thanksgiving-style stuffing. And you can make any number of side dishes featuring pasta and rice. And as everyone knows, no holiday meal is complete without dessert. Some warming desserts that are great during the winter (in the Northern Hemisphere) holiday season are cakes, cookies, and brownies featuring fun, festive flavors like peppermint, ginger, vanilla, and, of course, chocolate. More specifically, some great options are gingersnap cookies, fudge brownies, and a peppermint cake, vanilla cake, or chocolate bundt cake.

Holiday Recipe Ideas

To get the most out of your holiday gathering, what could be better (and more full of flavor) than learning unique side dish ideas straight from the kitchens of some of the world’s most creative chefs? Among the delicious food recipe ideas described in the following sections are Asma Khan’s flavor-packed Bengali beans; Nancy Silverton’s flavorful Caesar Salad as well as her Roasted Potatoes; Francis Mallmann’s fresh Chapa Veggies; Kwame Onwuachi’s Fried Plantains and Calypso Aioli; and Erez Komarovsky’s Red Pepper Salad. Each food recipe recommendation described below, if properly followed, will help you deliver a unique and delicious side dish that will be sure to leave your holiday guests happy and immensely impressed.

Bengali Beans

Forget about your Great Aunt Audrey’s bland bean casserole. Instead, make Asma Khan’s flavor-packed Bengali beans. This fiery side dish is easy-to-make – its few simple ingredients consist of green beans, garlic, and dried red chiles – and it’s great for the holidays because as a protein-heavy side dish, it serves as a nice balance to the shocking amounts of starch that will inevitably wind up on your plate. The dish is made by cutting green beans into inch-long pieces and stir-frying them in vegetable oil along with mustard seeds, garlic, dried red chili, turmeric, and salt until the green beans are crisp. Incorporate this delicious Indian-inspired spice into your repertoire and your holiday meal will not be boring.

Nancy’s Caesar Salad

While juicy meat entrees and carb-heavy side dishes usually get the most hype during the holidays, a truly versatile and complete holiday dinner table requires strong salads and greens. Caesar salads, in particular, make a superb side dish for this purpose because they taste terrific and are fun, featuring crunchy croutons and creamy, dreamy dressing. So why not use a professional recipe from a master of Caesar salads, the inventor of a famous Caesar salad at her popular Los Angeles restaurant, Chi Spacca: Nancy Silverton? Nancy approaches salads with the same depth and layers as any of her signature dishes. Nancy’s Caesar has evolved in complexity as she continues to layer in unexpected components over the years. From fried parsley and orange zest to shaved cauliflower and bagna cauda croutons, this Chi Spacca creation is bursting with texture, flavor, and originality. Here, Nancy teaches us how to pick the perfect bread for homemade croutons (Hint: Save the fresh stuff for the table) and how to establish the ideal leaf-to-dressing ratio. She encourages us to layer salad like you would a lasagna, taste as you go, and above all else: embrace the anchovy.

Nancy’s Roasted Potatoes

Potato recipes are some of the most essential starchy side dishes to complement the turkey, chicken, beef, or pork on a holiday table. Without the taste and texture of potatoes right next to it, your turkey leg, baked ham, or roast beef will not taste as good. A great potato dish that will undoubtedly pair perfectly with your holiday fixtures are Nancy’s Potatoes with Bagna Cauta. In this lesson, Nancy continues dinner party preparations alongside friend and chef, Deb Mikhail. Learn how to coax the best texture and flavor out of earthy butter potatoes by first confit-ing them in oil, butter, garlic cloves, fresh rosemary, and sage. By the time you’ve baked them in the oven to crisp up, they’ve already absorbed an incredible bouquet of flavor and aroma – and that’s to say nothing of the briny bagna cauda that tops it all off! Bagna Cauda, traditionally served as a crudite dip, makes a recurring appearance in a few of Nancy’s recipes, so learn it now and learn it well! Nancy also teaches some bonus hosting tips as she sets her table with rustic floral arrangements and an eclectic mix of vintage, handpicked flatware and linens.

Francis’s Chapa Veggies

Vegetable side dishes during the holidays provide a much-needed balance – in color, taste, texture, and nutritional value – to roasted meat and its carb-heavy companions. Chapa Veggies with Vinaigrette, a culinary creation of chef Francis Mallmann, would definitely be a hit as a side dish at your holiday table. This dish features a colorful array of sweet vegetables such as pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, and carrots among many others. The side dish is cooked slowly with olive oil on a charpa griddle or cast-iron pan and served on a platter with vinaigrette.

Chapa Veggies with Vinaigrette is a festive dish that is perfect for any holiday meal. That’s because over at the Mallmann household during the holidays, the dinner table looks far from traditional. In his lesson, Francis brings life to vegan cooking and teaches his daughters’ absolute favorite Christmas dish: a platter overflowing with a colorful assortment of seasonal vegetables. Learn how to perfectly choose, cut, and cook fresh vegetables on the plancha and whip up a wonderfully versatile mustard vinaigrette.

Kwame’s Fried Plantains & Calypso Aioli

Those who eat a lot during the holidays know that holiday dishes skew heavily toward the salty, savory, creamy, and buttery sides of the culinary spectrum. Thus, making sides with some sweetness are important to give balance to the plate as well as to the palate. Chef Kwame Onwuachi’s Fried Plantains and Calypso Aioli is a flavorful Jamaican-inspired dish certain to wow your holiday dinner guests. Part of a comforting dish that Kwame used to eat at home after school almost every day (For Kwame, it complements chicken blackened and braised in a rich brown gravy) it works equally well with your Christmas turkey or the juicy beef brisket you are having for Hanukkah.

It is made by frying sliced ripe plantains, which are dark and sweet, in a pan half-filled with canola oil until the plantains are soft and golden brown. The fried plantains are then put in a small bowl and served alongside a tangy Calypso aioli sauce. Kwame makes the sauce by cooking and blending an array of vegetables into a puree and allowing them to cool. He makes his homemade aioli by whisking egg yolks, mustard, and oil into a thick consistency. Then, he mixes everything together.

Erez’s Red Pepper Salad

A great vegetable-centered side dish to enhance the color and healthfulness of a holiday dinner is red pepper salad. To take your holiday meal to another level entirely, make chef Erez Komarovsky’‘s Red Pepper Salad with Almonds and Marjoram. It is made by charring red bell peppers in a wood-fire oven or an ordinary oven at its maximum temperature, peeling the peppers, and then serving them with toasted almonds, garlic confit oil, anchovy filets, Marjoram, and lemon juice. A divine, silky texture – combined with the nutty crunch of almonds and the fragrance of the marjoram – makes this pepper salad totally unique…and supremely delicious. Erez shows you his secret for burning and peeling the peppers, roasting the almonds, and using the garlic confit from his Challah lesson.

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Nancy Silverton Teaches her California Cuisine
Nancy Silverton Teaches her California Cuisine

Nancy Silverton

James Beard Award-winning chef, best-selling cookbook author, and the restaurateur behind Michelin-starred Mozza, Nancy Silverton takes viewers on a journey from her home in Panicale, Italy, to her home in Los Angeles. Viewers learn a range of Nancy’s renowned dishes, including her signature Caesar Salad, Chi Spacca Pepper Steak, 10+ vegetarian dishes, Mom’s Apple Pie, and more.

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