In my lifetime, over forty Christmas dinners have come and gone. As I prepare for another, I want to share an insight I had a few years ago: I’ve never eaten a bad-tasting turkey. Now if that doesn’t seem like a profound statement, let me share another: I’ve also never eaten a turkey and said, “Wow, I’ve never tasted anything like this before! Can I get the recipe?”
Let’s face it. For those of us that include meat, fish, and poultry in our diets, "turkey dinner" has great potential to be an entirely average dining experience if we pretend that the turkey is the point of the meal. In my opinion, turkey is simply the protein on the plate, next to which I can deliver enticing and memorable vegetable side dishes with rich colours, flavours, and textures.
Side dishes are where the magic is. They make your meal shine! Here are some tips to help plan a meal you, your family, and friends won’t soon forget.
Start your holiday dinner with a salad that will get your taste buds singing. What about a Roasted Beet, Walnut and Arugula Salad or a Balsamic Pear and Candied Pecan Salad? If salad isn’t your thing, why not a soup? Try Red Bell Pepper & Nutmeg Soup or Spiced Up Butternut Squash Soup? The turkey won’t even be ready for carving, and already you’ll be happy.
Next, plan the stuffing and hot vegetable dishes to accompany your turkey. Stuffing is often considered to be the turkey’s wingman (pun intended). Many people limit the stuffing’s ability to Wow! by making the same recipe every year. There are so many options to choose from—traditional recipes flavoured with onion, celery, and herbs; combinations of diced apple or pear; dried cranberries, prunes, or raisins; leeks or shallots; various kinds of mushrooms; toasted walnuts or cashews; the list goes on and on. I like to choose the rest of my dishes first, and then pick a stuffing that features an ingredient I haven’t already included in my menu.
The trick to picking side dishes is to look for flavours you enjoy. Then try to get a variety of textures and colours so that each dish is distinct from the others. What looks good and smells good has a lot to do with how much you enjoy it.
Here are some vegetable side dishes worth considering:
- Cranberry Braised Red Cabbage
- Holiday rapini sauté
- Roasted Parsnips with Pumpkin Seed Green Onion Pesto
- Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sriracha Orange Glaze
- One potato, two potato double-layered mash
- Cinnamon Roast Butternut Squash and Apples
- Warm Carrot Salad
- Brown Butter Green Beans with Toasted Almonds
- Acorn Squash with Applesauce
Your imagination is the only limitation to what you pick for dinner. But remember, not every dish needs to be something new. Adding new dishes to some of your family traditions is a great way to reinvent your festive holiday meal. Hopefully by now you’re a little bit hungry and ready to start planning! Best wishes to you for a delicious meal and a wonderful holiday season.