On the Side I

by Mark R. Vogel

            When individuals contemplate what to make for their Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, there’s usually more indecision regarding the side dishes.  After all, the Thanksgiving turkey is perfunctory and Christmas will inevitably be yet another turkey or a roast of some kind.  But there is a staggering array of potential side dishes.  Here are a few ideas.

 

VEGETABLE BUNDLES

 

Carrots

Celery

Leeks

Chicken broth as needed

Butter

Salt & pepper

Chopped parsley

 

            This is an elegant looking, although time consuming dish.  You’ll need an equal amount, (by weight), of the three vegetables, after trimming.  Figure on four to six ounces per person.  First, peel the carrots, trim the celery, and remove the dark green parts of the leeks. Leeks are very sandy by the way and must be rinsed thoroughly.  Then weigh out an equal amount of each vegetable.  Next, julienne the vegetables into strips about 2 ½ inches long and no more than one eighth inch wide.   Then take the dark part of the leeks and cut strips ¼ inch wide.  Blanch the strips in boiling water for no more than ten seconds and then run under cold water.  Gather up equal amounts of the julienned vegetables and make little bundles about an inch in thickness.  Tie the bundles with the dark green leek strips, trimming the excess.  Place the tied bundles in a sauté pan and add enough chicken broth to come half way up.  Add butter, salt and pepper and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are soft.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley before service.

            An alternative to this recipe, which eliminates one step, is to forgo making bundles out of the vegetables.  After slicing them, either simmer them in the chicken broth and butter, or sauté them in butter and/or olive oil with no broth. 

 

GLAZED CARROTS/PARSNIPS

 

2 lbs carrots, parsnips or a combination thereof

Water as needed

Butter to taste

2 tablespoons sugar

Salt and white pepper to taste

Chopped parsley

 

            Peel and cut the vegetables to the size and shape you desire.  The thicker they are however, the longer they will take to cook.  Add them to a sauté pan with enough water to come half way up the sides of the vegetables.  Add the butter, sugar, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and continue to cook, partially covered, until tender.  Remove the lid when they are almost done so that some of the water can evaporate, thus producing a syrupy glaze.  Sprinkle with parsley when finished. 

 

BLUE CHEESE MASHED POTATOES

 

4 Idaho potatoes peeled and chopped into a large dice.

6 ounces heavy cream

3 ounces butter

Salt and pepper to taste

6 oz. Gorgonzola or Roquefort cheese

 

            Bring the potatoes to a boil and simmer until tender.  Drain and then return them to the pan.  Cook for a few minutes on medium heat to evaporate the excess water.  For extra smooth mashed potatoes, pass them through a food mill or a ricer and return them to the pan.   Or, just mash them with a hand masher, in the pan.  With the heat on low to medium, stir in the cream, butter, salt and pepper until well blended.  Stir in the cheese until it melts.  Check for additional salt and pepper and serve. 

 

CAULIFLOWER TEMPURA

 

            I was never crazy about cauliflower until I tried this recipe.  It’s easy to make and is unusually tasty, given that it’s cauliflower.

 

Vegetable oil, as needed

1 head of cauliflower

2 large egg yolks

8 oz. ice water

5 oz. all purpose flour plus extra for dredging

 

            Heat the oil to 375 degrees.  Trim the cauliflower into bite-size florets.  Whisk the egg yolk and water and then mix in the flour.  Dredge the cauliflower in flour and then dip it into the batter.  Fry until golden brown.  Do not over crowd them.  Fry them in batches if need be. 

 

ROASTED CHESTNUTS

 

            They’re not done on an open fire but nevertheless are a seasonal classic.  Serve them as a hors d’oeuvre or as an after dinner snack.  Simply take a bunch of chestnuts and make an X in their flat side with a paring knife.  Make sure you cut all the way through their outer shell.  Place them on a baking sheet in a 450 preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.  As soon as they’re cool enough to handle, peel and eat.

 

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