Squash wedges with parsnips are traditional Thanksgiving fare. - MCT

Reinvent classic sides with these recipes

Thanksgiving is the one time of year when roasting a big turkey is not enough.

Cooks wrestle with having to prepare a string of side dishes to please guests.

Trouble is we're often in side-dish rut. And too often, we try to make complicated sides.

For example, don't make risotto, unless there's time. Risottos need constant stirring and adding of liquids for at least 45 minutes.

Who has time for that on the biggest cooking holiday of the year?

But if you've never tried vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, now is your chance. And if you can't be swayed from mashed sweet potatoes, try to vary them a little. Double-Stuffed Potatoes are fine and flavorful with a mix of sweet potatoes and baked and mashed potatoes.

There are no set rules for how many side dishes to have. Just don't overdo it. One or two sides to go along with mashed potatoes and stuffing are perfectly fine.

Here are some more tips for tackling turkey day:

  • Clean most vegetables to be used in casseroles or on their own the day before. Chop, slice or dice them and store in plastic, resealable bags in the refrigerator.
  • Some casserole-type dishes like potato gratins can be assembled the day before baking. Plan on adding an extra 10 to 15 minutes baking time for the chilled dishes.
  • Dishes that have cream- or milk-based sauces don't reheat well. Try to make them Thanksgiving Day.
  • If oven space is in short supply, don't forget to use an outdoor grill. Keep it on low (200 F) and cover the dishes with foil to keep things warm. (Be sure to use dishes that are designed for the grill such as foil pans.)
  • For stuffing — Saute onions and carrots and any meats used in stuffing the night before, then cool them and store them in separate plastic bags. Then put everything together on Thanksgiving Day, so it's ready to bake. Stuffing needs to reach 160 F when cooked inside the bird. Therefore hot, freshly made stuffing should be put into the cold bird.
  • For mashed potatoes — Peel potatoes in the morning or several hours in advance, put them in a bowl of cold water and refrigerate.

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