Hello and welcome to Thanksgiving Week on A Newsletter. For the full Thanksgiving video/menu breakdown, head HERE. If you’ve found your way over by some miracle but are not yet subscribed, let me help you with that:
Welcome to Thanksgiving Week on A Newsletter. Today is SIDES DAY, which, to be clear does NOT include potatoes or stuffing (those deserve their own days and you know it). They DO, however, include things like squash with brown butter and walnuts, green beans with mushrooms and a leek and greens gratin (the salads did not make it into the video because, well, we simply did not have that kind of time, but they’ll be included below for your clicking pleasure).
Regardless of whether it’s Thanksgiving or not, it’s extremely important for me to think about what purpose each dish is serving for any given dinner. Sometimes, the reason for inclusion is as simple as: I want it. And most of the time, that’s enough! But for Thanksgiving, I enjoy considering/overthinking what it’s bringing to the table, literally and metaphorically speaking. It’s a crowded space, and if it doesn’t really deserve to be there or there are too many repeats (sorry you don’t get a sweet potato and regular potato mash!), you know I can’t afford that type of real estate.
Below, you’ll find the trifecta of profiles that I deem 100% necessary for this meal, no skips: Sweet and Salty, Deeply Savory, Creamy and Crunchy.
SWEET AND SALTY
This is your “orange vegetable” moment. Your sweet potato, your roasted carrot, your brown buttered squash with walnuts and dates. This is the time to break out your flaky salt, dried fruit if that is your beat (it is not my beat, per se, but damn, do I LOVE dates). If you’d like to take this idea and apply it to tender roasted carrots or baked sweet potatoes, please do! It would be great. But for my money and time, there is nothing easier or better to look at that than a squash, roasted in halves or quarters (I leave the seeds in which get roasted alongside for delightful texture, but you can remove yours if you’d like) doused in brown butter-toasted walnuts and plump, sticky dates with plenty of flaky sea salt.
For me, this is a moment of clarity. It’s a chance for something that’s neither creamy, not sweet, not especially fresh or acidic. It isn’t saucy and it’s not especially herby (although we do love herbs). Perhaps a moment to eat something that’s not turkey or potato, but is decidedly savory. This is a simple vegetable, maybe two, likely roasted until nearly crispy, perhaps with some onion to caramelize alongside, seasoned with plenty of black pepper and enough of something salty like soy sauce, miso, or fish sauce to impart a meaty flavor without the distinction of ingredient. Brussels sprouts with sausage, green beans with mushrooms, same/same, you get the idea (except the green beans just happen to be vegan).
CREAMY AND CRUNCHY
If you’re a macaroni and cheese person at Thanksgiving, God bless, you probably don’t need to make this gratin. But if you’re a macaroni and cheese person at heart with a desire for not-another-starch (raises hand), then might I convince you to make this gratin. Equal parts leeks and greens, this gratin could also count as a “leafy greens moment” if you really hated the idea of a fresh salad on your table. I would enjoy this simply as a bowl of creamed leeks and greens, but baked with bread crumbs on top takes this to a level of “this is my favorite thing on the table.” Panko or coarse, fresh bread crumbs both work.
Brown Buttered Squash with Walnuts and Dates
Click here for a printable PDF.
A great thing about this dish is that you can roast the squash in advance when you have the oven space at pretty much any temperature. I’ve done it at 425° for 25–30 minutes and also at 325° for close to an hour. Either way, the squash gets tender and cooked through with some nice caramelization on the bottom, which is exactly what you’re looking for. For those wondering how to make sure this dish is served warm: well, I don’t. I just make sure the brown butter mixture is hot before spooning over the squash, even if it’s room temp. But if your room temp is colder than you’d like, while the turkey gets carved, simply pop the already roasted squash into the oven (at any temp) until warmed through to your satisfaction.
2 pounds squash, such as honeynut, butternut, kabocha or acorn, quartered, seeds removed if you like, unpeeled
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup / 4 ounces walnut halves or pieces, pecans, hazelnuts or almonds, coarsely chopped
4 ounces dates, about 9, pitted and torn in half
2 tablespoons thyme, marjoram or oregano leaves
Flaky sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 425°. Place squash on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 4 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Make sure all the squash is cut-side down and roast, without turning, until completely tender and deeply caramelized on the underside (squash will never quite look caramelized on top, only where it meets the sheet tray. To check for doneness, the skin of the squash should look like a slightly deflated balloon, but you can also use a spatula to peek on the cut-side to check it for browning), 45–50 minutes (the squash can be roasted ahead, if you want to reheat in the oven closer to serving, pop into a 425° oven for 10–15 minutes).
2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small pot or skillet over medium heat. Once it starts to foam but before it’s brown, add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and walnuts. The nuts will foam up and disappear into the butter—don’t forget about them.
3. Swirl the pot, stirring constantly and continue to cook the walnuts in the browning butter. Eventually, the walnuts will toast and the butter will brown, 4–6 minutes. Remove from heat, add the dates and season with salt and pepper; remove from heat (this walnut/date mixture can be done ahead, just rewarm gently over medium heat before serving).
4. To serve, transfer squash to a large serving platter or shallow bowl. Spoon walnut/date mixture over and scatter with thyme, flaky salt and another good grind of black pepper.
DO AHEAD: Brown butter/walnut/date mixture can be made hours in advance; rewarm gently before serving. Squash can be roasted a few hours in advance, rewarmed (they are good room-temp, but great when warm).
LEFTOVERS: I don’t love how the butter solidifies when chilled, but even still, I would absolutely cut this squash up and eat it in a salad the next day. Be your own Sweetgreen! Or re-warm and eat with your leftover turkey.
Roasted Green Beans and Mushrooms with Red Onion
Click here for a printable PDF.
Another “room temp banger,” a phrase I am proud of. The mission here is to get the mushrooms as crisped as possible, which will also give you frizzled green beans and red onions which are along for the ride. Speaking of mushroms: this is your chance to cook with all the mushrooms you’ve always dreamed of— alternatively, a totally acceptable moment to use 100% cremini or button mushrooms. Anything goes. The soy sauce is here to intensify the savoriness and lend some depth of flavor (soy sauce, as it roasts, becomes concentrated and even more soy-sauce-ier in the most delicious way- use tamari if you can’t have soy sauce). These do not need to be served hot, but if they do for YOU, you can roast them in advance, keep them on the sheet tray and pop them into the oven before everyone sits down for a few minutes.
1 pound green beans, stems trimmed
1- 1 1⁄2 pounds mixed mushrooms such as oyster, maitake, chicken of the woods, or baby bella, halved lengthwise or quartered if large
2 small red or yellow onions, cut through the root into 1⁄2” wedges
1⁄3 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons fresh oregano or marjoram leaves
1. Preheat oven to 425°. Combine green beans, mushrooms, onion, olive oil and soy sauce together on a rimmed baking sheet (if doubling, use two sheets). Season with salt and pepper and toss. Roast, tossing once or twice, and adding more olive oil if needed, until the mushrooms are deeply browned and the green beans are tender and browned in spots, about 45 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and toss with parsley, chives and oregano. Drizzle with more olive oil and give another crack of black pepper before serving.
DO AHEAD: Trim the green beans a day or two ahead of time, store them in a resealable bag refrigerated. Everything can be roasted a few hours in advance, rewarmed before serving or go room-temp (I would!).
LEFTOVERS: Best eaten out of the container, cold. Or turned into a salad over greens. If you must rewarm, a quick sauté in a skillet over medium–high heat should do the trick.
Crunchy Leek and Greens Gratin
Click here for a printable PDF.
Please don’t panic at the amount of vegetables I am asking you to cook for this (about 2 pounds of leeks, about 1 pound of kale/leafy greens), because it will look like a lot. An improbable amount of things to fit into a baking dish. But the leeks, they melt. The greens, they wilt. The cream, it reduces. Everything will fit into a 1.5–2 quart baking dish, which could mean a cast iron, cake pan, pyrex, or any oven-safe baking dish, really. I like parmesan, but pecorino, gruyere, or sharp white cheddar are other perfect choices. This is one of a few things that should be hot, so it’ll be one of the last things to go into the oven (it can bake while your turkey rests).
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium leeks (about 1 1/2 lbs), white and greens thinly sliced, rinsed
1 large (or 2 medium) bunch of curly or tuscan kale or swiss chard (about 1 lb), thick stems removed, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
Crushed chili flakes (optional)
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 cup finely grated parmesan, pecorino, white cheddar or gruyere
1 ½ cups fresh coarse bread crumbs or 1 cup panko
1. Heat ¼ cup olive oil in your largest skillet or heavy bottomed pot over medium–high heat. Add leeks and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the leeks are bright green and totally tender, almost melty, 10–15 minutes (they shouldn’t get any color, but if they do, that’s okay).
2. Working with one handful at a time, add some kale and season with salt and pepper. Stir and let wilt between additions, repeating until you’ve added all the kale and it’s nice and wilted, 5–8 minutes.
3. Add crushed red pepper flakes if using, followed by heavy cream. Let the cream bubble up around the edges and use a spatula to scrape up any brown bits that may have formed while cooking the leeks and kale. Remove from heat, stir in the cheese and transfer everything to a 2-quart baking dish (you can do this part ahead of time, even a day or two; just cover and refrigerate until ready to top with bread crumbs and bake).
4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425°. Combine bread crumbs and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss until crumbs are thoroughly saturated and evenly mixed. Scatter over leek and greens and bake until bread crumbs are golden brown and everything below is bubbling nicely around the edges, 15–20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.
DO AHEAD: The leek and greens mixture can be made the day before, if you must (wrap it tightly so it doesn’t dry out). Same with bread crumb mixture. I wouldn’t bake it till you’re nearly ready to eat, though.
LEFTOVERS: Weirdly great cold? Also just a regular re-warm will do the trick here. If you have a microwave, great. If not, transfer the leftovers into a size-appropriate oven-safe container and heat in a 350° oven.
Thank you for reading and see you back here tomorrow for CREAMY BUTTERMILK POTATOES.
Made the leek gratin tonight. I used Tuscan kale, Panko crumbs, finely grated Parmesan, and a mix of 1 cup half and half and 0.5 cup of heavy cream. It is plenty rich! Tastes like artichoke dip in a great way.
Thankfully, I made more brown butter/date/nut (I used hazelnuts) mixture than we needed. It got even better with after a few days and was an extremely excellent topping for vanilla ice cream.