Posted October 25, 2018

Thanksgiving Dinner: It’s All About the Sides

Eat + Drink

homemade thanksgiving turkey dinner

Homemade turkey dinner with all the sides for Thanksgiving.

Let’s be honest. The best part of Thanksgiving dinner isn’t the turkey. It’s all about the sides.

Dishes like stuffing, green beans and candied yams are classic, but overdone. Up your Thanksgiving game with these 4 contemporary sides from our chefs that are sure to have your guests coming back for a second helping.

caramelized onions

Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Gratin (serves 6)

From Executive Chef Heather Terhune – Tre Rivali and The Outsider (Milwaukee, WI)

Every Thanksgiving table needs a cheesy gratin potato casserole to round out the menu. This recipe, featuring sweet caramelized onions and tangy blue cheese is guaranteed to take your gratin to the next level. Chef Terhune recommends using earthy Salemville Amish blue cheese from Wisconsin, but any crumbly, creamy blue will work in a pinch.



  • 5 medium Idaho potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly. (Note: Do not soak potatoes in water.)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large onion, julienned
  • 1 tbsp. fresh chopped thyme
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 c. crumbled blue cheese (reserve ¼ cup)
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese (reserve ¼ cup)


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a small sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil over high heat until smoking hot. Add onion and cook until the onion is brown and caramelized, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Coat a 2-qt. baking dish with the remaining 1 tbsp. of oil.
  4. Place a single layer of potatoes on the bottom of the dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Add a layer of onions, thyme, heavy cream, blue cheese and parmesan.
  6. Continue to layer the ingredients, ending with potatoes on top. (Be sure to season potatoes with salt and pepper.
  7. Sprinkle reserved cheese on the top layer.
  8. Cover with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and bake until potatoes are fork tender, about 25-35 minutes. Cook for an additional 5 minutes without foil so the top browns.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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panzanella bread

Fall Vegetable Panzanella Salad (serves 6)

From Executive Chef Heather Terhune – Tre Rivali and The Outsider (Milwaukee, WI)

Panzanella is a traditional Tuscan salad featuring tomatoes and bread soaked in an oil and vinegar dressing. For a Thanksgiving twist, this dish highlights autumn’s most iconic flavors…and some delicious handmade croutons.



For the croutons:

  • ¼ c. unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp. garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 6 c. cubed day-old bread, crust removed
  • 6 tbsp. finely grated parmesan
  • salt and finely ground black pepper, to taste

For the salad:

  • 1 ½ tbsp., plus ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 c.  peeled, seeded and diced butternut squash (1/2-inch dice)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh sage or thyme, chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ lb. Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 apples, thinly sliced with the skin on
  • 1 small red onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • 3 tbsp. aged sherry vinegar
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 2 c. Swiss chard, chopped
  • Balsamic glaze, optional
  • Grated parmesan cheese, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Make the croutons: In a large skillet, melt butter over moderate heat until it foams. Add garlic and thyme, then the cubed bread. Toss to coat and stir in the grated cheese. Transfer bread to a baking sheet and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and salt and pepper and gently toss again while still warm to melt the cheese. Bake stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp on the outside but still soft inside, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Cook vegetables: Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add 1.5 tbsp. olive oil and sauté the squash until golden brown and tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the Brussels sprouts and apples, cook until soft.  Set aside.
  4. Make the vinaigrette: Soak the sliced onion in the sherry vinegar and a pinch of salt for about 10 minutes. Then, whisk in remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. Season with pepper.
  5. Assemble salad: In a large bowl combine the roasted squash mixture, croutons, and Brussels sprouts. Add the vinaigrette and toss. Add the Swiss chard leaves and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with balsamic glaze and grated Parmesan and serve immediately.

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fresh parsips

Parsnip Flan (serves 6)

From Executive Chef Heather Terhune – Tre Rivali and The Outsider (Milwaukee, WI)

Flan. It’s not just dessert anymore with this creamy savory custard featuring the parsnip. This creamy side will round out your Thanksgiving menu and add a dash of the unexpected that your gourmand guests will love. 



  • ½ lb. parsnips, peeled, trimmed and cut into chunks
  • 1 shallot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 ½ tsp. unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • ½ c. vegetable broth
  • ¼ c. heavy cream
  • 2 large egg yoks
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly spray six 4-ounce ramekins with non-stick cooking spray. Place ramekins in a deep baking dish, enough to make a water bath. Set aside.
  3. Put the parsnips, shallot, butter and vegetable broth in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the parsnips are very soft. Cool slightly.
  4. Transfer the parsnip mixture to a food processor. Process until smooth. Add the cream and egg yolks. Process again until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Divide the mixture evenly among the ramekins. Place the ramekins in the lined pan and add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into a flan comes out clean.
  6. Remove from the water bath; cool slightly. Run a knife around each flan and unmold onto a serving platter or individual dishes. Serve immediately.

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kabocha squash

Kabocha Pumpkin Squash Soup (serves 2-3)

From Executive Chef Kris Koch at The SIX15 Room (Minneapolis, MN)

Looking for an alternative to butternut squash? Kabocha squash will do just the trick as the star in this warm and comforting soup. Heavy cream gives this dish a delicious richness, but could be left out if you’d prefer a lighter approach.



  • 1 large kobocha squash
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp. chopped ginger
  • 1 tbsp. curry powder
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 qt. chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream, optional
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut squash in half and set seeds aside. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper before roasting face down until tender, about 20-30 minutes. Scoop out the squash when cool.
  3. Meanwhile, wash seeds, toss in salt and toast in the oven until golden brown.
  4. Over medium heat, sauté the onion, garlic and curry powder until the onion becomes translucent.
  5. Blend the roasted squash and cooked onions with half of the stock and half of the heavy cream until smooth. Adjust to get to your desired thickness with the rest of the stock and cream.
  6. Add the apple cider vinegar and season to taste. Top with roasted seeds and serve with crusty bread.

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