Try some new sides with your Thanksgiving meal this year
By Tom Castrigno
The turkey appeared to teeter precariously on top of the wood pile, two stories above the icy sidewalk. It was my first attempt at grilling a turkey and I had set the partially cooked bird aside so I could add more coals to the Weber.
When I came back in from the balcony, my friends all said, “if that turkey took a ride, you would be over the railing, too!”
I might have made them nervous, but I knew our dinner was safe.
Grilling a turkey requires indirect heat, so I placed a foil pan with some soaked hickory chips beneath the bird and arranged coals around the pan. If you use a gas grill, it has to have separately controlled burners so there is no flame directly below the turkey. The final result was smoky and delicious.
The classic menu of turkey, cranberry, root vegetables and pumpkin pie is based on New England fall harvests where the pilgrims landed. For most of us, roast turkey as a main course is non-negotiable (the only other possibility being a ToFurkey).
My Aunt in France treats her friends to a traditional dinner and they love it. Side dishes, however, hold more possibilities. These have been modified according to what people like and what’s available. I enjoy tradition and ritual, so I don’t change the menu very much — but I will say that I have no tolerance for yams with marshmallows or green beans swimming in Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup.
Two side dishes that my wife and I have come to enjoy are from our Indian cookbook, “The Best of Lord Krishna’s Cuisine.” Whole cranberries cooked with chopped dates and spiced with fresh green chilies have replaced the canned concoction. Together with cardamom and cinnamon the tart flavor of cranberry balances out to an almost spicy result. Listening to the berries pop while cooking and mashing them up in the pan make good entertainment for the cook. The dish is incredibly simple to prepare and keeps well too.
As an alternative to the gooey green bean casserole, spice up those traditional veggies with a mixture of black mustard seed, cumin seed, and crushed red pepper for a lively dish that you will love. I frequently use frozen string beans, first steamed tender crisp, then sautéed with the spices.The recipe calls for clarified butter, known as Ghee, but a good substitute is a combination of vegetable oil and butter. The butter gives flavor and the oil helps it withstand high cooking temperature.
My turkey grilling days are behind me. I have turned to experimentation with other cuisines to keep the menu interesting. Most often for us Thanksgiving dinner is a pot luck affair with the host preparing a turkey and guests bringing side dishes. Being with friends, sharing a delicious meal, and enjoying the glory of the Rocky Mountains makes for a fabulous day. Now that is something to be truly thankful for.
Have any favorites of your own? I invite you to share them in the comment box below.
Tom Castrigno lives in Frisco, CO where he is known as The Mobile Chef. Learn some of his secrets for healthy eating and find great recipes on his blog at www.healthymealsmadeeasily.com/blog/.