Food & Drink

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

by Nicole Breeden June 10, 2018
ReadThanksgiving Side Dishes

As tradition has it, turkeys are often the main event at any Thanksgiving table. But what accompanies your meat matters just as much – if not more. From a perfectly spiked cranberry sauce to a zesty dressed salad, side dishes add color and flavor to your holiday table. For inspiration, we turned to chefs Renee Erickson and Zoe Nathan, both of whom launched cookbooks earlier this fall.

A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus brings together dishes from the various Seattle-based restaurants of chef Renee Erickson, including Boat Street Café and the Walrus and the Carpenter. Rather than simply list recipes, the book proposes whole meals inspired by the different seasons and occasions – house-smoked salmon and molasses spice cake for a winter holiday feast; chilled melon soup and grilled crab with harissa butter for a summer beach picnic. What will Renee be serving this Thanksgiving? “This year we’re going to Hawaii, which is a bit non-traditional for us. Where typically our table consists of cut-up turkey pieces, this Thanksgiving may center around simple papaya salads.”

A collection of 115 recipes, Huckleberry is the first cookbook from the eponymous Santa Monica-based bakery, where Zoe Nathan’s motto “everything in generosity” creates a laid-back approach to rustic-style baking. Savory galette and brioche, muffins and pancakes, cakes and crumbles – not to mention an entire chapter dedicated to dishes topped with the humble yet decadent egg – are all prepared with healthy whole grains (quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice) and fresh, seasonal ingredients (quince, leek, pear). This Thanksgiving will be all about carrying on traditions: “My father has made the same meal for at least 33 years, and I’ll be recreating all my dad’s favorites for the first time at our house, while integrating my own recipes here and there. I get a kick out of seeing my kids eat the same foods I grew up eating.”

Zoe and Renee share some of their favorite Thanksgiving side dishes below.


“We’ve made this gratin at the Boat Street Café for many years, served with pickled raisins, which add a rich vinegary flavor. It’s perfect winter food, if you ask me.” – Renee Erickson

If you’d like to make this a bit ahead of time, bake it as directed and let it cool to room temperature a few hours before dinner. Before serving, top the gratin with about ½ cup additional grated sharp cheddar cheese and reheat the gratin in a 350 °F oven for about 10 minutes, until it is bubbling again.

Note: It’s important to get the tough center ribs out of each kale leaf. Hold the fat end of the stem in one hand, and pull down toward the tip of each leaf with the other hand, stripping the greens off as you go.

3 bunches lacinato kale (about 1½ pounds total before trimming), tough ribs removed, chopped into 3-inch sections
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups (720 ml) heavy cream
225 g sharp white cheddar cheese, cut into 1/8-inch thick slices

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Pile the kale in a 9-by-13-inch (or similar) baking dish. (It will seem like an overabundance of kale, towering above the pan’s edge, but you want it all.) Season the kale with the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste, then carefully drizzle the cream over it. Spread the cheese slices over the kale.
  3. Place the gratin dish on a baking sheet to catch any cream that drips out as the gratin cooks. Bake the gratin for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the cream thickens and the cheese is nicely browned. (Err on the side of golden brown, as opposed to coffee brown, if you’re going to reheat the gratin again before serving.)
  4. Let the gratin cool for a few minutes, then serve.


“I was dedicated to creating a great cornbread since I love it so much. By experimenting with a few different ingredients, I found the secret is to use fresh corn. It’s a bit hard to get your hands on really good corn during this time of year, but it’s one of those extremely versatile recipes. Add more spice to kick up the heat.” – Zoe Nathan

Makes sixteen 2-inch squares

6 tbsp (85 g) unsalted butter
½ cup + 1 tbsp (110 g) sugar
1¾ tsp kosher salt
4 eggs
1 cup (160 g) cornmeal
¾ cup + 2 tbsp (100 g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (30 g) whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
½ cup (120 ml) whole milk
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
¾ cup (180 ml) canola oil
2 tbsp honey, plus ¼ cup (85 g) for glazing (optional)
1½ cups (365 g) fresh corn kernels (about 2 cobs; optional)

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and grease an 8-by-8-inch pan.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Incorporate the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl well. Pause mixing and add the cornmeal, all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour and baking powder.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, pour in the milk, buttermilk, canola oil and 2 tbsp honey and mix. This is a very loose batter. Small lumps of butter are no problem, but avoid any lumps of flour. If you see them, mix a little longer or work them out with your fingers.
  4. Fold in the corn, if in season; if not, omit.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Do not overbake!
  6. If you are choosing to glaze, slightly warm the ¼ cup (85 g) honey in a small saucepan and lightly brush the top of the warm cake.

This is best served the day it’s made but keeps, wrapped well, at room temperature, for up to two days.


“This cake is derived from a whole wheat butter cake that we bake at our restaurant. I focused on blending the grains in a delicious way, where people can actually enjoy what they’re eating, while staying healthy. It’s a really rich cake… that just happens to be buckwheat.” – Zoe Nathan

If buckwheat isn’t your thing, remove it from this recipe and substitute different kinds of flours, like whole-wheat, rye, spelt, quinoa, oat, etc. In terms of swapping out the fruit, apples work best with this cake – other fruits just don’t quite cut the buckwheat the same way.


1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
1 ⅔ cups (340 g) sugar, plus 2 tbsp
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
6 eggs
3 or 4 apples; 1 peeled and grated, and 2 or 3 peeled and sliced ⅛ inch thick, cores reserved
1 ½ cups (150 g) almond flour
¾ cup (100 g) buckwheat flour
⅔ cup (75 g) all-purpose flour
⅓ cup (55 g) cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder


½ cup (100 g) sugar
½ cup (120 ml) water
Pinch of kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, scraped (optional)
Apple cores (reserved from making the cake)

  1. To make the cake: Position a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Line and grease a 10-inch round cake pan.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, 1⅔ cups (340 g) sugar, and salt on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Incorporate the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl well between each addition. Add the grated apple and mix. Then add the almond flour, buckwheat flour, all-purpose flour, cornmeal, and baking powder. Mix cautiously, just until incorporated. Do not overmix!
  3. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, top with the sliced apples, arranging them in pretty concentric circles, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool for about 15 min­utes in the pan.
  4. Meanwhile, make the glaze: Simmer the sugar, water, salt, vanilla bean seeds and pod (if using), and apple cores together in a sauce­pan until the sugar is completely dissolved, about two minutes. Set aside to infuse.
  5. Place a flat plate on top of the cake and pan. Carefully invert the cake onto the plate by flipping both upside down. Then lift the pan off the cake. Gently pull the parchment from every nook and cranny of the cake, being careful not to break the cake. Rest your serving plate on the bottom of the cake and turn the cake right-side up onto the plate.
  6. While the cake is still warm, brush the glaze all over the top and sides and garnish with the nonedible vanilla pod.

This cake is best served the day it’s made but keeps well, tightly wrapped, at room temperature, for up to two days.

Make your own Thanksgiving masterpiece with help from our Kitchen and Tabletop Collection.

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