Most Thanksgiving feasts are built around a turkey and every hostess has her secrets to getting that moist turkey meat with crispy golden skin. Making the perfect turkey is worth a blog post in it self. To brine, or not to brine? Roast, or deep fry? Stuffing in the bird or out? In my book the “sides” or side dishes and deserts are of equal importance when it comes to preparing an epic Thanksgiving feast. (Or any other formal dinner, for that matter.)
Last month, I was invited to local Restauranteur and Caterer, Kim Bailey’s kitchen in Tampa for a private cooking class featuring an array of side dishes perfect for the holidays. We sampled 11 side dishes in all, and learned tips and tricks along the way. All the dishes were flavorful, and easy to make—Kim and his assistant made all 11 dishes in a record three hours. It was such a great experience, I couldn’t wait to share it with you.
The very first thing this introvert noticed about Kim was his warm smile and ability to put people immediately at ease. I felt sincerely welcome in his midst. His joy of cooking and sharing good food is infectious, and within minutes, we were all delighted with the amazing side dishes set before us. (You will also find several of the recipes we sampled including my favorites: cranberry apple sauce, and corn casserole on line—however unfortunately not all of the recipes are on the website).
The following are some of the super tips Kim shared that really make menu planning and preparation a breeze:
Super Tip 1: Both Kim and I agree that when considering a menu, we start eating with our eyes. I love making sure color and texture are considered when choosing sides. Fall’s vegetable bounty is full of color, and by using a variety of cooking techniques one can create interesting textures, all of which combine to make Thanksgiving magic at the table.
Super Tip 2: After setting the menu and shopping for ingredients, Kim pre-preps each recipe. Chefs call it Mis en Place; all ingredients are chopped and measured first. It saves time, and helps reduce mistakes when putting recipes together on the fly. So he and his long time assistant Barry chopped and measured ingredients before diving in and assembling the recipes. (This took an hour for the 11 recipes Kim and Barry made for the cooking class.
At the cooking class, we also learned that using a similar spice palette among dishes helps create a cohesive flavor experience for guests, adding a pop of flavor here and there—being careful not to over season-thinking of it as an edible work of art.
Super Tip 3: When selecting side dishes, we offer variety of foods, some all vegetable, some gluten free, keeping in mind our guest’s dietary issues. Nothing is worse than seeing beautiful food you can’t eat.
Super Tip 4: When preparing a number of side dishes at one time, you may notice that recipes call for a variety of cooking times and temperatures. These can be adjusted to an average cooking temperature so more that one dish can be cooked in the oven at the same time- just be sure to adjust the cooking duration. As Kim says, there is a lot of leeway when cooking, you just have to keep an eye on your food, and keep your timers handy.
Having the gadgets really comes in handy, here are a few of my favorites:
Meeting Kim and having the opportunity to enjoy his cooking was a wonderful opportunity. If you are looking for interesting and creative sides that are easy and amazing, look no further than Kim’s website. And for those of you here in Tampa, put your orders in with Kim for next year, he and his team are already completely booked through the holidays.
The List of Super Great Sides—Some of which can be found on Kim’s Website: Click Here (Scroll down to Thanksgiving Menu Session of Blog Roll)
Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque
Gruyere Shallot Cream Scalloped Potatoes
Baked Acorn Squash-(Slice, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with extra virgin Olive Oil bake at 400 degrees until golden and a sharp knife easily pierces the squash)
Yellow Squash Casserole
Oven Roasted Vegetables (Slice or cube an assortment of vegetables, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and bake at 450 until soft.)
Broccoli Cauliflour Mash
Swiss Chard and Spinach Bechamel
From my kitchen, some easy extras:
Cranberry Sauce + Sour Cream + a little Horseradish adds flair to ordinary cranberry sauce. I usually serve this and the original.
Callie’s Chive and Cheddar Biscuits + Butter whipped with Sweet Pepper Jelly: YUM
Roasted Squash Rings + Butter + Maple Syrup–super good–super easy.
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