Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it brings together two of my most favorite things—family and food. I don’t mind cooking for just Michael and me, but you add a dozen more Deen’s, Groover’s, Paul’s and Hiers’ to the mix (just to name a few) and I’m over the moon.
That said, I know all too well that us cooks have a lot riding on our drumsticks come Thanksgiving. I just can’t stand a dry turkey. And an undercooked bird is worse yet because it means dinner has gotta wait. After already waiting four days for the turkey to thaw, and another four hours for it to cook, my boys are chompin’ at the bit.
But with all that worrying over Mr. Turkey, we sometimes forget about the side dishes that truly make a Thanksgiving dinner unique. Y’all can probably remember a side dish you loved so much growing up that you wouldn’t come to the Thanksgiving table unless it was there. Maybe it was string bean casserole, rice and gravy, or good old fashioned mashed potatoes. For me, it was always Southern Cornbread Stuffing. But the more I get talking to folks about their favorite sides, the more I see how their recipes are as unique as their families and the places they live. Take Southern families for instance. We’re more likely to serve up Mashed Sweet Potatoes than white potatoes, but that just may depend on what “side” of the South you’re living on: Did you know that most Coastal Southerners prefer white rice over potatoes? I say cover all your bases by making both.
Now, if all this talk about picking sides has you thinking about scrapping the whole thing and ordering in, let me assure you that I’ve got a ton of great recipes to help out. Some are more traditional sides, but others put a new twist on an old standby, like my Sweet Potato Balls, Broccoli Casserole and Mrs. Hoggle’s Stuffed Cranberry Sauce. And as we like to say down South, “They’re all so good they’ll make your tongue slap your brains out!”
Sure, serving up a Thanksgiving meal is a load of work. But when it’s all said and done and my family’s full and happy, it’s all worth the trouble. With just a little prior planning in these weeks leading up to the big day, y’all can expect to have the most memorable Thanksgiving meal, leaving time for what matters most: family.