Everybody wants to know what I'm making for Thanksgiving. I hate to disappoint, but I'm not in charge this year. Instead I'm taking my family and one thing (Poole's Diner Mac & Cheese) to a party full of people we've never met. I know how to make friends. That's why I'm taking the mac & cheese.
If I were at home though, and the meal was mine to shape, I'd most likely make one or all of these sides. Cause sides are really the main event.
1: Turnip root and green gratin
From Page 69 of Deep Run Roots: Even people who can’t stand turnips of any kind will like this because when you bake roots, greens, cream, cheese and bread together, the bubbling, crunchy thing that emerges from the oven is magic. Serve it with roasted meats or instead of dressing at Thanksgiving, and for ease of entertaining, assemble the gratin the night before and bake it off when you’re ready.
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 medium onions, halved and sliced with the grain
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 cups turnip roots (about 2 to 3 medium turnips), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cups heavy cream
5 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
8 ounces greens (4 cups), wilted to 1 cup
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated on a Microplane
1 cup Fontina, grated on a box grater
10 turns of the pepper mill or scant 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups stale crusty bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Preheat your oven to 375°F and rub the inside of a 2- to 3-quart baking dish with 2 teaspoons butter.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in an 8- to 10-inch sauté pan or skillet and add the onions plus 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are caramelized and chestnut brown, about 30 minutes. If the onions stick and the bottom of the pan looks dangerous, add 1/3 cup water. Scrape up all the dark bits and cook out the water. You should end up with about 2/3 cup caramelized onions.
Bring a 6-quart pot of heavily salted water up to a rolling boil and set up an ice bath nearby. Add the turnip roots and cook them for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer them to the ice bath to stop the cooking. Once they’re cool, drain and dry the turnips.
Meanwhile, in a 2-quart saucepan, gently heat the cream with the garlic and the thyme to just under a simmer. The goal is to let the cream steep, not boil, for about 30 minutes. Once it’s done, set it aside and let it cool slightly.
If you want to wash as few dishes as possible, like I do, melt the remaining butter in the same saute pan you use for your onions. Add the turnip greens and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Let them wilt down for two minutes. Transfer the greens to a colander and press as much liquid out as you can. Transfer the greens to your cutting board and run your knife through them.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, cooled cream, cheeses, remaining salt, black pepper and onions. Stir the roots, greens and bread. Transfer the gloppy mess to your baking dish and let it rest for about 10 minutes (or overnight) before baking uncovered for 45 minutes. Serve warm.
2: Oyster pie
From page 119 of Deep Run Roots: When I started thinking about the oyster portion of the Boiler Room menu, I questioned locals about their family recipes. Oyster pie and scalloped oysters kept coming up. Best I can tell, the two dishes are basically the same thing; luxurious sides reserved for holidays. This is my revamped version. It’s silky, comforting and too good to be put in the holiday corner. If you don’t have Cocktail Tomatoes (page 280 and below), use the same amount of diced tomatoes marinated in a little rice vinegar plus three dashes of hot sauce.
2 sleeves saltine crackers
2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
6 tablespoons butter, divided
2 cups diced leeks, white and light green parts only
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 coves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups Cocktail Tomatoes (page 280 and below)
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup milk
2 cups oysters, plus their liquor (bucket oysters are fine here)
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Note: You can make the oyster filling and butter the saltines up to a day before you plan to bake the pie, but don’t assemble the whole thing till you’re ready to cook unless you want a soggy topping.
Directions: Preheat your oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl crush the saltines into small pieces. You’re not looking for crumbles or saltine sand. Instead, you want broken recognizable pieces. Pour the Parm, paprika, and 4 tablespoons melted butter over the crackers and stir to incorporate. Set aside.
In a 10- to 12-inch saute pan or skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and heat till foaming. Add the leeks and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Sweat the leeks over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and the flour and cook an additional minute. The mixture will be quite dry and will form a film over the bottom of the pan. Don’t you dare walk away from this because it’s a burned mess waiting to happen.
Stir in the tomatoes, Worcestershire, and milk. Bring it up to a boil and watch things thicken up to a paste-like consistency. Add the oysters, their liquor, the heavy cream, tarragon, parsley and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Take the pan off the heat and mix to bring everything together. The filling should be loose with raw oysters and creamy from the incorporated roux.
Transfer the filling to a 2-quart baking dish or consider baking it right in the skillet you built it in. Top with saltines and bake in the center of your oven for 30 minutes. Serve warm.
From page 280 of Deep Run Roots: To call these tomatoes a staple in our restaurant’s kitchen is shortchanging their impact.
Infused with flavors of cocktail sauce, these tomatoes show up alongside many things that come from the sea. We also blend or chop them into sauces, use them as a garnish for bloody Marys, put them on top of deviled eggs, slice them onto pimento cheese sandwiches, and plop them on of a burger. Even the liquid by-product is distinctive when used as a marinate for shrimp or as a base for vinaigrettes.
Let the tomatoes cure for one week before you use them and make sure they are completely submerged in the liquid. Kept that way, refrigerated, they’ll last for up to three month.
5 pounds of Roma or other firm, meaty tomatoes, quartered
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin
4 jalapeños, sliced thin
Zest of 3 lemons, removed with a vegetable peeler
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup prepared horseradish
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauces
2 tablespoons salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup molasses
2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup chopped garlic
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground celery seeds
1 tablespoon cayenne
Directions: Place the quartered tomatoes in a 6- to 8-quart glass or heatproof plastic container and set aside. Bring the remaining ingredients up to a bare boil in a 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven. Carefully pour the hot liquid over the tomatoes. Let them cool at room temperature overnight. Then transfer them, covered, to the refrigerator and let them cure for a minimum of 1 week before using.
3: baked peas
From page 160 of Deep Run Roots: This marries America’s tradition of sweet tomatoey baked beans with a depth of flavor and texture you don’t expect. Instead of a side for hot dogs and hamburgers, these beans make more sense next to the Day-at-the-Beach Pork Picnic (page 455) or Spice-Rubbed Flank Steak with Cucumber and Charred Onion Relish (page 252). They’re a great choice for summertime entertaining if you put the dish together the day before and bake it off just before the party starts.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 medium yellow onions, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick with the grain
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
3 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
3 cups Stewed Fresh Butterbeans (page 153 and below) with 1 cup reserved cooking liquid
2 roasted red bell peppers, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup green olives, halved (optional)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
Directions: Preheat your oven to 350°F. In a 3-quart brazier or 12-inch cast-iron skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and salt and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
Transfer the onion and garlic mixture to a bowl. Then add the tomatoes to the skillet. Give the pan a good shake and let the tomatoes cook til they start to blister and pop, about 2 minutes. Stir in the butterbeans, the reserved cooking liquid, raining 1/4 cup oil, onions, bell peppers, olives, if using, sugar, vinegar, herbs, and chili flakes.
Slide the pan onto the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. The beans will begin to brown on the top and have a little moisture left in the pan. Take them out and let them rest 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Stewed Fresh Butterbeans
From page 153 of Deep Run Roots: Most people from my place would put some sort of smoked pork product in this pot. Sometimes I would too. But on the rare occasion you have fresh butterbeans or field peas, you might as well taste everything they’ve got to offer.
3 cups beans, fresh or frozen
6 cups cool water
2 bay leaves
5 turns of the pepper mill or 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
If using fresh beans or peas, rinse them well under cool water. In a 3- or 4-quart saucepan, combine the beans, water, bay leaves, and pepper. Bring it up to a boil and skim off any scum that rises to the top during the first 10 minutes.
Cover the pot and reduce the heat slightly. Let it cook at a quick simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the beans are tender. Turn off the heat and stir in the salt. Let the beans sit in the seasoned cooking liquid for 20 minutes before serving.
4: Stewed Tomatoes
From page 270 of Deep Run Roots: I can’t think of anything more versatile and delicious than these tomatoes. I eat them by themselves. I eat them over rice, tossed with pasta, as a friend for fish, underneath steak, baked with eggs and spooned next to squash. They are my ketchup, my marinara.
Stewed tomatoes balance a lot of my plates and are a component for several recipes in Deep Run Roots. Make them with fresh tomatoes if possible, but canned will work in the wintertime. If gluten is a problem for you, try whisking in a third of a cup of cornmeal to thicken it up instead of using breadcrumbs, or leave the starch out altogether for a slightly looser end result.
2 tablespoons butter
2 yellow onions, small-diced
3 teaspoons salt, divided
8 tomatoes diced, with all the juice
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1 large stem fresh basil (about 1/4-cup of leaves, packed)
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs, preferably homemade
Directions: In a 4- to 6-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the onions and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook the onions over medium heat for about 10 minutes until they have caramelized slightly. Add the tomatoes, remaining salt, garlic, sugar, vinegar, chili flakes, and basil. Cover and bring it up to a boil. Cook for 30 minutes. Uncover. Add the bread crumbles and cook for an additional 5 minutes. The bread will cause the tomatoes to thicken up slightly. Serve warm, but be aware these are even better the next day.
5: Grits and Greens
with Hot Sauce and Pork Rinds
From page 36 of Deep Run Roots: Grits and greens, a combination introduced by American Indians, are a classic for a reason. They are typically made with collards, but I chose turnips because I’m a turnip disciple. Use any leafy green that you believe in. This Brown-Butter Hot-Sauce Vinaigrette couples my obsession with brown butter and all its nutty nose love with my people’s penchant for dousing stewed greens with chili-laced vinegar. Don’t skip it, please. The acidity, the heat, and the additional fat are all big players here.
These are obvious as a hearty side, but I like to serve them as a shared appetizer. Wherever it shows up in your meal’s progression, don’t miss the change to treat the pork rinds like chips and the grits like dip!
Grits and Greens Ingredients:
1 pound turnip greens
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1 batch foolproof grits (page 31, recipe below)
1 cup chicken stock
15 turns of the pepper mill or scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon butter, divided
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Brown-Butter Hot-Sauce Vinaigrette Ingredients:
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cook the greens and assemble the grits:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the tough end off the turnip greens and slice the remaining stem and leaves into 1/2-inch pieces. In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, the skillet you will bake the grits in, cook the garlic in the oil over medium heat till it just starts to sizzle. Quickly, because brown garlic is bitter burned garlic, add the greens, 1 teaspoon salt, and the chili flakes. Using tongs, toss the greens around as they wilt.
Once the greens are just wilted, dump them in a large bowl with the grits, chicken stock, black pepper, 2 teaspoons butter and Parm. Rub the inside of the cast-iron skillet with the remaining 1 teaspoon butter and spoon the grits and greens into it. Slide the skillet onto the middle rack of the oven and bake uncovered for 40 minutes.
Make the vinaigrette and serve:
In an 8-inch saute pan, melt the butter. Do not use a cast-iron black-bottomed skillet here, because you will not be able to see the butter browning. Once the butter melts, it will foam and fizz and eventually start to brown on the bottom. When you see this beginning to happen, make sure you swirl the pan around so that the milk solids brown evenly. Do not walk away. Once the butter is nutty in color as well as aroma, carefully stir in the lemon juice, hot sauce and salt. Let it bubble up for about 15 seconds, then spoon the hot vinaigrette over the baked grits. Serve right away with pork rinds.
There’s nothing simpler than a bowl of grits. Still, very few people I know, except for chefs, cook grits from scratch at home. Instant grits became so popular in the 1980s and ‘90s that generations of Southerners have no idea what good grits taste like or how to prepare them.
I’d like to empower a new generation to make grits at home. I employ a double-boiler situation because I can’t bear standing over something for more than thirty seconds, and the gentler heat safeguards against a burned breakfast. I think it also produces a creamier grit. But you could absolutely do this in a two- or three-quart saucepan over low heat with a watchful eye.
I cook grits in milk, but that’s just personal preference. You could use stock of any kind, water or heavy cream. What’s important is starting with a quality product. If more than two ingredients are listed on the package, choose different grits.
1 cup grits
3 1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
10 turns of the paper mill or 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
Note: I don’t have a legitimate double boiler, so for this recipe, I rig one up. I fill the bottom of a 4-quart saucepan with 2 inches of water, then I position a 2- to 3- quart glass or metal bowl on top of that. There you have it, double boiler.
In the top section of your double boiler, stir together the grits and milk. Take a fine-mesh tea strainer and skip away the hulls that float to the top. Getting rid of these will prevent you from having hard, uncooked bits in what should be a creamy finished product. Heat the double boiler over medium high. Whisking every few minutes, run the whisk or spoon around the edge to make sure the grits aren’t sticking. After 10 minutes, the milk will start to take hold of the starch, and the mixture will thicken slightly. Depending on the grind of your grits, between 25 and 4o minutes in, they will have completely swollen and become one with the milk.
Stir in the salt, pepper and butter. Serve warm. If they thicken up like cement before you’re able to get them on the table, whisk in warm water or milk to loosen them up. They should be thick, not runny, but should spread when you portion them out.