Sides can star: Roasted brussels sprouts and more

There an age-old Thanksgiving debate about what's more important: the turkey or the sides. Wherever you fall on this question, you have to admit that creative, delicious side dishes can really enhance the meal. Here, chef Terrance Brennan, of AStisanal Bistro and Wine Bar, shares some of his favorites.

Pumpkin bisque with cranberry-walnut compote
Servings:

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

    • 4 lbs cheese pumpkin, seeded, peeled, and quartered
    • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
    • Kosher salt
    • White pepper (in a mill)
    • 1/4 cup Spanish onion, medium diced
    • 2 Tbsp celery, medium diced
    • 4 cups homemade vegetable stock or low-sodium, store-bought vegetable broth or water
    • 2 Tbsp mascarpone cheese or 1/4 cup heavy cream
    • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
    • 2 Tbsp finely diced shallots
    • Several Tbsp white meat chicken stock, if needed (optional)
    • Pinch of ground nutmeg
    • 1 tsp finely grated orange zest
    • Cranberry-Walnut Compote (recipe below)
  • For compote:

    • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
    • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
    • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
    • 2 tsp grated orange zest
    • 2 Tbsp Grand Marnier (optional)
    • Pinch of cinnamon
    • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
    • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped

Preparation

Baking Directions:

For bisque:Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Put the pumpkin quarters in a bowl. Add 3 Tbsp of the softened butter, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat the pumpkin. Spread the quarters out on a rimmed cookie sheet or baking sheet. Roast until tender to a fork-tip, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh. You should have approximately 3 cups of roasted pumpkin. Put 3 Tbsp butter into a large, heavy-bottomed pot and warm it over low heat. Add the onion, celery, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened but not browned, approximately 20 minutes. Pour in the stock and add the roasted pumpkin. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Whisk in the mascarpone and pumpkin puree. Warm 2 Tbsp of butter over medium-low heat in a medium, heavy-bottomed sauté pan. Add the shallots and sauté for 3 minutes. Season with salt and 3 grinds of white pepper (or to taste). Set aside, covered, to keep warm. Working in batches, ladle the soup in a blender and puree until velvety smooth. Season to taste with salt. Continue to blend until smooth. Strain the soup through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Add the nutmeg, orange zest, and 3 grinds of white pepper to the soup. For compote:Melt the butter over low heat in a heavy-bottomed sauté pan. Stir in the cranberries, sugar, orange zest, Grand Marnier (if using), cinnamon, and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries begin to burst, approximately 6 minutes. The mixture will be bubbling and foamy. Continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool. The compote can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Serving Directions:

Divide the soup among 6 wide, shallow bowls. Garnish each serving with 1 heaping tablespoon of cranberry-walnut compote, if desired. Divide the mushrooms equally among the bowls, scattering them over the surface of the soup, and serve.

Sautéed brussels sprouts with smoked bacon and apple

Ingredients

    • 4 cups Brussels sprouts
    • 2 oz sliced smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
    • 1 tart apple (such as Honeycrisp or Granny Smith), peeled and medium diced
    • 1/2 cup duck fat or canola oil
    • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
    • Maldon Sea Salt or kosher salt to taste
    • Black pepper (in a mill)

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Prep the Brussels sprouts: Remove the first layer of leaves and trim the base. Wash in cold water and drain. Place the sprouts on their side on a cutting board; slice each into three equal pieces. Heat duck fat or canola oil over medium-high heat in a 10-inch sauté pan. After one minute, when the oil starts to shimmer (just before it reaches its smoke point), add the Brussels sprouts and shake the pan. Add the apple, bacon and shallots; cook for 1 minute and shake the pan again. Repeat four more times, until the sprouts become dark brown and caramelized, and are firm but yielding to the bite. Add salt, allspice, and 6 grinds of pepper. Combine and serve.

Vanilla sweet potato puree
Servings:

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

    • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, cleaned and left a bit damp
    • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream
    • ⅓ vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
    • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest (optional)
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • Kosher Salt
    • White Pepper in a mill

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350⁰ F. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until tender to a fork tip, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool until warm enough to handle, 10 to 15 minutes. Peel and discard the skin. Put the potatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Meanwhile, pour the cream into a 2-quart pot, add the vanilla bean and orange zest, if using, and set it over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Use tongs to fish out and discard the vanilla bean. Pour the mixture over the potatoes in the processor and add the butter. PUREE the potato mixture until smooth. Season with salt and 4 grinds of pepper, or to taste. Keep covered and warm until ready to serve.

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