Chef Tom – American Turkey Day

 Thanksgiving is like a slow moving freight train. Seeing it from a distance it seems as it’s not even moving. Then you look up and it’s bearing down upon you, relentless, purposeful, and unstoppable. You either get on board or get run over.

So why resist.

A Little on the Side

Whenever I find a new restaurant, the first thing I try is exploring the menu of side dishes. Lots of different flavors, color and textures. It also shows me if the kitchen is in capable hands. If my dishes arrive well-executed, I know the kitchen is paying attention and I will return. I love Tapas for the same reason, or a nice Mezze table. Loads of flavors and variety.

After a few decades of eating the same traditional side dishes, I am so very, very bored. Here are just three less traditional side dishes that still have the fall ingredients, but will add a lot more interest to your table. Enjoy!

(I know. No turkey recipe. Speaking of boring. Actually, here is what I plan to do, but I am buying it already prepped for me. All’s I need do is pop it in the oven. NO bones, no carcass, no fuss…all meat, moist and delicious:–Turketta-29937829)


Lady Apples are in the market. These are the tiny ones that are about an inch and half wide. Look for the one like the smallest one in the picture. Delicata squash is everywhere, too. I love that you do not have to peel them and they have a delicate, nutty flavor.

Lady Apples


Squash Apples

Roasted Delicata Squash with Lady Apples

Serves 6

3 Delicata squashes (1 1/2 pounds total), cut crosswise into 1/2­inch slices, seeds removed

15 lady apples (1 1/2 pounds), cut in half, cored

1/4 cup extra ­virgin olive oil

1/2 cup light ­brown sugar

9 ounces thick bacon, cut into lardons (1/8-inch crossways slices)

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss together squashes, apples, oil, sugar, and bacon. Season with salt and pepper. Spread on a pre-oiled, rimmed baking sheet, and roast until golden on bottom, about 30 minutes (more if you like them on the caramelized side).

Flip squashes and apples over, and roast until tender, about 5 minutes more. Sprinkle thyme over mixture, and serve immediately.

Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Dates, and Halloumi

Serves 6

2 slices thick cut bacon, chopped

1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/3 cup Medjool dates, pits removed and chopped

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

8 ounces Halloumi cheese, cubed (or use another grillable cheese like provolone or kasseri)

Heat a large 12-inch skillet over medium high heat. Add the bacon and render the fat, stirring often, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon and drain on a paper towel.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the skillet with the bacon grease. When the oil shimmers, add the Brussels sprouts, cut side down and cook until charred around the edges, about 5-8 minutes. A little bit blackened in some parts is a good thing. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until sprouts are tender, another 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add crushed red pepper flakes, dates, and red wine vinegar. Cook until the vinegar coats and glosses the Brussels sprouts, another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add the cheese cubes and sear for 3 minutes per side until golden. Stir the seared cheese into the Brussels sprouts. Serve warm.

It’s time to say good-bye to the days of hiding sweet potatoes behind sugar and bolted-on marshmallows. Here is a technique from one of my favorite cooking websites, Serious Eats, for making mashed sweet potatoes that are so sweet, rich, and packed with sweet-potato flavor, they need only the simplest of embellishments to shine.

Click Here for the science behind this recipe:

Sweet Potatoes

Roasted Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Serve 6

2 pounds moist sweet potatoes, such as ruby garnet

1 large bunch fresh thyme

¼ cup butter

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

Salt and pepper to taste

Adjust oven rack to center position. Place 1 large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil per potato on a work surface. Working with 1 potato at a time, place potato in the center along with 3 fat sprigs of thyme. Fold up foil and crimp edges to seal tightly. Repeat with other potatoes.

Transfer wrapped potatoes to a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven. Set oven to 300°F (150°C). Roast until a thin skewer inserted into potatoes meets no resistance, about 2 hours. Remove potatoes from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, swirling gently, until particles are pale golden brown and smell nutty. Add maple syrup. Pick leaves off of another 3 or 4 extra thyme sprigs, roughly chop, and add to melted butter and syrup.

Peel sweet potatoes and discard skins. Add flesh to a large bowl with the butter, thyme, and syrup. Mash well with a potato masher until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.


Chef Tom is currently Resident Chef for a small tech firm in San Francisco. He also teaches cooking classes, caters small parties and leads overseas culinary tours. His specialty for the last twelve years has been cooking for people with food allergies and sensitivities. His motto is “Food should give you pleasure, not pressure.”

Check him out at

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