Thanksgiving Side Dishes That Add Flair To The Traditional Fare

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Roast vegetables with a pomegranate vinaigrette and pomegranate seeds, from chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Roast vegetables with a pomegranate vinaigrette and pomegranate seeds, from chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Though Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst always makes her family favorites for Thanksgiving — including her bread-and-oyster stuffing — she says a new side dish or two can liven up the meal. She brings a couple of samples for host Jeremy Hobson to try.

Roast Vegetables With A Pomegranate Vinaigrette And Pomegranate Seeds

You can use any of these vegetables or add more of your favorites — this is a mix-and-match kind of dish. You'll need a large sheet pan or shallow roasting pan, or several pans. Everything can go together on one sheet pan but you want to keep the vegetables separate so if some cook faster than others it's easy to remove them and keep the others roasting.

If you're serving a crowd, feel free to double the amount of vegetables here. The vinaigrette can be made a day ahead of time and the dish put together just before serving. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 8.


  • 8 new potatoes, scrubbed and left whole (if large, cut in half or into quarters)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, scrubbed, and cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • 1 small Acorn or Carousel winter squash, peeled, cut in half, deribbed, deseeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 to 1 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and outer leaves removed, left whole
  • 1 large sweet red pepper, cut into 3/4-inch wide strips
  • 1 whole garlic, 1/4-inch sliced off top and left whole
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and cut in quarters
  • 1 sweet white Vidalia onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 cup baby turnips, ends trimmed and left whole (if turnips are bigger than a golf ball, cut in half or into quarters)
  • 8 ounces carrots — about 8 small carrots or 3 to 4 larger ones — peeled, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch long pieces
  • About 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

The Pomegranate Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds and 1/3 cup of pomegranate juice (from 2 fresh pomegranates, or use 1 cups preseeded pomegranate seeds plus 1/3 cup bottled pomegranate juice)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic or white or red wine vinegar


  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Prepare all the vegetables as described above. Place the vegetables a row at a time (keeping all the carrots together, all the onions together in row, etc.) on a large sheet pan or two pans or a shallow roasting pan. You don't want to use a pan with high sides or it will steam the vegetables rather than let them roast and turn golden brown. Drizzle the olive oil on top and season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and drizzle vinegar on Brussels sprouts. Flip vegetables over and then return the pan(s) to oven for 20 minutes. Check to see if vegetables are done by piercing with a small sharp knife. Remove any vegetables that are tender and continue cooking the others until softened, about 5 to 10 minutes. The vegetables can be roasted a day ahead of time; cover and refrigerate.
  4. Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl or Mason jar, mix half the pomegranate seeds and juice (if using), salt, pepper, oil and vinegar. Taste for seasoning. The dressing can be made a day or two ahead of time.
  5. If you made the vegetables a day ahead of time, remove from the refrigerator. After you remove the turkey from the oven, place the vegetables in a 300-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until warmed through.
  6. Arrange the vegetables on a serving platter and drizzle with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette and the remaining 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds. Serve remaining vinaigrette on the side.
Chef Kathy Gunst’s squash and leek gratin with maple syrup and pistachio crumble. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Chef Kathy Gunst’s squash and leek gratin with maple syrup and pistachio crumble. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Squash And Leek Gratin With Maple Syrup And Pistachio Crumble

Sweet, creamy, crunchy and colorful — this squash gratin is the perfect Thanksgiving side dish. I would serve it at any winter meal that requires something special and satisfying.

Bright-orange squash slices are scattered with circles of green leek and then baked with maple syrup, milk and cream. A toasted pistachio and panko breadcrumb topping is added at the end to give texture, meatiness and color. The gratin can be made several hours ahead of time and reheated just before serving.

Serves 4.

The Squash Gratin

  • One 2 1/2-pound butternut squash or your favorite winter squash, peeled, cut in half, deseeded and cut into pieces about 1/2-inch thick
  • 3 leeks, dark-green sections discarded and white and pale-green sections cut lengthwise and then into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour (optional)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

The Pistachio Crumble

  • 3/4 cup salted shelled pistachio nuts
  • 1/3 cup panko or breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small cubes


  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a gratin dish or shallow casserole or rimmed baking sheet, arrange squash and the leeks, overlapping them slightly.
  3. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper and the flour (if you are gluten free you can omit the flour). Pour the maple syrup on top, followed by the milk and cream. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the dish and reduce the oven to 350 degrees. Cover loosely with foil and bake another 30 to 35 minutes or until the squash is almost tender when tested with a small sharp knife.
  4. Meanwhile, place the nuts on a small cookie sheet or piece of foil and bake in the oven with the squash for 5 to 10 minutes, or until you can smell the nuttiness. Watch them carefully so they don't burn. Remove and coarsely chop.
  5. Add the chopped toasted nuts to a small bowl and combine with the panko, cheese and butter cubes. Cover and refrigerate if not using right away.
  6. The dish can be made a day ahead of time up to this point. Remove, let cool and cover with foil and refrigerate.
  7. If you made the dish ahead of time, remove from the refrigerator. Sprinkle with the pistachio crumble. After you're done roasting the turkey, place the gratin in a 325-degree oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until hot and bubbling.

Kathy Gunst's Bread-Oyster-Celery And Herb Stuffing

This is my go-to family Thanksgiving stuffing. Fresh, briny oysters are tossed with leftover bread, sautéed garlic, herbs and crunchy celery. The stuffing is then moistened with warm milk. When my kids were little I always hid the oysters from them because they add a salty, fresh flavor that's hard to discern.

Start collecting bread several days before you want to make the stuffing. Two-day-old bread is perfect — a bit crusty, but not too old — and remember that the more varieties of bread you use — white, whole wheat, rye, marble, French, Italian, corn bread, ciabatta — the better.

There's enough stuffing here for a 10- to 12-pound turkey. Never stuff a bird before you're ready to roast it — stuff it within 15 to 20 minutes before it goes into the oven. Place any leftover stuffing in a well-greased casserole dish.


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 2 teaspoons dried crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup very thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 10 cups cubed bread, see note above
  • About 1 to 1 1/2 cups milk
  • About 12 to 16 shucked oysters, very coarsely chopped with any and all the juices


  1. In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted and begins to sizzle, add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 8 minutes, or until the onions are soft. Season with half the thyme and sage, some salt and pepper.
  2. Add the celery, half the basil and half the parsley and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the celery is just beginning to soften. The celery should still have somewhat of a crunch.
  3. Meanwhile, place the bread in a large bowl and mix in the remaining thyme, sage, basil and parsley. Pour the celery mixture from the skillet on top of the bread and gently toss to mix all of the ingredients. Place the skillet back over a low heat and add the milk, the oysters and the remaining tablespoon butter and simmer for 2 to 4 minutes, using a spatula to scrape up any bits and pieces clinging to the bottom of the skillet. Pour 1 cup of the hot milk/oyster mixture over the bread and toss; the stuffing should be somewhat moist. If the stuffing seems dry, add the remaining 1/2 cup milk. Season to taste, adding more salt, pepper or herbs as needed.
  4. If making the stuffing more than an hour ahead of time, cover and refrigerate until you are ready to stuff the bird. The stuffing can also be placed in a lightly greased baking dish or casserole dish and baked at 350 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until hot throughout. If possible, baste with some of the turkey juices from the bottom of the turkey pan to keep the stuffing moist.

Check out the jalapeño mac 'n' cheese recipe from Jeremy's sister Nicki Hobson.

This segment aired on November 20, 2018.

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Kathy Gunst Resident Chef, Here & Now
Kathy Gunst is a James Beard Award-winning journalist and the author of 15 cookbooks.



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