When it comes to side dishes, there are plenty to choose from at Thanksgiving dinner. But if you really want to spice things up and impress your guests, you sometimes need to think outside the box. That’s where James Beard award-winning Chef Frank McClelland of L’Espalier and Apple Street Farm comes in.
Chef McClellan was kind enough to share some recipes that came from his grandmother’s heirloom cookbook, which dates back through the centuries, for some decadent alternatives to traditional Thanksgiving sides.
Chef Frank McClelland
774 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02199
Apple Street Farm
35 Apple St
Essex, MA 01929
Total time: 1 Hour
8 medium-size ‘Yukon Gold’ potatoes (about 3 pounds total), peeled
3 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
5 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons butter
½ cup buttermilk, plus extra to taste
1 ½ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
Place whole potato in a large (at least 6-quart) stock-pot and cover with cold water. Add salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, and garlic, Place over high heat and bring water just to a simmer, not full boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer potatoes 15 minutes, checking the water often and adjusting heat as needed.
After 15 minutes, turn off heat and cover pot. Let potatoes sit in hot water approx. 30-40 minutes longer until tender when pierced with a sharp knife.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, warm cream and butter until steaming.
Remove potatoes from hot water and transfer to the bowl of a standing mixer (substitute a large bowl if using a hand-held mixer). Add hot cream and butter; blend with a whisk attachment until potatoes are smooth. Add buttermilk, mix well, and check consistency. If you want softer potatoes, add more buttermilk, ¼ cup at a time.
Add nutmeg and serve.
Braised Red Cabbage with Apples
Total time: 2 hours 10 minutes plus 1 hour soaking
Yields: 10-12 servings
1 large red cabbage, halved lengthwise, cored and shredded
7 tablespoons salted butter
2 large white onions, diced
6 large apples, peeled, cored, and dices
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 bay leaves
6 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups sweet apple cider
1 teaspoon kosher or seas salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons firmly packed light-brown sugar, plus extra to taste
3 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar, plus extra to taste
Soak cabbage in cold water 1 hour. (This step is optional, but it does take way the bitter “cabbage-y” flavors.)
Strain into a colander. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt butter. When butter sizzles, add onions and cook until clear (about 6 minutes). Add apples and garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add cabbage, bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon stick, cider salt, and pepper; stir well. Cover pot and bake in oven until very tender (about 1 ½ hours).
Just before cabbage is done, whisk together cornstarch, brown sugar, and vinegar. Remove cabbage from oven and add cornstarch mixture slowly while stirring over low heat. Cook until sauce thickens (about 3 minutes). Taste sauce for sweet/sour balance; add extra sugar or vinegar if you like. Remove bay leaves before serving.
Apple Street Farm Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Shallots & Bacon
Total time: 50 minutes
Yield: 10 servings
6 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 ½ pounds small Brussels sprouts (fresh, not frozen), ends trimmed, halved lengthwise
8 medium-size shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil (optional)
1 cup pecan halves
½ cup dry white wine (such as Pinot Grigio)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On the stovetop, preheat a large (14-inch) oven-safe skillet on medium setting.
Cook bacon in preheated skillet, stirring often, until it begins to brown and fat has rendered (6-8 minutes). Add Brussels sprouts, shallots, salt, and pepper, and stir. Vegetables should look rather glossy, not dry. If bacon hasn’t provided enough fat, add an extra tablespoon of olive oil or other vegetable oil. Cook, stirring continuously, until Brussels sprouts begin to turn golden (about 5 minutes).
Stir in pecans and transfer pan to preheated oven. Cook until vegetables are tender (15-20 minutes). Remove pan from oven; add wine and rosemary, stirring to pick up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Serve warm.
Sausage-Currant Brioche Dressing
Total time: 1 Hour 5 minutes
Yield: 10-12 servings
8 ounces dried black currants
1 cup Port wine
6 tablespoons butter, plus extra for baking dish
1 ½ pounds ground Italian pork or turkey sausage
1 large onion, minced
4 celery stalks, minced
1 ½ teaspoons kosher or sea salt
½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced
Zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons dried ground sage
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 pounds brioche or challah bread, cut into 1/2 –inch cubes and let dry overnight
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken or turkey broth or stock
In a small bowl, stir together currants and Port. Set aside. Meanwhile, in a 4-to-5-quart pot over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add sausage and cook, stirring and breaking up pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned (about 10 minutes). Add onions, celery, salt, and pepper; cook, stirring, until translucent (about 6 minutes). Add garlic, orange zest, sage, and nutmeg; stir. Add bread cubes and broth (or stock).
Drain currants, discarding Port, and add to dressing. Stir to combine ingredients evenly. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
Bake in a greased 9×13-inch baking dish at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, or chill in refrigerator.
Chef Frank McClelland’s L’Espalier has been a perennial “best” of America’s restaurants for three decades, earning top accolades from Zagat, Forbes, Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, Frommer’s, Wine Spectator and Condé Nast Traveler as well as nods in international media. L’Espalier is New England’s most decorated independent restaurant with twelve consecutive AAA Five Diamond Awards (the only one in Boston) and twelve consecutive Forbes (Mobil) Four-Star awards. He speaks and judges across the country at events like Taste of Vail, Foxwoods Food & Wine Festival and the Chefs Collaborative National Summit.
At the heart of Chef McClelland’s menus of New England flavors with French interpretation is Apple Street Farm, his organic farm in Essex, Massachusetts that is the primary source of heirloom produce and proteins for L’Espalier and his trio of casual Sel de la Terre bistros. The James Beard chef and cookbook author (Wine Mondays) views his life as a farmer-restaurateur as being on-trend. By living this life from his youth, he was early to the farm-to-table or “locavore” dining philosophy.