The Turkey-day countdown has begun. Cooks and hosts across town are spending any available down time studying recipes, making lists and mapping a Thanksgiving defense strategy. I, personally, begin with a spread sheet, prioritizing side dishes that may be made in advance – my primary tactic to minimize kitchen chaos.
Granted, the main dish – the turkey – provides the drama. Its aroma and sheer largess are what elicit the oohs and ahs as it’s carved at the table. But its the side dishes that prickle my family’s palates.
This Root Vegetable Gratin is an example of a perfect make-ahead side dish; I serve it every year. The dish can be made up to 24 hours in advance (omitting the topping), then wrapped and refrigerated. Thirty minutes prior to serving (as your turkey is resting), top it with the panko-cheese mixture and pop it into the oven.
Root vegetables are the underground edibles of the vegetable world; a sub-culture of subterranean beauty with earthy flavor, price tags and health properties that are easy to digest. This accommodating recipe, which utilizes the season’s bounty, may also be lightened up, if desired. Substitute olive oil for the butter and milk for the half-and-half or cream.
It’s a dish for hosts who insist upon tackling the whole feast, yet don’t want to be hovering over a sauté pan at the last minute. It’s also a gem of a recipe for the guest who promised to bring a dish to pass. (Just make sure to coordinate oven time with the hostess; oven space is valuable square footage on Thanksgiving.)