Beginners Guide to Your First Holiday Dinner: Side Dishes

Beginners Guide to Your First Holiday Dinner: Side Dishes

For some people cooking the holiday meal can be a really scary task. With a few simple tips; I am going to teach you how to organize and cook a tasty holiday meal that you can prepare with ease and be the envy of your guests. We are going to break the menu down into an easy step by step plan that will free you up from stress and let you enjoy your holiday.

Cranberry Relish

Cranberry Relish is a classic side that goes great with turkey. Usually folks will open a can and plop it out onto a plate for the table. Here is a really easy recipe that will pack a real punch and can be made 3 days prior to your meal.

Pop 3 cups of fresh cranberries into a small pot with a chopped apple or pear, a squeeze of orange juice and some zest, 1/2 C of sugar (cranberries are really tart). Simmer this on low heat for 30 minutes. When the cranberries burst open you are ready to roll. Cool the relish down and store in the fridge.

Honey Glazed Carrots

I love to have fresh vegetables at the holiday table. During these special times I like to spruce'em up a little bit. The great thing about veggies is that they can be prepped a couple of days in advance and reheated at the last minute so they taste ad look fresh.

The first step is to "blanch" 2 lbs of baby carrots (You can also chop large carrots into ½ inch pieces) in large pot of boiling salted water. Boil them for 5 minutes or until they are halfway cooked. Take the carrots out and shock then in a bowl of ice cold water. When they are cool, drain, dry well and store in an airtight container. You can do this 2 days prior to your meal.

About 30 minutes prior to your meal you can re heat the carrots in a skillet over medium heat with some butter, a pinch of cinnamon, salt and pepper. Toss the carrots every couple of minutes and when they have browned on all sides drizzle them with a little honey and cook for one more minute.

Green Beans w/ Bacon

The beans can be started by browning 3 slices of bacon in a pan over medium heat. Remove the bacon when crisp, then sauté a half of a sweet onion in the bacon fat with one pound of blanched beans. When the beans are just cooked through, season them with salt and pepper and garnish with the chopped bacon.

Mashed Potatoes

This can be done so many ways with so many flavors; today I am going to give you the short and sweet version. First wash, scrub and cut 4 lbs of russet or Yukon gold potatoes into one inch cubes, keep the skin on for a home style mash. Store the diced potatoes in cold water in the fridge up to 2 days in advance. One day prior to your dinner, place the potatoes in a large pot, cover in cold water and boil until fork tender.

While that is cooking, heat 1 cup of half and half, 3 tablespoons of butter, 1.5 tablespoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper until it starts to bubble. Carefully strain the potatoes until they are dry, this is really important. Put the potatoes back in the pot and pour over the hot milk and butter combo. Start mashing with a potato masher or a large wooden spoon or spatula. At this point you can add cheeses like cheddar or parmesan and top with chopped bacon, chives or fresh herbs.

Mashed potatoes can be prepared a day in advance and placed in an oven safe dish to store. You can reheat this dish by topping the mashed potatoes with some butter, cover with foil, and cook for 45 minutes in a 400º F oven, stirring every 15 minutes.

The Stuffing

The last must have side on your holiday table is the stuffing. This can be made by sauteing half of a chopped onion, 1 chopped carrot and 2 ribs of chopped celery in a medium pot with 3 tablespoons of butter and a pinch of dried sage and thyme if you have it. Add 4 cups of seasoned croutons to the pot and stir. Add a little chicken stock or water until the stuffing has moistened. urn off the heat, cover and let steam for 10 minutes. Place in an oiled, oven safe dish and cool.

Like mashed potatoes, stuffing can be prepared a day in advance and placed in an oven safe dish to store. You can reheat this dish the day of your dinner. All you have to do is drizzle with oil and cover with foil, and cook for 30 minutes in a 400º F oven. Take the foil off to brown the stuffing the last 5 minutes.

You can finish out your menu with some heat and serve rolls or sliced Italian bread w/ softened butter. Desserts can also be homemade, purchased or brought by guests. If this is your first year hosting the big holiday I suggest buying your desserts. Baking pies and cakes can get complicated and really stressful. I want this year to be easy for you, give baking a try next year, once you have the basics down.

On the next blog post we will conquer the holiday beast, the Thanksgiving Turkey and make pan gravy.

Now get Crackin' and Gobble Gobble! Chef Egg


Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.

Sharane Miller 11/25/13 - 11:13 AM
Can't wait! You make your mashers almost exactly like I do!

Jordana's Mom 11/25/13 - 12:17 PM
Yummy Yummy Yummy!!!! I am a German making an American Thanksgiving dinner and your recipes are exactly what I need. Thank you Chef Egg!!!!

Jordana 11/25/13 - 3:23 PM
Thanks Chef Egg! I had NO idea about what to do for the cranberry situation…and now I have hope! Thanks for posting!

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