Of all the holidays we celebrate, Thanksgiving is the one most defined by food. And, for most of us that food is based on tradition. My own family looks forward to a big bird with crisp golden skin served with rich pan gravy. They know there will be homemade cranberry chutney, and since our family DNA harbors deep Southern roots, cornbread dressing is a must at our table. However, when it comes to the sides—those special recipes that play supporting roles in this holiday menu—my clan is open to new creations.
I often include new accompaniments like the delectable one featured here. A glorious mélange of the season’s robust vegetables, including butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, brown mushrooms, and leeks, this dish pairs fabulously with the traditional bird and dressing. The vegetables are sautéed, scented with rosemary, then sprinkled with toasted pecans, and Parmesan.
This side dish has several advantages for Thanksgiving chefs. The vegetables, which will need chopping, slicing, and dicing, can be cooked ahead, then reheated at serving time, and all the cooking is done on the stovetop, leaving the oven free for other items. Finally, vegetarians on your guest list will be surprised by how satisfying this medley is.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. May your table reflect the old and the new!
Fall Vegetables with Toasted Pecans and Parmesan
12 oz small Brussels sprouts
4 tbsp canola oil
4 1/2 cups (about 1 1/3 pounds) butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
12 oz small brown (baby bellas) mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced leeks
2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (see note)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
1. Cut off and discard the bases from the Brussels sprouts, then quarter the sprouts, lengthwise. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the sprouts and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook until tender, but not mushy when pierced with a small, sharp knife, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain the sprouts in a colander, then place them under cold running water (still in the colander) until completely cool. Pat them dry and set aside. (Sprouts can be prepared 4 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)
2. In a medium heavy skillet set over medium heat, heat the butter and oil until hot. Add the butternut squash and sauté, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms; stir and cook the mixture 5 minutes more. Add the leeks, rosemary, 1/2 tsp salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly browned and just tender, 3 to 5 minutes or more. (Sautéed vegetables can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring, over medium heat.) Add the Brussels sprouts, and cook, stirring, until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes or more. Season the vegetables with salt to taste.
3. Spoon the vegetables into a shallow serving bowl or dish, Sprinkle them with the pecans and Parmesan cheese. Serves 6 to 8.
Note: To toast pecans, spread on a rimmed baking sheet and place in a preheated 350 degree F degree oven until fragrant and lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove and cool.