Cooking | Magazine

Recipes: Three classic Thanksgiving side dishes made easier

Updating the all-important sweet potato, stuffing, and green bean sides with bolder flavors.

Sweet Potato and Shallot Casserole With Fennel Seeds
Connie Miller of CB Creatives
Sweet potato and shallot casserole with fennel seeds.

These recipes are part of a partnership between Christopher Kimball and the cooks at Milk Street and the Globe Magazine’s Cooking column.

After years of fussing over how to roast the perfect turkey, we finally decided to focus where it matters most: the sides. Our holiday versions stay true to the spirit of the classics, updated with bolder, fresher flavors and varied textures. Copious amounts of herbs and good bread, not the bagged cubes, are the secret to an easy mushroom stuffing. Shallots, thyme, fennel seeds, and mustard balance the natural sugars in our updated take on sweet potato casserole, which comes with a crisp cheese and breadcrumb topping. And ground seeds and spices — as well as fragrant toasted almonds — give classic green beans amandine a lively update with plenty of crunch.

Sweet Potato and Shallot Casserole With Fennel Seeds

Makes 8 servings

This is a savory alternative to the sweet potato confection often served at the holiday table, although we can’t resist finishing this casserole with a drizzle of honey or sorghum syrup. A mandoline makes quick work of slicing the shallots and sweet potatoes. Use the small holes on a box grater to shred the cheese; fine shreds better integrate with the bread crumbs. You can prepare the recipe through the baking, then let cool, cover it, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. To finish, allow the casserole to stand at room temperature while the oven heats to 425 degrees, then make the cheese-bread crumb mixture, top, and bake as directed.

Try to choose sweet potatoes that are 2 to 3 inches


in diameter. And don’t use fine bread crumbs. The coarse, fluffy texture of panko makes for a light, crisp topping.

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6 tablespoons (¾ stick) salted butter, melted, plus more for baking dish

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 pound shallots, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds

1 tablespoon fennel seeds


Kosher salt and ground black pepper

3 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, divided

1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

4 pounds orange-flesh sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds

¾ cup panko bread crumbs


1½ ounces Gruyère, finely shredded (¾ cup)

2 tablespoons honey or sorghum syrup (optional)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees with a rack in the upper-middle position. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with butter. Set a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil, and heat until shimmering. Add the shallots, fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring, until the shallots are golden brown, 9 to 12 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon of thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in ‚ cup water and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the skillet is dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Off heat, stir in the mustard. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and distribute in an even layer.

In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon of the remaining thyme, 2 tablespoons of the melted butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Shingle the sweet potatoes down the length of the baking dish, on top of the shallots, creating three rows. Cover with foil and bake until a paring knife inserted into the center of the sweet potatoes meets no resistance, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the panko, Gruyère, the remaining 4 tablespoons melted butter, the remaining 1 teaspoon thyme, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

Remove the baking dish from the oven, uncover, and sprinkle the panko mixture between the rows of sweet potatoes and along the long sides of the dish. Return to the oven uncovered and bake until the topping is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Drizzle with honey or sorghum syrup (if using); serve warm.

Easy Oven-Baked Mushroom-Herb Stuffing

Makes 8 servings

Easy oven-baked mushroom-herb stuffing.
Connie Miller of CB Creatives
Easy oven-baked mushroom-herb stuffing.

This stuffing’s bold herbal flavor comes from generous amounts of fresh sage, thyme, and parsley, as well as poultry seasoning — a ready-made mix of dried herbs, including marjoram, rosemary, and oregano. We especially like Bell’s Seasoning. Using two types of mushrooms — portobellos and shiitakes — builds on the woodsy, earthy flavors of the herbs. If your supermarket only sells whole portobello mushrooms (that is, with stems), you will need about 1½ pounds to account for the weight of the stems.

If you’d like to do some of the work in advance, prepare the recipe through the toasting and seasoning of the bread cubes, then reserve them and the remaining roasted mushrooms separately; refrigerate in airtight containers for up to 2 days. About 2 hours before serving, remove the mushrooms and bread mixture from the refrigerator and proceed with the recipe.

Don’t forget to remove the gills from the portobello mushrooms; if left in, they will give the stuffing a muddy appearance and flavor. Also, make sure to toast the bread cubes until they are nearly dry throughout.

1 pound portobello mushroom caps, gills removed, halved and thinly sliced

1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, thinly sliced

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) salted butter, melted, divided

8 ounces shallots, peeled and halved (4 to 5 large)

½ cup lightly packed fresh sage leaves

3 tablespoons lightly packed fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 pounds sturdy white sandwich bread, cut into ¾-inch cubes

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Heat the oven to 500 degrees with the racks in the upper- and lower-middle positions. In a large bowl, toss both mushrooms, the olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. Spread the mushrooms on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast on the upper rack until they have released their moisture, the moisture evaporates, and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Set aside.

Lower the oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, toss the celery and poultry seasoning with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter; set aside. In a food processor, combine the shallots, sage, thyme, soy sauce, pepper, and 7 tablespoons of the melted butter. Process to a smooth paste, about 30 seconds, scraping the bowl as needed. Add 1 cup of the roasted mushrooms and process until the mushrooms are coarsely chopped, 4 to 6 pulses.

In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes and the shallot-herb paste; toss gently. Fold in the celery mixture, then divide between 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until the bread is dry and deep golden brown, about 1 hour, stirring the bread and switching racks and rotating the pans halfway through. Let cool slightly. Increase the oven to 400 degrees.

Transfer the bread mixture to a large bowl, scraping any browned bits off the baking sheets. Add the broth, parsley, and the remaining mushrooms; fold gently to distribute the mushrooms. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no liquid remains at the bottom of the bowl. Meanwhile, grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter.

Transfer stuffing to the prepared baking dish; spread in an even layer. Brush the surface with the remaining 6 tablespoons melted butter. Bake on the upper rack until well browned, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the dish halfway through. Let sit for 20 minutes before serving.

Green Beans With Toasted Almonds and Spices

Makes 6 servings

Green Beans With Toasted Almonds and Spices
Connie Miller of CB Creatives
Green beans with toasted almonds and spices.

The almonds can be toasted and stored in an airtight container at room temperature and the spice-and-butter mixture can be made, cooled, covered, and refrigerated up to a day in advance. When ready to serve, melt the butter mixture in a 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat, add the beans, and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Finish the dish off heat as directed.

Don’t grind the spices until fine and powdery or they will make the dish gritty. Leave them coarse so that they retain texture and individual flavors.

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1½ teaspoons caraway seeds

½ cup slivered almonds, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon honey

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1½ pounds green beans, trimmed, halved, and blanched

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, toast the sesame, coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds, stirring, until aromatic and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and coarsely grind, about 3 pulses. Transfer to a small heatproof bowl.

In the same skillet over medium-low, toast the almonds, stirring frequently, until deeply browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Add the butter to the hot skillet and cook over medium-low, stirring constantly, until the milk solids at the bottom are golden brown and the butter has a nutty aroma, about 2 minutes. Pour the butter over the spices, then stir in the oregano, honey, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Set aside until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, in a 12-inch skillet, combine the butter-spice mixture and the green beans. Set the pan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are heated through, 7 to 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in half the almonds, then taste and season with salt. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining almonds.

Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to Send comments to