Appetites: Minnesota chefs share their favorite Thanksgiving sides

A fall harvest dinner on display on a table.
Throw your guests some curveballs this Thanksgiving, with pickled berries instead of bacon on your brussels sprouts, a turkey stuffed with egg roll filling instead of bread stuffing, or by finally nailing the mashed potatoes.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Whether it’s at the White House, the Minnesota State Capitol or on your dinner table, turkeys always get the spotlight this time of year. But there is a lot more to Thanksgiving than the big bird, of course. So on Appetites this week, we asked a handful of Minnesota chefs for some spotlight-worthy side dish ideas.

To hear all of them, including Amalia Moreno-Damgaard’s chayote en dulce, or candied squash, click play on the audio player above.

Hmong Egg Roll Stuffing

Recipe by Diane Moua

Serves 6 to 8

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5¼ ounces vermicelli bean thread noodles

1½ cups shredded green cabbage

1½ cups shredded carrots

¾ cup chopped green onion

¾ cup chopped cilantro

3 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon Kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

In a large bowl, soak bean thread noodles in hot water for 8 minutes. Drain well and cut the noodles in half.

Mix the noodles with all remaining ingredients. Stuff turkey with the mixture, then roast as directed.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pickled Blueberries and Toasted Pecans

Recipe by Vincent Francoual

brussels sprouts with pickled blueberries and pecans
Tired of bacon on his brussels sprouts, Minneapolis Chef Vincent Francoual has started serving them with lightly pickled blueberries.
Courtesy of Vincent Francoual

Serves 4

2 lbs brussels sprouts (smaller the better)

½ cup pickled blue berries, drained well (see recipe)  

½ cup toasted pecan nuts (or any nut)                              

½ cup loosely packed Italian Parsley, leaves picked                                    

3 medium shallots, thinly sliced                                                                               

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

3 tbsp olive oil or duck fat                       

Roasting the brussels sprouts and pickling the blueberries can be done a day in advance. To roast the brussels sprouts, remove the stem then cut in half lengthwise. Place in a mixing bowl and mix with 2 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Space them out on a sheet pan in a single layer. Roast at 380 degrees until cooked through and lightly brown. Check around 20 minutes.

In a sauté pan, heat up olive oil (or fat of your liking) using medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft. Add the roasted brussels sprouts and finely chopped garlic, then heat for another 4 minutes. Add parsley leaves and the half cup of the drained pickled berries. Cook until berries are softened. Add salt and pepper if needed, top with toasted pecans and parsley, then serve.

(Tip: The key to roasting brussels sprout is to not overcrowd the pan. If you are purist like me, I cut them in half and place them face down in a pan before I roast them in the oven.)

Pickled Blueberries

This recipe will give you more than what is needed for the recipe. The remaining berries work well in salad. It will keep in the fridge for two weeks.

6 oz blueberries

1½ cup red wine vinegar 

2 tbsp sugar   

2 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp Kosher salt                         

In a small saucepan, add vinegar, sugar, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and Kosher salt. Bring to a quick boil and set aside for 15 minutes.

Place the blueberries in a glass mason jar and pour the liquid on the berries. The liquid should cover the berries. Cover and place in the fridge and let the berries “pickle” for at least 24 hours before using.

Ultimate Mashed Potatoes

Recipe by Raghavan Iyer

Ultimate mashed potatoes
The secret to Raghavan Iyer's "Ultimate Mashed Potatoes" is using russet potatoes, a ricer instead of a masher, and a light touch when incorporating the cream and butter.
Courtesy of Matthew Benson

Serves 6

2 pounds russet potatoes

½ cup heavy whipping cream

4 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks

4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter

1½ teaspoons coarse sea or Kosher salt

1½ teaspoons coarsely cracked black peppercorns

½ cup finely chopped fresh chives

Peel the potatoes and give them a good rinse under running water. Cut them into quarters, place them in a medium-size pan, and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and gently boil the potatoes until they fall apart quite easily when pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes.

While the potatoes cook, pour the cream into a small saucepan and add the cream cheese, butter, salt, and peppercorns. Simmer over medium heat, uncovered whisking occasionally, until the cream bubbles, the cheese softens and becomes smooth, and the butter melts, 5 to 8 minutes. Keep the cream warm over very low heat until the potatoes are done.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and give it a gentle shake to remove excess water. Return the potatoes to the pan. Dry them out over low heat until the surface appears dry, stirring occasionally so they don't stick to the bottom of the pan.

Working in batches, if necessary, transfer the potatoes to a ricer and press them through into a serving bowl. (If you don't have a ricer, use a potato masher and fluff them very thoroughly with a fork when completely mashed.) Pour the pepper-speckled cream over the potatoes and sprinkle with the chives. Fold together with a spatula just until the liquid is incorporated. Don't overmix it.