Holiday Side Dishes: The Perfect Wingmen for Your Meal

Sure, it’s a gorgeous turkey. The skin crisped and golden, the poultry tender and flavorful, perfumed with sage and rosemary.


Or maybe you hail from a red-meat holiday household, and it’s a beef tenderloin or standing rib roast that you’re pulling out of the oven.

But I’m here to tell you, we can not live by main course alone. I’m all about the side dishes. And there are a few that never fail me, that my family clamors for year after year. The cheesiest, most delicious macaroni and cheese, and my favorite winter salad, first shared with my book group by Evanston’s Alison Chiaro. You’ll love them both. I promise!

The Best Mac and Cheese
Serves 8

  • 1 pound whole-wheat pasta shapes (farfalle, shells and fusilli all work well)
  • 3 cups 2-percent milk
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (freshly grated cheese is best!)
  • 1 pound extra-sharp or medium cheddar cheese, grated
  • Freshly ground pepper

For topping: 

  • 1 cup whole-wheat panko crumbs, or sub 32 stoned wheat crackers
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and pasta. Cook, uncovered, until pasta is al dente (see package directions as each pasta shape has a different cooking time). Drain immediately. If preparing ahead, cool on a large sheet pan then toss with a little bit of oil to avoid sticking.

2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Adjust oven rack to middle position.

3. Combine milk and broth in a large Pyrex measuring cup. Microwave until hot (or heat in a small pan).

4. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk in flour, then add in hot milk/broth all at once. Whisk to avoid clumping. Cook, whisking, until bubbly and thick, about 4–5 minutes (it will depend on how hot your milk is to begin with). Remove from heat.

5. Whisk in mustard and Parmeasan cheese, then the cheddar. Combine until all cheese has melted into the sauce. Combine with pasta and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

6. Pour into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

7. For topping, combine melted butter and panko or cracker crumbs. Spread evenly over top of mac and cheese. Sprinkle with paprika, then place in oven. Bake about 25 minutes, until top is browned and casserole is hot and bubbly. Serve warm.


recipes-kale-brussels-sprout-saladBrussels Sprouts and Kale Salad 
Serves 8

  • 2 bunches dinosaur kale (also known as Tuscan or lacinato kale), washed, stemmed and julienned
  • 1 bag Brussels sprouts, trimmed and grated (Cuisinart is good for this)
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds, chopped
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste


1. Combine veggies, almonds and cheese in large salad bowl.

2. In separate small bowl, combine lemon juice, shallots, garlic and mustard; combine. Whisk in olive oil to thicken; toss with salad. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. It is best to dress this a 1/2 hour before serving to soften kale.


Also check out this stellar Green Bean Casserole from celebrity chef Stephanie Izard.

Or this delish Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup. 

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