If the roast turkey disappeared from your Thanksgiving table, would you miss it? There’d be more room for mashed potatoes! More room for rolls that leave your fingertips shiny with butter. More room for crispy-edged casseroles of dressing and macaroni and cheese; for pots of silky greens in coconut milk; and pans of sweet, wrinkled roast carrots dipped in hot gravy.
I write about my wholehearted love of vegetables once a week in The Veggie, New York Times Cooking’s vegetarian newsletter, so maybe it’s no surprise to learn that I wouldn’t miss the turkey at all. Sure, birds get all the attention, but sides are the low-key stars of the table — less stressful to cook, more delicious to eat and far better at representing the diversity of seasonal ingredients this time of year.
It’s important to edit your menu thoughtfully, taking into account textures, colors and flavors. And it’s always nice to have a touch of tang on the table, like a properly tart cranberry sauce. This isn’t to counter the rich and cheesy casseroles (look for cheese labeled vegetarian if you need to, or lose it altogether), but to make them all even better. There’s no single star at Sidesgiving, but a table full of them.
I usually start with noting down a couple of family favorites, then add two or three dishes that might play nicely with them. Simple mashed potatoes and mixed roasted root vegetables with whole garlic cloves and sprigs of thyme are the anchors of my table, and they’re not going anywhere — ever.
But this year, I’m planning to make Deborah Madison’s sweet potatoes with miso-ginger dressing. I’m drawn to the technique of steaming, then pan-frying, which yields tender insides and beautiful browned edges. I know I want one more satisfying starch, and I’m debating between Yewande Komolafe’s plantains with beans and Von Diaz’s yuca coated in a warm, garlicky mojo.
You’ll find those recipes and many others below, so that you can mix and match your ideal party spread. With just a few dishes, you’ll have a Thanksgiving meal that’s beautiful, lavish and vegetarian.