Local chefs on their favorite Thanksgiving side dishes

Roast goose served with Cumberland sauce, roast potatoes, carrots, brussels sprouts, mashed turnips and braised red cabbage. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Naturally the conversation at the Thanksgiving dinner table will once again turn to politics, the day’s football games and, we would hope, what we’re all thankful for this year.

Foodies like us, however, also like to spend a little time talking about the dishes on the table. 

We recently reached out to chefs across the North Fork to find out which dishes they believe are most important to the Turkey Day experience and which they least favor. Their answers may surprise you.

Roasted root vegetables is tops for Grace & Grit co-owner and executive chef Jennilee Morris. 

“I usually toss in Brussels sprouts, rainbow carrots, parsnips and even some sweet potato,” she said. “It’s something for everyone and all of the beautiful colors are stunning on the table.”

Chef Noah Schwartz of Noah’s in Greenport seconded Morris. 

“It has a great flavor combination that pops on the plate more than other Thanksgiving sides,” he said. “I know it sounds crazy. I do them roasted with Andouille sausage for a little bit of spiciness that I like on my Thanksgiving dinner plate.”

Schwartz also adds roasted cipollini onions and finishes the dish with crumbled gorgonzola to enhance the flavor profile.

Jamesport Manor Inn chef Jeffrey Russell also considers roasted Brussels sprouts as his favorite side. He pairs them with roasted macadamia nuts in a white balsamic reduction and crispy prosciutto. 

When it comes to savory sides, Jedediah Hawkins Inn chef Stephen Smrcina is sticking with sausage and sage stuffing.

“It is what I grew up with,” Smrcina said. “If you make it moist enough it is more like a bread pudding and not a muscle-it-down dry stuffing.” 

Kristi Macdonald, the chef at aMano in Mattituck, gives stuffing a thumbs-down for Thanksgiving. She prefers to keep it on the sweet side at the dinner table. 

“Oddly enough stuffing is my least-favorite side because it can be boring — there’s so many better things on the table,” she said. “My favorites are between two items: sweet potato pie and butternut squash soufflé.” 

The traditional sweet potato pie topped with marshmallows is a go-to for Macdonald. She takes sweet/salty sides to the next level with the lightly seasoned whipped butternut squash soufflé, which she tops with a vanilla cookie crumble. 

Russell called out mashed potatoes as the most boring side.

“Even though it sounds so simple, a lot of people can’t make good mashed potatoes from scratch — they either do it from the box or it’s lumpy or they don’t season it correctly,” he said. “It can be very bland.” 

The closest we could come to a consensus on what is the weakest side would have to be canned cranberry sauce.

My mom always opens one up every year because my brother likes it, but I can’t even go near it,” Schwartz said.

Morris could only muster two words on canned cranberry sauce: “Must you?”