The Other Thanksgiving Recipe — Because It's All About the Sides (2024)

Thanksgiving is the only holiday that wouldn't exist — that can't be celebrated — without the food. Its only purpose, going back to the first one (when the pilgrims, all dressed in matching black-and-white outfits, sat at a long table with the Indians, all wearing feather headdresses, and Charlie Brown) is to show gratitude to God, the earth, or whomever for the food you have the good fortune to be eating. Since that first meal, many more pilgrims have come to the New World. They brought with them their own culinary habits and histories, meshing them with those of previous settlers to create what a brilliant new e-book calls "our country's original fusion food."

The book is The Sides Project, and it was produced by The Workshop Kitchen, a new Philadelphia-based cooking and publishing company cofounded by Esquire's own Francine Maroukian. It includes twenty-five original recipes for Thanksgiving side dishes and co*cktails, organized into five regions. "I like food to make sense," Francine says. "It has to have context." Which is why the book's concise backstories illuminate how each region won its distinct culinary heritage — and how each dish fits in.

Here's a short video they made:


It focuses on side dishes because "turkey is turkey. Everyone knows it's the side dishes that makes Thanksgiving memorable." In the book, you'll find some quick organizing principles for cooking the dinner ("Go easy on the cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice unless you want your potatoes to taste exactly like your pie"), and a menu chart that present a co*cktail, vegetable, starch, dressing, and sweet from each region. It all makes sense. It's all in context.

For example, you learn that in the Midwest — defined here as stretching up from the Mississippi to the Great Lakes and into Nebraska — "migrants came from New England following the 1825 opening of the Erie Canal.... But the Second Industrial Revolution at the turn of the century brought immigrants from Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Greece, and Italy to work in Midwestern manufacturing cities, and these new Americans tended to stay grouped together, living in neighborhoods close to the factories, so much of their culinary heritage remained intact."

Which tells you why dishes like Wild Rice with Bratwurst and Dried Cherries and Brussels Sprouts with Shallots and Guanciale are logical inclusions for that region. The Brussels recipe is below. Get the other twenty-four by downloading the book for the shockingly low price of $3.99 at You won't want to endure Thanksgiving without it.

Midwest Vegetable: Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Shallots and Guanciale


Even people who don't like Brussels sprouts will eat them in the guise of Thanksgiving tradition, especially when there's some sort of pork fat in the mix. This version goes straight to the heartland, home to Iowa's La Quercia (, the neo-traditional makers of some of the finest cured meat in our charcuterie-crazed country. Their artisan salumi includes Guanciale Americano, a cured pork jowl with a touch of rosemary, used like slab bacon. Because La Quercia products are made from pigs freely ranged on vegetarian, grain-based diets and only two ingredients (pork and sea salt) or three (pork, sea salt and spices) added ingredients, the rendered guanciale fat is silky-smooth with farm-fresh flavor.


2 and 1/2 pounds whole Brussels sprouts (sliced about 8 cups)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

6 ounces guanciale, diced 1/4-inch (can substitute pancetta)

1 cup peeled and sliced shallots (about 1/8-inch thick)

1 and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup water or stock


Trim the stem end from the Brussels sprouts, and remove the tough dark green and/or any damaged leaves. Slice the sprouts top to bottom, about 1/8-inch thick.

In a large heavy sauté pan, add the vegetable oil and guanciale, and place over medium heat.

Render the guanciale until golden brown and crisp, about 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the shallots, spreading them out in an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the shallots are golden brown on the bottom side. Then stir and spread them out again (browned sides up) to repeat the process, continuing to cook until nicely caramelized, about another 10 minutes.

Add the sliced Brussels sprouts a handful at a time, mixing them into the caramelized shallots and coating them with the rendered fat.

When all of the sprouts are in the pan, pour the water (or stock) over top. The liquid will steam up and work to wilt and soften the sprouts so they will sauté better (otherwise they won't sit flat on the bottom of the pan).

Add salt and pepper, and sauté until the sprouts are tender and lightly colored, about 10 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper seasoning. Serve warm.


This dish benefits greatly in taste and appearance from a basic cooking technique: Caramelizing, or the process of using high heat to brown sugars (in this case, those found naturally in shallots).

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The Other Thanksgiving Recipe — Because It's All About the Sides (2024)
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