Forget the turkey—We’re here to help with what everyone really wants: desserts and sides

We have often wondered who is the star of the Thanksgiving table: the turkey or the sides? Come November, it seems like every food magazine gives the turkey top billing in all of its perfectly roasted, golden brown glory. But we suspect what most people look forward to at the Thanksgiving spread are the awesome side dishes. We certainly do. So this month, we decided to share some of our favorite sides. They’re always a hit at our holiday feast. We’re confident they will be at yours, now, too.

• Creamy Thyme Risotto with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
• Fall Wedge Salad
• Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cane Syrup and Bacon
• Buttermilk Pumpkin Pie

This recipe combines wonderful flavors and textures. The risotto is creamy, with hints of thyme, white wine and chicken broth. But it also has the sweet, earthy flavor of roasted sweet potatoes, providing the perfect blend of fall flavors that will be a nice addition to your traditional Thanksgiving spread.

Servings: 6

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
5 tablespoons olive oil
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup chopped shallots
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
5½ cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for topping)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Once the water is boiling, carefully drop in the peeled and chopped sweet potatoes. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain them well.
3. Pat them dry and place them on a single layer on a baking sheet. Toss them in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, a ½ teaspoon of the salt and half the black pepper. Roast for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they are completely soft and beginning to become golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
4. In a large pot on medium heat, melt the butter in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the shallots and sauté 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic until all is incorporated.
5. Add in the rice and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir everything over medium-high heat. Sauté the rice for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn.
6. Once the rice has turned golden brown, reduce the heat to medium low and carefully stir in the cup of white wine. Scrape up any brown bits off the bottom of the pan as you stir in the wine.
7. Stir in 2 cups of the chicken broth and fold in the roasted sweet potatoes. Cover the pot and allow the mixture to start simmering about 3 to 4 minutes.
8. Remove the lid and stir the risotto to prevent it from sticking to the bottom and to further break down the sweet potatoes. Add in 2 more cups of broth, stir to incorporate and cover again for another 3 to 5 minutes. Test the rice to make sure it is becoming tender. Add in another cup of broth, stir well and cover for another couple of minutes.
9. Once the rice is tender, pour in the remaining broth. Turn off the heat completely. Cover the risotto to allow it to steam for another 5 minutes. The sweet potatoes should have cooked down to a smooth and creamy consistency by this point.
10. Remove the lid and fold in the thyme, Parmesan cheese and more salt and black pepper to taste. Serve the warm risotto topped with a little more Parmesan.

This salad has many of the elements and flavors of a Waldorf salad but it is served as a wedge, making for a lovely presentation. For an added kick, try spicy, roasted pecans, such as the Bergeron’s brand out of New Roads or the Trader Joe’s version. This recipe is easy to double or even triple if need be.

Servings: 6

¾ cup mayonnaise
½ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup honey cup apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon Creole seasoning
2 tablespoons water

1. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard and honey until smooth.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and set aside.

1 large head iceberg lettuce
1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
1 large Jazz apple, diced
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup spicy toasted pecans (coarsely chopped)
2 to 3 ounces crumbled blue cheese

1. Using a serrated knife with a point, cut out the core of the lettuce. Wash the lettuce and pat dry
2. Cut the lettuce into 6 wedges. Place them on a serving platter.
3. Drizzle half the dressing over the lettuce wedges. Top with the diced apples and dried cranberries.
4. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the apples and cranberries. Sprinkle the blue cheese over the top. Add the chopped toasted pecans to the salad and serve.

Brussels sprouts used to get a bad rap (and for a good reason). Fortunately, they have made a comeback and are delicious when roasted. The entire flavor profile changes to create a nutty, savory side dish. The addition of cane syrup vinaigrette and bacon adds just the right amount of sweetness, tang and salt.

Servings: 6

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 to 5 pieces bacon
¼ cup cane syrup
½ teaspoon Creole seasoning cup white balsamic vinegar or sherry vinegar
½ cup canola oil or vegetable oil

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the Brussels sprouts in the olive oil, salt and pepper.
2. Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and put into the heated oven. Roast for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they are tender and becoming golden.
3. While the Brussels sprouts are roasting, cook the bacon in a skillet until crispy. Drain well,  crumble the bacon into bits and set aside.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the cane syrup, Creole seasoning, vinegar and oil.
5. Remove the Brussels sprouts from the oven and—while they are still hot—toss them in the cane syrup vinaigrette, making sure they are coated well. Sprinkle with the bacon bits and serve.

Buttermilk pie and pumpkin pie are both staples on our Thanksgiving dessert table. So this year, Tracey decided to combine the two. The result was a lighter, creamier version of a traditional pumpkin pie. We added a bit of vanilla and Bourbon along with a nice amount of pumpkin pie spice to make this a delicious, updated version of a traditional Thanksgiving dessert.

Servings: 6-8

1 9-inch pie shell (or use your favorite recipe for pie crust)
1 stick softened butter
½ cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs
¾ cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ounce Bourbon
2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Press the unbaked pie dough into a 9-inch pie pan.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter, white and brown sugar, flour, salt and pumpkin pie spice until smooth.
3. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and Bourbon until incorporated.
4. Whisk the egg mixture into the pumpkin base until well blended.
5. Pour the filling into the pie shell. Sprinkle the top of the pie with the cinnamon sugar. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the pie. Serve the pie warm or at room temperature.