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The Heart of the Feast

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Let’s be honest: The best part of Thanksgiving (besides dessert) isn’t the all-American bird, the great symbol of the fall holiday. I have nothing against turkey (when properly cooked, it can yield wonderfully moist, delicious meat), but it’s really the dishes that surround the turkey—the mashed potatoes, the squash, the Brussels sprouts, the sweet potatoes, the dressing—that make this meal a feast. Side dishes are the heart of the meal, the part that everyone looks forward to.

These recipes hit all the classic Thanksgiving notes, but in many cases we’ve given them a new twist or a lighter revision. Winter squash is puréed with the sunny flavor of fresh tangerines, green beans are enlivened with chestnuts and lemon, and potatoes are mashed with olive oil and roasted garlic, without an ounce of butter or cream in sight.

“Herbed ‘Spider’ Cornbread” is an herb-flecked bread made from a light buttermilk batter. It hides a creamy layer within and makes a great side dish. It’s also the basis of our delicious “Herbed Cornbread Dressing with Sausage & Fennel.” And cranberry sauce—made with that glorious, sour American berry—is sweetened with maple syrup, fresh pineapple, ginger, and toasted pecans: a perfect accompaniment to any feast.

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