I love vegetables and am an avid gardener, so perhaps it’s no surprise that I’m a big fan of side dishes featuring vegetables. In winter, some of my favorites include Brussels sprouts cooked simply with lots of thyme and lemon, and roasted butternut squash with kale and dried cranberries. I also like to toss a colorful mix of carrots, green beans, and pearl onions in a white wine reduction, and on a cold night, I find that a creamy potato gratin hits the spot. Such simple dishes are perfect for family dinners and casual get-togethers with friends.
When the occasion calls for something fancier, I still turn to these recipes, but I make them special by adding indulgent ingredients or tweaking the method. For example, to make those Brussels sprouts more luxurious, I follow my basic recipe, except I separate the leaves of each sprout first so that they cook to a lush, tender texture. I then coat the leaves with rich crème fraîche and sprinkle them with toasted pistachios for crunch. I like both versions equally, but the latter dish is definitely more elegant.
Similarly, my gratin, already yummy with sautéed leeks and fennel, becomes even more festive when studded with chestnuts and topped with crisp prosciutto. Candied bacon and hazelnuts glam up the butternut squash and kale sauté, while buttery breadcrumbs and aromatic truffle oil transform that simple green bean and carrot dish. You’ll find all of these recipes on the pages that follow. Just pick the dish that matches the occasion.
Créme fraîche in the fancy Brussels sprouts gives them a rich flavor and creamy texture. Pistachios add crunch.
Chestnuts lend a holiday feel to the gratin, while a layer of crisp prosciutto adds color, flavor, and extravagance.
Toasted hazelnuts and candied bacon—known in some circles as “millionaire’s bacon”—give this dish an air of luxury.
The crisp, buttery breadcrumb topping can be made in minutes, yet makes the dish seem as if you really fussed. A drizzle of truffle oil helps, too.