Felicitations! We made it through another year on this planet despite the ongoing pandemic and, well, everything else. It’s time to celebrate, deck the halls, and indulge with abandon. Do whatever you must to feed the joyful holiday spirit coursing through your system—literally, feed it.
To help, we asked three Texas chefs to share side dish recipes they’re excited to cook for their families this season. Their answers span cultures, flavors, and temperatures, and all of them will add a new sense of adventure to your holiday table. We hope you make them, and share with your family. Or with your dogs, if you’d rather spend the holidays with them. Or just eat them yourself. After all, ’tis the season.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes With Honey, Labneh, Sage, and Hazelnuts
“There are so many different sweet potato sides. My wife’s family is very Southern; they’re from Tennessee. They’re the ones who kind of turned me on to the sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top. And then her grandma who lives out there would make these things that I’d never heard of until I moved to Tennessee. They’re called candied yams and they’re essentially thick cuts of sweet potatoes, and then she’d add pecans and cook it in orange juice and stuff. It was super caramel-y and nice. This dish is somewhere in between a casserole and candied yams.”
—Aaron Skoultchi, executive chef at Anise, Dallas
½ cup hazelnuts
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon salt
Grated zest of half a lemon
Juice of half a lemon
⅓ cup honey, divided
4 pounds sweet potatoes (about 5 or 6 medium), peeled and cut into half-inch rounds
⅓ cup fresh sage leaves
1 cup labneh, at room temperature
- Blanch the hazelnuts: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place the hazelnuts on a sheet pan, and toast about 5 minutes or until fragrant. Do not let them burn (which can happen quickly). Transfer hazelnuts to a clean tea towel, and rub them around inside it until the skins come off.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees, preparing it for your casserole. Place the blanched hazelnuts into a 1-quart plastic zipper bag and use a rolling pin or the bottom of a pan to crush them, lightly. (You want big pieces, not ground hazelnuts). Set aside.
- Place 4 tablespoons of the butter into a large mixing bowl with the paprika, salt, lemon zest and juice, and half of the honey. Use a spoon or flexible spatula to combine them well. Add the sweet potato rounds and, using your hands or two large spoons, toss them in the butter mixture to coat them well.
- Layer the rounds in a nine-by-nine-inch baking dish, cover tightly with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking, uncovered, until the sweet potatoes are browned on top and cooked through. Remove from the oven and let the dish rest while you prepare the garnish.
- Place the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a small sauté pan and heat over medium-low until melted. Raise heat to medium, add the sage leaves and crushed hazelnuts, and toast them in the melted butter until they’re fragrant and the hazelnuts are deep golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Place the labneh in a small bowl, add the remaining honey and swirl together with a spoon until they’re almost combined, leaving some streaks of honey. Spoon dollops of the mixture on top of the potatoes. Dollop the toasted hazelnuts and sage and their melted butter evenly on top of the honey-labneh and sweet potatoes, and serve.
Pickled Chives, Bean Sprouts, and Carrots
“I think every Vietnamese person, or the people who know about Vietnamese culture, know which dishes are served during Lunar New Year. And sometime the side dish is what we miss the most when we’re away from home. Sometimes I just miss my mom’s bean sprouts.
My parents are vaccinated now, and with Lunar New Year coming up, I’m so thankful that I will be able to hug them and eat this dish with them. It’s a very southern dish and it connects the two southern parts of the world that I love, Houston and Saigon. The pickled bean sprouts are from the south of Vietnam, and you can eat them with pork stew or barbecue. This dish would go very well with Texas barbecue, I guarantee it.”
—Nikki Tran, chef at Kau Ba Saigon Kitchen, Houston
2 medium carrots
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch chives
1 pound bean sprouts
1 jalapeño (optional), sliced
1 cup honey
½ cup fish sauce
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- Peel carrots and cut into matchsticks. Slice green onions into pieces about 2 inches long. With a knife or kitchen scissors, cut chives to about 2 inches long. In a bowl, combine the carrots, green onions, and chives with the bean sprouts and jalapeño, if using, then set aside.
- Now make the sauce. Bring the honey, fish sauce, and apple cider vinegar to a rolling boil. Keep an eye on the pot, as this happens fairly quickly. Turn the heat off as soon as it begins to boil. When the sauce has cooled, add it to the vegetables and place in the fridge for half an hour, letting it soak in. Serve cold.
Salt Fish Fritters
“I do a Caribbean-American fusion for Thanksgiving. There’ll be a lot of our staples, like the black mushroom rice with mushrooms that come from Haiti. Even the turkey isn’t cooked traditionally—I break it down, then fry it and stew it in its sauces. Then I’ll just put like tons of onions and bell peppers and put a scotch bonnet in there for a little bit of spice. Salt fish fritters will be on the table.”
—Nahika Hillery, chef at Kreyòl Korner Caribbean Cuisine, Austin
For the salt fish fritters:
4 cups vegetable oil for frying
½ pound preserved cod or fresh cod
1½ to 2 cups flour
1 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 shallot, minced
1 scotch bonnet pepper, diced
1 tablespoon Haitian epis* seasoning base
Shredded desalted cod
½ bunch parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Haitian epis:
1 bunch scallion, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
½ cup oil of your choosing
1 tablespoon dried adobo
1 teaspoon salt
- Add all the Haitian epis ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
- Add oil to fryer, Dutch oven, or high-sided skillet and heat over medium. Use a thermometer to make sure heat is 350 degrees, or drop some flour to test that you’re ready to fry. If the flour sizzles, you know it’s go time.
- If using preserved cod, desalt it by boiling for 20 minutes. Drain and taste. There may still be hints of salt, but saltiness should be mild to none. If using fresh cod, sauté in a pan over medium heat until cooked and salt to taste. Set aside.
- Combine all the fritter ingredients except for the fish into a bowl and mix until a thick paste begins to form. (You might need to add more flour to create the gluey texture.) Shred the cod and then add it to the mix. Form fritters with spoon and drop in the fryer, even spaced, then turn them after 4 minutes. Let fry for an additional 3 to 4 minutes on the opposite side. Remove from oil and let cool. Serve with a lemon wedge.