Side Dish Spotlight: Grilled and Smoked Thanksgiving Classics

We took an informal poll, and discovered (not to our surprise) that having filled their Thanksgiving plates, most people first steer their forks to the side dishes—mashed potatoes, the infamous green bean casserole, and bread stuffing. Not throwing shade on turkey, of course, but we rounded up some of our favorite grilled or smoked side dishes. (The only exception is Claire’s Cranberry Walnut Bread, which could be baked in an oven.) So if you’re ready to add a new item or two to your T-Day menu, read on. And Happy Thanksgiving to all from Steven, Barbara, and the Barbecuebible team.

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Plank-Smoked Camembert

This attractive appetizer goes together in minutes and features tantalizing flavors and textures, especially when served with grilled bread or fancy crackers. Another variation is topped with pepper jelly and a rosette of pecans.

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Claire’s Cranberry Walnut Bread

Though it doesn’t involve grilling, this is a Steven Raichlen recipe, one that appeared in his first novel, The Hermit of Chappaquiddick. It’s perfect for the holidays. (Makes a great hostess gift, too.)

“Claire attempted to plunge into the next chapter, but her mind was elsewhere. She closed her computer and went to the kitchen to bake a loaf of cranberry nut bread. She roasted the walnuts in a skillet to give them a smoky flavor and perfumed the batter with cardamom and freshly grated orange zest. While the bread was cooling, she found a card, wrote a note, and tied it to the pan with raffia.”

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Pepper Jack Bacon Jalapeño Cornbread

There are three secrets to great corn bread: the cornmeal itself, the milk or buttermilk, and the flavorings. The cornmeal most folks reach for is the coarse gritty yellow stuff sold in cardboard cylinders at the supermarket. Pleasant enough, but you’ll get far superior results with small batch, stone-ground, pale yellow or white cornmeal from an artisanal gristmill in New England or the South. Serve it right from its cast iron skillet.

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Smoked Acorn Squash with Parmesan Flan

This side dish (or meatless entrée) takes one of fall’s most iconic vegetables to new heights! The squash is smoke-roasted until almost tender, then filled with a cheesy, savory flan and baked for 20 to 25 minutes more. For a more festive presentation, hollow out “Jack-Be-Little” pumpkins instead of acorn squash. Cooking times will need to be reduced for the pumpkins, depending on their size.

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Smoked Mushroom Bread Pudding

Here’s Steven’s version of Thanksgiving stuffing/dressing. It meets all the holiday requirements while adding a flavor distinctly its own—you guessed it—the taste of wood smoke. Pan-fried mushrooms and sage add earthy autumnal flavors. You could even add roasted chestnuts for a Dickensian touch. Brioche and cream make it unabashedly rich. (But feel to substitute your favorite bread for brioche, if desired.)

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Smoked Creamed Corn

The contrast of flavors and textures—sweet and smoky, creamy and crunchy—will come as a revelation. Smoked corn kernels are a wonderful “secret ingredient.” We add them to sauces, salads, soups, and stews. Smoking the corn adds a sweet caramel-like flavor to this Thanksgiving-worthy side dish. Don’t have an outdoor smoker? Use a stovetop smoker with maple sawdust.

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Whole Stalk Brussels Sprouts with Curry Butter

Around the holidays, many supermarkets and farmers’ markets carry brussels sprouts on the stalk. They make for a very impressive presentation. If you don’t own a rotisserie (or can’t find brussels sprouts on the stalk), simply grill whole brussels sprouts in a grill basket until tender, then serve with the sauce. They are also great when drizzled with a nice balsamic glaze—one you can make by adding a touch of honey to balsamic vinegar, then reducing it over medium heat until it coats a spoon.

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Hellfire Cranberry Salsa

If you’ve always found cranberry sauce to be cloyingly sweet, this brash sauce (more like a salsa) is for you! A bit of brown sugar cuts the astringency of the cranberries, but chiles keep the sauce from being too sweet. Definitely not your grandma’s cranberry sauce!

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Smoked Cheesecake with Burnt Sugar Cream Sauce

While we love pumpkin pie, we might love Steven’s lusciously rich cheesecake even more! Make it a day ahead so it can chill properly. Then gird thyself for a barrage of compliments!

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