Yes, cranberry sauce is a given. You probably make a homemade version to accompany its canned brethren in order to appease the most strident of canned-sauce believers. But often homemade cranberry sauce recipes include a cascade of spices, fruit, and nuts to distract from the fact that the sauce is simply a frozen bag of bouncy fruits cooked up with far too much sugar. In Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well, Sam Sifton offers a straight-forward, yet well-balanced Basic Cranberry Sauce to counter all of those overwrought bowls of relish.
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Nothing screams fancy dinner quite like a bowl of pearl onions. The small orbs of sweetness signal vast amounts of prep time and tears on the part of the cook. But don't let the extra work steer you away from Sam Sifton's recipe for Creamed Onions. These morsels are easy to peel once par-boiled and shocked, then are coated in the most luscious of cream sauces. A smattering of bacon adds even more richness as well as smoky flavor, and a bright finish of herbaceous parsley, cayenne, and black pepper balance the sauce.
I knew going into the recipe that the bacon and butter would taste great with the greens, but the beer was a total surprise. Its beer-ness dissipates during cooking, leaving only malty sweetness and just a hint of fermented grain to the greens. It was this extra level of complexity that made these greens my favorite side of the season.
While mashed potatoes and green beans are no-brainers come Thanksgiving, that additional side dish or two can be a bit of a toss-up. That's where Sam Sifton's Roasted Cauliflower with Anchovy Bread Crumbs from Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well comes in—pop it into the oven while your turkey rests. Roasted cauliflower is awesome on its own, at once creamy and caramelized, but the addition of crunchy anchovy bread crumbs takes the dish into Thanksgiving territory.