Every Thanksgiving, most of us have the same tired green side: string beans with slivered almonds. While it's a perfectly delicious dish, it's hardly unusual or festive. It always strikes me as a bit of an afterthought: We spend hours plotting the stuffing, baking the pies, and selecting the just the right bottle of holiday Zinfandel, and then—five minutes before the meal—we toss some beans in a skillet because we ought to have something green on the table.
I know it's not even Halloween yet, but like many of you, I've already started contemplating my Thanksgiving menu. And this year I want to serve a unique, show-stealing side. After pouring over the November issue of Bon Appétit, I decided to test drive the Cauliflower and Brussels Sprout Gratin with Pine Nut-Bread Crumb Topping for this week's Cooking from the Glossies post.
Since I was preparing the dish to accompany a simple weeknight roast chicken (as opposed to a large dinner party) I halved the recipe, paring it down from 8 to 10 servings to about 4 to 6. I didn't have any fresh sage so I substituted fresh oregano, which I felt yielded a lovely, slightly more subtle flavor. In an effort to cut down on fat, I swapped the heavy whipping cream for whole milk. This turned out to be a significant—though not quite disastrous—mistake. The milk failed to set up with the cheese, and when I served the gratin it pooled in the bottom of the dish, much like a berry pie without enough cornstarch or tapioca.
Because of the milk, the dish wasn't as visually stunning as I'd hoped. However, it tasted sensational: the toasted pine nuts and olive oil-infused bread crumbs were a perfect complement to the mild cauliflower and crisp-tender Brussels sprouts. Don't be temped to add more Parmesan—it looks a bit scant when the dish is assembled, but once cooked it provides just the right amount of cheesy flavor.
I'm going to road test a few more side dishes before I make my Thanksgiving selection, but this gratin (with cream next time, not cheese) is definitely in the running.