Oxford chefs, foodies detail their favorite Thanksgiving sides

These Oxford food experts make Thanksgiving sides that aren’t your typical mashed potatoes, or green casserole.

When Thanksgiving rolls around, there’s usually a turkey – or ham, if you’re into blowing up nearly 350 years of tradition – that headlines the dinner.

It is important to nail the turkey, of course, but what about the sides that go around it? Sure a great bird makes for a good meal, but it leaves a lot to be desired if the sides are subpar.

It’s like if John Lennon didn’t have Paul McCartney, or the rest of The Beatles behind him. It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving, and that’s not anything to be thankful for.

That’s why the EAGLE asked chefs and foodies around the Oxford area what their favorite Thanksgiving side dish is, and how to make it, so your Thanksgiving dinner isn’t missing that perfect side act.

Here’s a link to their exact recipes.

Vish Bhatt, Snackbar: Brussels Sprouts

Thanksgiving sides don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Nor, do all have to hold a traditional significance. Some are just inspired by what the season has to offer.

Vish Bhatt, Executive Chef at Snackbar restaurant, said his go-to Thanksgiving side dish is his roasted brussels sprouts, which are a play off of a French dish.

Bhatt’s twist to the sprouts includes roasting them with pecan nuts, and adding some lemon for a lively flavor.

Adding the pecan nuts gives the side another seasonal flair. Bhatt sautés the pecans, along with some garlic and shallot, in a pan before adding them to the sprouts. This gives the side a nice crunch and an added nuttiness.

“It’s something that’s available this time of year,” Bhatt said. “It’s something I like, so at our house it just became one of those things that people ask if I’ll make it.”

Elizabeth Heiskell, Debutante Farmer: Cornbread Dressing

Word to the wise, do not assume that dressing and stuffing are the same side dish. Mississippi Delta-based chef Elizabeth Heiskell will fight you on that. Literally.

In Heiskell’s cookbook “Somebody Stole the Cornbread from My Dressing,” she writes, “I would fight someone who tries to tell me that ‘stuffing’ better than cornbread dressing. Or God forbid they follow up their argument with, ‘they really are just the same thing.’”

Violence aside, Heiskell’s take on cornbread dressing is generational, as it was passed down from her mother’s side of the family to her.

Detailing the dish, Heiskell says dressing is one of her favorite dishes in the entire world, let alone as a Thanksgiving side. It’s almost sacred to her, as she only eats it on the holidays.

Heiskell’s generational recipe very simply uses 10 ingredients, but those 10 are still enough to take her back to when she enjoyed Thanksgiving with her grandma and great grandma.

“It’s just a little bit elevated,” Heiskell said. “It does take me back to that place where its my grandmother and my great grandmother’s kitchen, which was such an amazing place to be.”

Just don’t even think about calling it stuffing.

Corbin Evans, Oxford Canteen: Heavenly Hash

One mention of this side dish is enough to remind one of the different varieties of side dishes Thanksgiving can bequeath us.

Heavenly hash is a lovely, sweet dish, and for those who haven’t heard of it, it’s the ultimate alternative to cranberry sauce.

The hash is usually made from a delicious combination of whipped cream and a plethora of fruits, which allows the cook make it as sweet or as tart as he or she wants to. But, Corbin Evans, chef at the Oxford Canteen on Lamar Boulevard, uses one unusual ingredient: Miracle Whip.

Yes, the condiment. Not only that, but it HAS to be Miracle Whip, Evans says.

“The first year my sister made it, she was like, ‘I’m not putting Miracle Whip in it,’” Evans said. “She put regular mayonnaise in it, and it was disgusting.”

Evans’ recipe is passed down from his late grandmother, and it recipe also includes marshmallows and cream cheese, as well as grapes, crushed pineapples and maraschino cherries.

Even though the Miracle Whip sounds a little strange, if the recipe is this beloved to the Evans’ family, we’ll say it’s safe to trust Corbin’s grandma on this one.

“It was something we always had,” Evans said. “We’re all passing out the recipe and making it for our families this year.”