8 surprisingly easy Christmas dinner sides Michelin-starred chefs swear by
Insider asked Michelin-starred chefs to share their favorite side dishes for Christmas dinner. Studer-T. Veronika / Getty Images
Insider asked Michelin-starred chefs to share their favorite dinner side dishes and tips so you can recreate them at home.
Brad Carter of Carters of Moseley toast his parsnips in duck fat and drizzle them with honey or maple syrup to enhance their taste.
Suzette Gresham, who runs Acquerello, always contains three "different and visually different types of cheese" for the perfect platter before dinner.
Sepia Andrew Zimmerman makes his potato gratin special by adding celery root and black truffle.
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While stuffing, sprouts, and sweet potatoes are almost always on the Thanksgiving menu, there are a few staples when it comes to the side dishes for Christmas dinner.
So why not try something new? To give you a little inspiration, we asked Michelin-starred chefs to share the side dishes they love to make for their own celebrations, as well as some tips and tricks so you can recreate them at home.
From truffle mac and cheese to black truffle gratin, these delicious Christmas sides could steal the show from your main course.
Start with a cheese platter that everyone will love for dinner.
Chef Suzette Gresham's cheese platter. Giancarlo Paterlini
Suzette Gresham, who runs Acquerello in San Francisco, loves making a cheese platter for her family to nibble on.
"Whether as a starter or to wrap up a meal, cheese is always a welcome addition," she told Insider.
Gresham recommends choosing three "different and visually different types of cheese" for one platter. While you can cut some into smaller portions, the chef said you should never cut creamy cheese into smaller pieces.
"Decorate with fruits, herbs, crackers and firm spices like membrillo (quince paste from Spain), torta di higos (dry firm fig cake) or marcona almonds," she added.
With soft cheese, make sure you have some crackers with a finer and simpler taste. Firmer cheeses, Gresham adds, can handle "something more substantial in texture and taste".
"A toasted slice of baguette drizzled with olive oil and cracked black pepper goes with almost anything," she added. "And remember to let the cheese sit for a while before enjoying it. Cheese eats better when it's not freezing cold."
But most importantly, have fun with the record and make sure you experiment.
"Cheese is an experience and, like wine, changes within the parameters of its origin," said Gresham. "Try not to be too rigid. Be open-minded."
A frize salad complements a heartier main course.
Chef Andrew Zimmerman loves making a frize salad when he has a hearty main course. Dzevoniia / Getty Images
Andrew Zimmerman, the head chef at Sepia in Chicago, loves to conjure up frize salad with a toasted shallot vinaigrette when he's in charge of the Christmas menu at home - especially when he's serving a hearty main course.
Zimmerman adds crispy ciabatta pieces as well as blue cheese to his salad.
To make the vinaigrette, first peel your shallots, toss them in some olive oil, and roast them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 to 30 minutes.
In the meantime, mix the sherry vinegar, chopped thyme and rosemary, black pepper, a "small piece" of honey and either champagne vinegar or a "really good apple cider vinegar" together. Zimmerman also recommends using only "a touch of Dijon mustard to help emulsify".
Then just julienne or dice your roasted shallots and toss them in the dressing.
"The sweet roasted shallots in the vinaigrette help offset the frize's bitterness," Zimmerman said. "And then you have the salty funky cheese."
Mix your Brussels sprouts with roasted chestnuts to make the house smell like Christmas.
Chef Brad Carter serves his Brussels sprouts with chestnut cream. StockFood / Getty Images
"Chestnut sprouts are one of the best vegetarian side dishes to eat," Brad Carter of Carters of Moseley in Birmingham, England told Insider. "You are absolutely amazing."
Carter takes his chestnuts out of their skins, mashes them and places them in a pan with sautéed onions and garlic, cream and a dash of sherry vinegar.
"Cut that down by about half and then fold it through the cooked Brussels sprouts," Carter said.
Red cabbage cooked in beer goes perfectly with any duck or game on the menu.
The legendary restaurateur Daniel Boulud recommends serving red cabbage with duck or venison. Danielle Wood / Getty Images
The legendary restaurateur Daniel Boulud serves this red cabbage side during the holidays in his restaurant Daniel in Manhattan with game with a grain crust.
"The slightly sweet and tart red cabbage cooked in lambic beer, combined with roasted seeds, gives the game dish we prepare at Daniel a wonderful contrast of texture and taste," Boulud told Insider.
To make Bouluds red cabbage, remove a medium-sized head of red cabbage in the first quarter, remove the core and julienne the leaves.
Transfer them to a large bowl and mix them with a 750 milliliter bottle of lambic beer and a peeled and juiced orange (including the peel). Cover your mixture and refrigerate overnight.
Once your cabbage is ready, pass through the mixture and save the liquid. Then heat two tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan with a strong bottom or a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add an onion (finely diced), two Honeycrisp apples (diced), a pinch of chilli flakes and a stick of cinnamon. Boil and stir the mixture for 10 minutes, then add your cabbage and cook for another 10 minutes.
Next, add your reserved cabbage liquid and bring it to a boil. Season to taste with salt and simmer gently for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once your cabbage is tender and the liquid has reached a syrup consistency, stir in 1 tablespoon of butter and season with salt and pepper. If your liquid glazes before the cabbage is tender, add some water and continue cooking. Serve warm.
Give your classic potato gratin a special touch by adding some black truffles to the mixture.
Chef Andrew Zimmerman adds black truffle and celery roots to his potato gratin. Studer-T. Veronika / Getty Images
"That would be good with turbot fish or any type of roast," Zimmerman said. "Anything from a fried chicken to a filet mignon."
Zimmerman throws slices of celery root into his potato gratin, which he cuts into the same size as the potatoes. Then he adds thin slices of black truffle "with the potatoes and celery root added".
If black truffles are not in your budget, Zimmerman recommends rubbing a little directly over them after taking the gratin out of the oven, or using truffle paste instead.
"There are many ways to approach this, depending on how glamorous you want to get and how much money you want to spend," he said. "It takes a very familiar thing like a potato gratin and gives it a little more holiday joy."
Adding that truffle flavor is also a great way to enhance mac and cheese for Christmas dinner.
Chef Mari Katsumura recommends taking mac and cheese with truffle oil to the next level. Stephanie Hager - HagerPhoto / Getty Images
"The holidays are always a great way to showcase luxurious ingredients that you normally wouldn't use the rest of the year," said Mari Katsumura, head chef at Yūgen in Chicago, told Insider.
And when it comes to side dishes, Katsumura is a huge fan of mac and cheese.
"I like to use different types of cheese for texture and flavor," she added. "I suggest a hard cheese, a processed cheese, and cream cheese."
To make the perfect mac and cheese, first cook garlic and lots of onions in a pan over low heat, stirring frequently. Then add a splash of white wine, your liquid dairy (she recommends a combination of condensed milk and cream for "the smoothest sauce"), and then the cheese.
"A touch of mustard and Worcestershire really brings out the flavor of the cheese sauce," she added.
Season with salt and pepper and fold the sauce into the cooked pasta. To give it a special touch, Katsumura recommends adding a generous dash of truffle oil.
"Enjoy it as is or enjoy it with a pinch of togarashi, bonito flakes, and parmigiano cheese," she added.
Homemade tagliatelle bring a "golden moment" to your Christmas table.
Chef Asimakis Chaniotis loves to serve homemade tagliatelle as a side dish for his Christmas dinner. The Pantry / Getty Images image
Asimakis Chaniotis from Pied à Terre in London is another Michelin-starred chef who enjoys using black winter truffles during the holidays.
"Black truffle brings the finesse and that golden moment to the table," he said. "It's an ingredient you don't normally use every day, only on special occasions when you are at home."
To make the homemade tagliatelle you will need: 115 grams of egg yolks (Chaniotis recommends using eggs from free-range hens), 175 grams of flour (it should be "00" flour), 75 grams of fine semolina, 20 grams of olive oil and 10 grams of salt.
Put your flour in a stand mixer, then slowly add your egg yolks with the mixer on the lowest speed. Then add the olive oil and salt. Knead the mixture and let it sit for at least an hour before you start rolling.
Using a stand mixer noodle attachment, roll the pasta, starting with the thickest setting and slowly turning to the thinnest setting. Cut off the top and bottom and cut 10 inch pasta sheets. Roll your pasta through the tagliatelle attachment and dust them with fine semolina. Blanch your pasta in salted boiling water for just two minutes.
If you want to opt for store-bought tagliatelle, you can still make Chaniotis' celeriac cream for the pasta. First melt 100 g of diced butter, then add 150 g of white mushrooms (washed, peeled and quartered), 150 g of celeriac (diced), 1 large clove of garlic and 5 sprigs of fresh thyme. Once caramelized, pass the mixture through a fine sieve and remove the garlic and thyme.
Pour the mixture into a new pan with 60 g butter and 60 g shallots (finely chopped). Cook the shallots over low heat so they'll be super soft but not color. Then add 50 milliliters of Madeira wine.
Add 50 milliliters of whole milk, 50 milliliters of light cream and 40 grams of black truffles (freshly grated). Bring to the boil and add 40 g of grated cheese (Chaniotis recommends the Greek cheese Arseniko Naxou), salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for two minutes, then mix everything together in a blender at high speed until the cream becomes super smooth.
Pass the sauce through a sieve and mix with the tagliatelle. Serve immediately with more black truffle.
Roasting your vegetables in duck fat will ensure that they won't be forgotten at dinner.
Brad Carter fries parsnips and Brussels sprouts in duck fat to enhance their flavor. Danielle Wood / Getty Images
If you're making goose or duck for the main course, Carter recommends roasting some parsnips in the bird's fat.
Add some honey or maple syrup in the last few minutes of cooking to take them to the next level.
Carter also loves deep-frying Brussels sprouts in duck fat to make it "super crispy". Round off with lemon juice and lemon zest, along with a little olive oil and black pepper.
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