5 make-ahead Thanksgiving dishes that travel well – San Francisco Chronicle

has become a cherished tradition for me. It’s a time when my friends and I gather to cook all day together, jostling for elbow space around the kitchen island. Sometimes we even plan our menu months in advance, like this year where we landed on “-ish” Thanksgiving one sunny afternoon this past August. 
But one significant challenge we always face is oven space. We’re well aware it’s the hot commodity of the day. The kitchen buzzes with activity as hosts attend to the turkey, roasted veggies and casseroles, which all require oven time. And then guests show up with their contributions, and they need oven space, too! 
For any other meal, this would not be OK. It’s actually quite a mad theory everything would need to be piping hot at the same time, a parade of awaiting reheating is normal.
So, a revelation came to mind: Why not make side that shine at room temperature? This holiday actually offers a prime opportunity to explore a variety of temperatures and showcase that are just as delicious at room temperature.
For instance, a mac and cheese casserole is great at The Big Meal, but it’s also a bold move if you can’t ensure it’s going to be hot. This year, we might have stuffing, but we’re also baking a simple yet delicious brown butter focaccia that will be great at room temperature. Like stuffing, it’s comfort on a plate, and the brown butter it’s drenched in pairs brilliantly with turkey and mashed potatoes.
Another nontraditional addition we’re making is a chard gratin with mascarpone and pine nut bread crumbs. Many classic Thanksgiving dishes, like a certain green bean casserole, lack a seasonal connection, and Swiss chard, a favorite cooking green, adds a fresh twist. The mascarpone cheese adds light creaminess, and the pine nut bread crumbs will actually be good on almost any dish at the table, not just this gratin. 
I always appreciate a roasted vegetable dish that brings a nod to nourishment rather than indulgence at Thanksgiving. Carrots are an excellent choice for this purpose. They’re a workhorse of a vegetable, offering sweetness that complements savory elements and a natural affinity for spice, heat and acidity. This year, I’m roasting carrots with buttery Castelvetrano olives, orange zest, spicy Calabrian chile and crushed fennel seeds. As this cooks, the flavors meld together, creating a side dish bursting with flavor that still feels “healthy.” Tossing in pomegranate seeds at the end adds a bright pop.
A leafy salad is a must on our Thanksgiving menu. Escarole, a hearty chicory green, stands up to dressings and can sit, fully dressed, while the main courses finish cooking. This year, I’m dressing it with a mixture of caramelized pancetta bits and pecans that I sizzle and toast in a skillet before stirring in some brown sugar, nutmeg and shallots. Fresh lemon juice and a blend of porky fat and olive oil turn this into a vinaigrette I want to eat it on its own with a spoon while nobody is watching. This salad even tastes good the next day. 
If you enjoy baking, you’ve likely made a galette before. It’s the free-form cousin of a pie and a bit like a tart. This year, I’m crafting a galette that I’m calling a crostata because that’s the name for it. With a filling made from fresh cranberries and bits of whole orange that I toss in sugar, this is a nod to Thanksgiving’s usual cranberry sauce — but sweeter and with a delicious buttery crust. Baked on a sheet pan, this dessert is easy to transport, and from personal experience, it’s just as delicious on day one as it is on day three of sitting on your kitchen counter. I highly recommend trying the crostata with a scoop of ice cream or vanilla whipped cream.
These dishes may not be the most traditional Thanksgiving fare, but they share a kindred spirit with the classics. They also offer a sigh of relief amid the chaos of Thanksgiving day, as they don’t require reheating. Of course, if you prefer them hot, they’re just as delightful warmed up.
Jump to: Brown Butter Focaccia, Chard Gratin, Escarole Salad, Roasted Carrots, Cranberry-Orange Crostata
Reach Christian Reynoso: food@sfchronicle.com
Serves 8 to 10
Instead of stuffing or Parker House rolls, try putting focaccia on the Thanksgiving table. Rather than baking on a sheet pan, this recipe calls for a smaller but taller baking dish. The result is not too thin, with enough actual bread in each slice to soak up gravy or make sandwiches with leftover turkey the next day. Brown butter and brown sugar add a nutty, autumnal flavor. 
10 tablespoons unsalted butter 
1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons brown sugar, divided 
5 cups (625 grams) all-purpose flour 
2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 1 tablespoon fine sea salt 
Flake salt, for serving 
In a small pot (preferably with a light-colored bottom so you can see the butter solids brown), melt the butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally with a spoon, until it stops foaming, the milk solids turn golden brown and it smells nutty, about 3 to 5 minutes. (Stay close by to ensure it does not burn and turn black, which can happen quickly.) Remove from heat immediately.
Whisk yeast, 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar and 2½ cups of lukewarm water together in a large bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes and then add the flour and kosher salt. Mix with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain. 
Drizzle 4 tablespoons of the brown butter over the dough and along the inside walls of the bowl, pulling up on the dough with the spatula to flip the dough and fully coat it in the brown butter. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 3½ to 4 hours. It should almost double in size.
Brush the inside of a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish with some of the reserve brown butter. 
Uncover the dough (it should smell a bit like banana bread) and with your hand or rubber spatula, fold in the dough from one edge of the bowl inwards, then turn 90 degrees and repeat the folding motion. Keep doing this until you have achieved a rough dough ball. Transfer the dough and any bits of solidified butter to the prepared baking dish. Dip the brush in the remaining brown butter again and pat the top of the dough to coat it. Set the remaining brown butter aside and place the baking dish in a warm spot for 2 to 2½ hours, uncovered, until the dough has risen enough to fill most of the baking dish. 
To check the dough to see if it’s ready to bake, press in the dough with a finger. If it doesn’t spring back immediately, the dough is ready to bake. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. 
Reheat the remaining brown butter over low. Once warm, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar until it melts, turn off heat and set aside.
Dimple the focaccia all over the top with your fingers and place it in the oven for about 15 minutes, until it has risen, but is still blonde-ish looking. Then carefully take it out and brush all the brown sugar-butter mixture over the top and generously sprinkle with flake salt. Bake for another 10 minutes, or until golden brown all over the top. Let cool on a wire rack before removing from the baking dish, slicing and serving.
Serves 6 to 8
Silky Swiss chard, creamy mascarpone and buttery bread crumbs full of toasty pine nuts, this gratin is delightfully rich and pairs great with traditional Thanksgiving turkey. Any type of chard will work, but red-stemmed chard will give the gratin a more festive look. 
2 pounds Swiss chard (about 4 to 5 bunches) 
1 cup whole milk
1 cup mascarpone cheese 
6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped, divided
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon red chile flakes 
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
2 cups coarse bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
½ cup pine nuts 
¼ cup grated Parmesan 
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt like you would for pasta. Tear the chard leaves off the stems, then cut or tear them into 2-inch pieces and slice stems into ¾-inch pieces. Blanch the stems in the boiling water until crisp-tender, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Next briefly dip the leaves in the hot water in batches until they look relaxed, about 15 seconds, then lift out, letting excess water drain. Transfer to the same baking dish and spread in an even layer with the stems. Once cool enough to touch, pour out any excess water in the dish. 
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, mascarpone, ⅔ of the chopped garlic, thyme, mustard, chile flakes, black pepper, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and season with salt (about ½ teaspoon fine sea salt or 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher). Pour this mixture over the blanched chard.
Transfer the gratin to the middle rack in the oven and bake until the creamy liquid is bubbling furiously and has turned a light, honey-like color, about 25 to 30 minutes. 
Meanwhile, toss the bread crumbs, pine nuts, Parmesan, the remaining ⅓ of the garlic and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil together in a bowl. Transfer to a sheet pan and toast in the oven on the top rack, checking fairly regularly to toss and toast evenly, about 10 minutes. 
You can serve the gratin warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle as much of the pine nut bread crumbs as you like on top of the gratin right before serving. 
This escarole salad is sturdy enough to sit for hours, even after being dressed.
Serves 4
Buttery pecans, salty-rich pancetta and bright lemon balance out the crisp and lightly bitter escarole leaves here in this simple salad. Because escarole leaves are hearty, this salad stands up to waiting around while you’re busy putting finishing touches on the dinner table or slicing that turkey. However, you can prepare the vinaigrette ahead and toss with the prepared escarole right before serving as well. 
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided 
8 ounces pancetta, diced 
1 cup raw pecan halves, crushed or sliced in half 
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus more for serving 
2 small shallots or 1 large, sliced into thin rings 
2 lemons, zested and juiced (about ¼ cup juice)   
2 large heads of escarole (about 1¾ to 2 pounds), rinsed and torn into big bite-size pieces 
½ cup parsley leaves  
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the pancetta and pecans and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is golden brown, its fat has rendered and the pecans are toasty, about 7 to 10 minutes. Turn off heat. Stir in the brown sugar, black pepper, 1 teaspoon nutmeg and a big pinch of salt. Let cool. 
When ready to serve, stir the shallot, lemon zest, lemon juice and the remaining 5 tablespoons of olive oil into the pancetta mixture. Place the escarole and parsley in a large mixing bowl. Pour the pecan-pancetta vinaigrette over the greens and toss well to coat each piece of escarole. 
Serve the salad by transferring to a platter, if desired, and finely grate (or sprinkle if already ground) nutmeg over the top. 
Serves 6 to 8
Roasty, almost smoky carrots are a star of a side dish here. That’s because these carrots don’t have to do all the flavor lifting. Not only are they roasted until tender and sweet, but they are cooked with honey, fruity orange zest, spicy Calabrian chile and buttery Castelvetrano olives. To brighten up all those flavors, pomegranate seeds are tossed in for a special little zing that comes through right when the Thanksgiving table needs a little enthusiasm. 
2 pounds medium carrots (about 2 big bunches), tops trimmed and cut into 1½-inch chunks 
1 tablespoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt 
2 cups Castelvetrano olives, pitted and crushed by hand or very roughly chopped 
¾ cup olive brine 
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
4 tablespoons honey 
1 orange, zested
1 tablespoon finely chopped Calabrian chile or chile paste
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, preferably coarsely ground
1 cup pomegranate seeds
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the carrots in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Season the carrots with the salt and set aside for 15 minutes while the oven comes to temperature. 
When ready to roast, drop the olives over the carrots. In a mixing bowl, whisk the olive brine, olive oil, honey, orange zest, chile and fennel seeds together. Pour this mixture over the carrots and olives. With a spoon, toss very well to coat. Spread carrots in an even layer.
Cover the carrots with foil, then place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Uncover the dish to check on the carrots: If they’re not tender enough to your liking, turn the heat down to 350 degrees and return to the oven, uncovered for 10 to 15 more minutes. If you prefer caramelized edges, roast uncovered for the entire cooking time.
Serves 6 to 8 
In this free-form version of pie, you’ll find that you’ll have more space and time to bake a beautiful dessert and make those mashed potatoes, too. Filled with cranberries and sugar-macerated bits of orange, this crostata (the Italian word for what you may know as a galette) is balanced between tangy and sweet. Instead of many heavy, rich Thanksgiving desserts, this one will enliven your senses after the big meal.
½ medium orange, seeded and chopped finely (about ½ cup)
¾ cup plus 1½ teaspoons granulated sugar, plus more for the orange 
¾ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt, divided 
1½ cups (192 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
¾ cup (1½ sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes 
4½ tablespoons ice water 
2 teaspoons cornstarch 
12 ounces fresh cranberries 
3 tablespoons heavy cream or 1 egg, beaten
Demerara sugar 
Vanilla whipped cream, for serving (optional) 
Toss the orange with ¾ cup sugar and ¼ teaspoon of the salt in a large bowl and set aside. 
In the well of a food processor, add the flour, 1½ teaspoons granulated sugar, cinnamon and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Pulse until well mixed. Add the butter cubes and pulse until they are incorporated and the size of pearls. Add the ice water a tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition, until all the water is added. Keep pulsing until the dough starts to come together yet still is slightly crumbly with obvious pieces of butter in the dough. 
Lay a large piece of plastic wrap down on a work surface and transfer the dough to the middle of it. Use your hands to form a disc 1 inch in height and then wrap it tightly with more plastic (the dough might still be a little crumbly, but do your best to press gently into that disc shape). Place in the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes. 
Meanwhile, stir the cornstarch into the sugar-macerated orange until dissolved. Stir in the cranberries and set aside. 
Make sure you have an oven rack set in the middle of the oven, then heat to 400 degrees. 
Lightly flour a counter space you can roll the dough on. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, unwrap and place on the counter. Dust the top of the dough with flour (and as needed to prevent sticking) and starting in the center, roll into a roughly 14-inch circle ––– try rotating the dough after each roll to make a more even circular shape. Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet pan. 
Transfer the cranberry-orange mixture to the center of the dough, leaving a 2- to 3-inch border. Fold up the sides over the edge of the cranberry-orange filling, pinching the dough as needed to create nice rustic edges. Brush the dough with the heavy cream (try not to let any excess drip on the parchment, because it will burn) or beaten egg. Sprinkle the demerara sugar over the crust. 
Place the crostata on the middle rack of the oven, turn the heat down to 375 degrees and bake, rotating halfway through until the cranberries have burst and the crust is golden, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack before slicing and serving with the vanilla whipped cream, if desired.


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