Whether you’re cooking turkey, ham or prime rib, a big holiday roast has a knack for taking up the entire oven. So where will all the sides go? Sure, you could move the racks around and make some room to roast potatoes, but there are drawbacks to overcrowding the oven.
First off, a roast cooks more quickly and evenly when hot air can circulate freely around it. (If a turkey is squished in with a bunch of sides, you’re not going to get as much crisp, golden skin.) The second drawback is timing. Repeatedly opening the oven door lets out the heat, which slows down the cooking process. And nothing makes hosting stressful like seeing guests looking at their watches, wondering when dinner will be ready.
Using alternate appliances, including the stovetop, a slow cooker and a microwave, you can whip up a table full of tasty side dishes that replace your family’s oven-made favourites but still produce their beloved flavours. Here’s how.
Instead of: Oven-Roasted Root Vegetables
Put your toaster oven to work making more than quick breakfasts. Its small pan isn’t large enough to roast a big batch of veggies, but it can bake up the topper for our Root Vegetable Mash with Crispy Topping. Packed with parsnips, rutabaga and potatoes, it’s like three root veg sides in one, cooked up easily on the stovetop. And the crispy topping has all the caramelized goodness you crave in a roasted side.
Instead of: Home-Baked Dinner Rolls
Did you know your slow cooker also makes a mean cornbread? Not only is our tender Slow Cooker Cheesy Garlic Cornbread a nice change from the usual breadbasket offerings, but the mix-and-bake recipe is quicker and easier than kneading yeast dough and forming individual rolls. Bonus: With a slow cooker on the job, you can time the bread to be ready— and butter-meltingly warm — right when dinner is served.
Instead of: Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Another life-saving appliance during the holidays is an electric griddle. Plug it in, crank it up and sear vegetables to get the same caramelized flavours that roasting creates. To use it for our Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Parsley, Lemon & Almonds, first blanch the Brussels sprouts until tender-crisp and then cool in a bowl of ice water. Drain, dry, halve and refrigerate until dinner is almost ready. Toss them with oil and cook on an electric griddle until browned and hot before mixing with the rest of the ingredients. If this appliance isn’t in your cupboard, try roasting the sprouts in a hot cast-iron skillet on the stovetop.
Instead of: Oven-Roasted Mushrooms
If you have a grill pan or — even better — a stovetop grill, grab a pair of tongs and fire it up! Many vegetables are just as good grilled as they are roasted, so instead of tying up the oven with a pan of mushrooms, try Grilled Radicchio with Portobello Mushrooms. Smoky and sweetened with balsamic vinegar, this satisfying salad is terrific with roast beef.
Instead of: Scalloped Potatoes
Scalloped potatoes are a holiday must for lots of families, but this dish needs a lot of time(and tons of space!) to bake. How about Jalapeño & Shredded Cheese Mashed Potatoes instead? You get the same creamy, potatoey satisfaction, but they’re made on the stovetop and need just a brief broil while the roast is resting on the counter. Tip: Make the dish up to two hours ahead, reheat it in the microwave and then brown it under the broiler.
Instead of: Green Bean Casserole
This beloved veggie side definitely needs its own rack in the oven. Green Beans with Caramelized Onions, on the other hand, is an equally bold-flavoured dish that can be cooked entirely on the stovetop. With sweet onions, sundried tomatoes, crunchy pine nuts and tangy goat cheese, it’s ready to become your new holiday favourite.
Instead of: Baked Stuffing
Since stuffing is tricky to make without an oven, it’s time to think outside the box. How about rice pilaf? Cooked in chicken broth and flavoured with onion, garlic and spices, Sweet Potato Rice Pilaf is similar in flavour to stuffing and excellent with any sort of roast poultry. And unlike standard bread-based stuffing, it’s gluten-free. Can’t live without the traditional dish? Make it a twofer and roast a stuffed bird. Any excess can be baked up in a small pan in your toaster oven.For the ideal texture, mix up the softer bird-cooked and crunchier pan-cooked stuffing.
Instead of: Corn Pudding
If a dish of golden, fragrant corn pudding is your family’s holiday tradition, then consider an Italian-style variation this year. It takes only 30 minutes to stir up a pot of Creamy Gouda & Rosemary Polenta. Soft and rich in corn flavour, it’s great with just about any roast. And like mashed potatoes, polenta can provide a nice, deep well for gravy.
Instead of: Baked Stuffed Squash
Stuffed squashes may be tiny, but a whole batch takes up lots of room in the oven.Our Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters have the same savoury-sweet appeal, but they fry up fast in a skillet. They’re delicious with turkey or glazed ham, and a larger portion can double as a satisfying main course for any vegetarians at the table.
Instead of: Roasted Carrots
Sometimes it’s easier to skip the cooking entirely! Our Carrot & Caraway Slaw is a crunchy, fresh-tasting wintry salad that balances a menu packed with rich holiday foods. Plus, it can be made ahead and kept in the fridge, giving you one less thing to worry about before the dinner bell sounds.
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