Thanksgiving dinner is all about the sides for lots of people, but I’m convinced that pretty much all of those people have two ovens in their kitchens. If you are roasting a turkey or turkey breast and you only have one oven, the sides can become a thorn in your side very quickly. As a member of the Tiny Kitchen with Only One Oven Club, I’m quite partial to side dishes that can either be made ahead, or are entirely stovetop. Oh, and if they’re really, really quick, that’s just a lovely added bonus that makes me love them even more.
So I’m sharing the perfect Thanksgiving side dish today for those of us not blessed with that second oven. You do need your oven space for the pecans, but they can be made up to two weeks ahead and stored in an airtight food storage container, and don’t even need to be reheated!
And then the polenta? It cooks entirely in one pot on the stovetop, and it’s done in less than 10 minutes. Oh, and it’s creamy, hearty, satisfying and delicious. Seriously, this is probably the simplest Thanksgiving side you could ever make.
The pumpkin flavor was more subtle than I was expecting, but still there, and as Matt said, “pumpkin doesn’t have to beat you over the head every single time.” I was happy with the dish. Hopefully you and yours will be, too. Enjoy!
1 tbs egg whites (about ½ the whites from 1 large egg)
¼ cup pure maple syrup
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
Coarsely ground black pepper
2 cups (8 oz.) pecan halves
2 ½ cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
¾ cup quick-cooking or instant polenta
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbs unsalted butter
Kosher salt and black pepper
First, make the PECANS: preheat your oven to 325 F and place a rack in the center.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white with 1 tsp kosher salt until very frothy, about 1 minute. Whisk in the maple syrup, butter, and 2 tsp black pepper, then stir in the pecans with a large spoon. Make sure they are fully coated.
Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring once or twice with a spatula, until they have absorbed all the glaze and are a shade darker, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool for about 5 minutes. Stir with the spatula and continue to cool until crisp, about 5 minutes more. Store in an airtight container if not using immediately.
Right before you plan to serve, make the POLENTA: in a medium saucepot, combine the stock, milk and pumpkin puree. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Place over high heat and bring to a simmer. Back off the heat a little, to around medium-to medium-high and slowly whisk in the polenta. Whisk or stir continuously until the polenta begins to mass together and thicken up. This will take about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to low, and add the grated cheese and butter and stir to combine and let the butter melt. You will likely need to lower your heat level during the whisking of the polenta, as polenta really gets an attitude and will start to spit at you. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve immediately, sprinkling each serving with a nice handful of pecans.
Note: polenta is very forgiving; if it gets too thick, just thin it with a splash of stock or milk. Also note that you will likely have extra pecans. This is not a bad thing.