Give your Thanksgiving a French Flair: 5 Side Dish Picks for Your Holiday Table
Although Thanksgiving has long been about domestic wines and American recipes, shaking things up by adding a taste of French goodness to the table certainly never hurt anyone. Don’t worry—we’re not implying you should let go of your favorite Turkey Day traditions, but rather, simply showcase one of the side swaps (or better yet, additions) below to make your table even more versatile. We’ve rounded up four of our favorite French side dishes—plus one sweet dessert to end on a high note—to add to your Thanksgiving Day regimen, each with a local wine pairing to boot. Check them out below!
Oysters with Muscadet (Loire Valley)
For a refreshing apéritif that promises to kick the meal off on a high note, look no further than salty Atlantic oysters and refreshing glass of Muscadet. Located on the western edge of the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, the Loire Valley village of Cancale is largely deemed the oyster capital of the world—and bringing a taste of them to your Thanksgiving apéro is sure to make you everyone’s favorite host. With regards to wine, Muscadet, produced from the local Melon de Bourgogne grape variety, is known for its bright acidity and saline-tinged undertones, making it a match made in heaven with these briny, pre-dinner bites.
Choucroute with Sylvaner (Alsace)
Most vegetarians and meat eaters can agree on one thing—when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, the sides are truly the star of the show. While mashed potatoes and green bean casserole generally garner the most claim to fame, we’re bringing a tangy, acid-forward suggestion to the table with this Alsatian choucroute recommendation. Made from a base of briny cabbage, the dish also calls for a healthy serving of potatoes, as well as a handful of salted meats, though feel free to leave out the latter, should you prefer a vegetarian alternative.
Contrary to the many cream-based sides that find their way to the Thanksgiving table, this fresh and vinegary alternative offers an acid-forward reprieve to its heavier counterparts. While a local Riesling or Gewurztraminer would also do the trick for wine pairing, we recommend trying out an aromatic, floral-tinged Sylvaner for a unique and flavor-packed pairing.
Gougères with Chardonnay (Burgundy)
Whether buttery biscuits, potatoey bread rolls, or Pillsbury croissants are your family’s go to, Thanksgiving Day breads are always a crowdpleaser. Rather than swapping out your childhood favorites, we recommend adding a helping of cheesy gougères to your bread course for an out-of-this-world addition. Originally from Burgundy, these puffy, light-on-their-feet cheese puffs are simply delightful for snacking on before or during the meal, and when paired with a glass of local White Burgundy (Chardonnay or Aligoté work equally well), offer an instant mental transport to the quaint French countryside.
Tartiflette with Jacquère (Savoie)
Who doesn’t love a serving of potatoes? Similar to the above, we’d never suggest swapping out everyone’s favorite side dish—rather, why not add even more potatoes to the mix? Whether mashed, baked, or casserole is your family’s preferred potato style, we promise that a creamy tartiflette will only make your meal all the better. Native to the Alpine-influenced region of Savoie, this cozy, belly-warming dish is crafted from potatoes, pungent Reblochon cheese, lardons (bacon), and onions, as well as a splash of regional white wine to make the dish pop.
We honestly can’t think of a situation where a melty, potato-and-cheese-based casserole wouldn’t be welcome, and Thanksgiving is no exception. For an acid-forward wine pairing to cut through the dish’s relatively heavy nature, look no further than a bright and zesty local white produced from the Jacquère variety (which also is sure to pair beautifully with your other potato-based dishes, green bean casserole, and more!)
Canelés with Sauternes for Dessert (Bordeaux)
Pies, cakes, and cookies are great, but what if we told you that there’s a boozy, Bordelais pastry that will most definitely leave a lasting impression on your guests? Enter the canelé, Bordeaux’s answer to tasty sweet treats that pack a serious punch. Falling somewhere between the bite-sized cake and mini pastry categories, this soft, rum-soaked treat is characterized by ample vanilla flavoring, custard center, and a perfectly crunchy, caramelized exterior. For a regional pairing to go the limits, sip with a luscious pour of Sauternes, the region’s signature (and world-renowned) dessert wine that’ll have even your most dessert-wine-skeptical loved ones clamoring for more. Seriously, you can’t go wrong here.
From our Taste France Magazine family to yours, we wish you a happy, healthy, and wine-soaked Thanksgiving Day celebration!