This dish can also be made vegetarian by ditching the pancetta /

With many tastes to satisfy at Thanksgiving dinner, a tasty side dish might just be the answer

There are some basics that you find on most Thanksgiving tables including turkey, stuffing, gravy and mash. But even these classics aren’t without controversy.

Turkeys can be roasted but might be deep fried or brined or even crafted into the (in)famous turducken (a deboned chicken stuffed inside a deboned duck inside a deboned turkey).

Stuffing of course, but white bread? Cornbread? Sage or thyme to flavour? Sausage or oysters for something moreish? And of course is your gravy silken smooth or filled with bits of chopped giblets?

And don’t even get me started on the war between pumpkin pie and pecan pie. Wise hosts serve both to avoid an outbreak of internecine warfare.  

So it may come as a surprise that side dishes can be a balm to frayed nerves. Of course there are always opinions but if pressed you can ask guests to bring along their favourite dish whether it’s their mum’s tomato aspic or that mysterious casserole full of – what is it? Creamed onions? Turnips? Never mind, simply smile and pass it round. 

And no matter what, keep the sides simple. This Savoy cabbage with chestnuts and pancetta can be prepped ahead of time and made in less than ten minutes while someone else is carving the brined and deep-fried turducken. 


Savoy cabbage with chestnuts and pancetta

You can make this a vegetarian dish by simply omitting the pancetta. If so, add another tablespoon of oil to the pan before adding the cabbage. Some toasted almond slivers would add a nice bit of crunch too. 

Serves 4-6 

500g Savoy cabbage, about half a medium sized cabbage
1 tbsp olive oil
125g cubed pancetta
75g peeled and cooked chestnuts, chopped
2 tbsp single cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
Salt and pepper

Remove any tough outer leaves of the cabbage. Slice the remaining cabbage into thin ribbons. If any of the leaves have a tough rib running through the centre of the leaf, remove this first before slicing. Place the cabbage in a colander, rinse under cold water and set aside. 

Heat a deep sided frying pan to medium high heat. Add the olive oil and the pancetta. Cook until the pancetta is nicely browned and crisp. Remove the pancetta but leave any fat in the pan. 

Give the cabbage a shake to remove some of the water but don’t dry it – you want moisture to steam the cabbage.

Place the cabbage in the frying pan with the fat and add a generous pinch of salt. Place a lid on the pan and cook over medium-high heat for around 3 minutes until the cabbage begins to wilt. 

While the cabbage is cooking, mix together the cream, mustard and vinegar. Add this to the cabbage and give a stir to coat. Cook for another minute or two uncovered then add in the pancetta and chestnuts and give a good stir. Season with pepper and salt, if needed.