The 2 Things Your Thanksgiving Dinner Is Missing (and 6 Easy Ways to Fix It)

published Nov 16, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
microplane, lemon zest, and 2 lemons on a cutting board
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Thanksgiving Food Fest is a virtual food festival full of turkey, pie, games, and fun, starring many of our favorite cooks, ready to share the secrets of a most delicious Thanksgiving. Watch the event live at @thekitchn on Instagram from November 14-15 (or check back here after if you miss it).

There are the dishes you make for Thanksgiving because they’re delicious, and then there are the dishes you make because of nostalgia. You might not take seconds of that boring sweet potato casserole recipe from your grandma, but you’ll continue to make it year after year because of tradition. But what if you could have it both ways? Make a few small tweaks to something traditional, and it suddenly becomes delicious? I’m here to tell you that your bland Thanksgiving dishes are missing two essential elements: acid and texture.

During Kitchn’s Thanksgiving Food Fest this weekend, our Editor-in-Chief Faith Durand talked to Nik Sharma about his new cookbook, The Flavor Equation, and what he’s making for Thanksgiving this year (hint: not turkey!). In the middle of the conversation (see 13:00, below) a viewer asked a great question: What’s an easy way to introduce acid and more textures into otherwise bland Thanksgiving foods? Sharma shared six smart ingredients that he uses to make everything taste just a little bit better — and the best part is, you can just garnish your dishes with these things instead of changing something dramatically.

6 Ingredients That Add Acid and Texture to Your Thanksgiving Dinner

Pickles: “A pickled acid is an amazing type of condiment to have,” Nik explains. The addition of preserved lemons, preserved limes, or pickled gherkins add a lightness to a dish “that otherwise feels quite heavy.”

Zest: Likewise, the scent of a lemon or lime can really add a pop to a dish that tastes a little one-note. “I sometimes find the flavors of squash to be quite dominant, warm, and heavy,” Nik explains. To counteract this, he says just adding a little bit of lime or lemon zest to the squash can change the whole mood of the dish.

Pomegranate juice and molasses: You can add either one of these ingredients to your salad vinaigrettes, or drizzle them on a finished dish. Take Brussels sprouts, for example —Nik says to serve them with yogurt or crème fraîche and then a little bit of pomegranate molasses to finish.

Carrots: Carrots are easy way to add texture to your Thanksgiving dishes. “Carrots are naturally quite crisp,” Nik explains, and suggests adding them raw your salads.

Crispy shallots: For more texture, Nik also suggests slicing up a bunch of shallots, putting them on a sheet pan with a little oil and salt, and sticking them in the oven until brown and crisp. I imagine this would be great with green bean casserole (of course), but also any vegetable that feels a little mushy.

Salted peanuts: And lastly, nuts are a great way to add a little crunch to your Thanksgiving table. He specifically calls out salted peanuts as a wonderful addition to dishes (buy them salted to save time!), and also pumpkin seeds and toasted hazelnuts.

Make sure to follow Nik Sharma for more tips on Instagram and Twitter, and buy his new book The Flavor Equation here.