Easy dinner recipes: Hearty holiday gratins and sides

Whether you're looking for possible candidates to round out your Thanksgiving or holiday spread, or simply searching for a comforting dish on a chilly night, you can't go wrong with these ideas.

Italian sausage and kale gratin: Aromatic vegetables suspended in a rich sauce, maybe a little melted cheese, all of it hidden under a crisp golden-brown crust. Behold the glory that is the gratin. One of the oldest dishes in the comfort-food playbook, the gratin is a celebration of lush creaminess and crisp crust that is often based on the simplest of ingredients. For the perfect rustic weeknight meal, combine crumbled Italian sausage with fresh kale in a creamy goat cheese sauce. Top the gratin with a seasoned-breadcrumb topping before baking and you've got dinner in just over an hour.

Chestnut-sage stuffing: Stuffing is an excellent canvas for creativity. Start with bread cubes, add aromatics for subtle flavoring, and liquid to keep it moist. Then go from there. This variation combines roasted chestnuts with onions, celery and sage for a delicious stuffing.

RECIPES: 99 easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

Savory bread pudding: This bread pudding, from "The Food52 Cookbook" by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs and the Food52 community, is a savory combination of prosciutto, mushrooms, goat cheese and Gruyere, with a nice lift from chopped fresh thyme. The texture is voluptuous, and the whole thing comes together in minutes, minus the baking.

You can find the recipes below.

And for more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

MORE RECIPES: 99 more easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less 


Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Servings: 6 to 8

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound fresh mild Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled

1/3 cup dry white wine

2 bunches (about 1 pound) kale, stemmed and torn into large pieces

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1/3 cup flour

2 cups milk

8 ounces fresh goat cheese

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

3 tablespoons melted butter

1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (such as a combination of parsley, oregano and basil)

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large, heavy-bottom saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the crumbled sausage and cook until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the wine and cook, scraping the flavoring from the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until the wine reduces and is mostly evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium.

4. Stir in the kale, one handful at a time. Cook the kale, stirring it in with the sausage, until it begins to wilt and turn a bright green. Continue adding kale by the handful until it is all added to the saute pan and is just wilted. Do not overcook the kale. Remove from heat and set the pan aside.

5. In a large saucepan, melt one-half cup (1 stick) butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to form a roux. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly to get rid of any lumps. Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking frequently. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

6. Crumble the goat cheese into the sauce and whisk until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth, then stir in the sausage and kale. Remove from heat.

7. Spoon the mixture into a shallow, 2-quart gratin dish.

8. In a medium bowl, combine the Parmigiano-Reggiano, bread crumbs and minced fresh herbs. Pour over the 3 tablespoons melted butter and stir until the butter is evenly distributed to form the topping.

9. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the sausage and kale mixture.

10. Bake the gratin until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbly, about 30 minutes.

11. Cool slightly before serving.

Each of 8 servings: 494 calories; 14 grams protein; 15 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 40 grams fat; 21 grams saturated fat; 85 mg cholesterol; 4 grams sugar; 600 mg sodium.


Total time: 30 minutes plus cooking time, which will depend on whether it's cooked in the turkey or separately

Servings: Enough for a 16-pound turkey (7 cups)

2 pounds chestnuts

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1 cup chopped onion

2 cups chopped celery, leaves and ribs

2 bay leaves, torn in half

12 cups dried bread cubes

3 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon powdered sage

2 cups turkey or chicken stock

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1. Score the chestnuts with an X on the flat side and roast at 550 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover for a few minutes with a towel soaked in ice water and wrung out. Peel and chop. Set aside.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When it is nearly melted, add the onion and cook, stirring, until the onion starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the celery and the bay leaves and cook, stirring, until the celery softens, about 5 minutes.

3. Place the bread cubes in the biggest work bowl you can find. Remove the bay leaves from the onion mixture and pour the vegetables and butter over the bread cubes. Sprinkle with the salt and sage. Pour the stock over, stirring to moisten all the bread as evenly as possible (as it starts to get wet, it will shrink and be easier to stir). Taste and adjust seasonings, then stir in the eggs until they are completely incorporated.

4. Spoon the stuffing into the cavity of the turkey, being careful not to pack it too tightly as the bread will expand during cooking. If it is overpacked, the stuffing will be dense and heavy. Roast the turkey as you choose. Stuffing that doesn't fit in the turkey can be placed in a casserole, moistened with a little more stock, covered tightly with aluminum foil and baked alongside the turkey. It's even better if you have a second oven; start it in a cold oven set at 350 degrees and bake until the internal temperature is 155 degrees, about 30 minutes. Leave the stuffing tightly covered until ready to serve.

Each half-cup serving: 262 calories; 5 grams protein; 39 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 10 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 63 mg. cholesterol; 995 mg. sodium.


Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Servings: 12 to 16

Note: Adapted from Serpentine Restaurant in San Francisco.

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided

2 onions, cut into small dice

2 large carrots, cut into medium dice

6 cups cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, from about 1/3 ounce fresh

8 eggs

2 cups cubed Gruyere

1 1/3 cups diced ham

Salt and pepper

10 cups cubed stale levain bread

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add 4 teaspoons canola oil, then the onions. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 30 minutes.

3. While the onions are cooking, toss the carrots with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and spread on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast the carrots in the oven until tender and just beginning to color, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. When the onions are caramelized, stir in the heavy cream and sage and continue to cook until the cream comes to a simmer. Remove from heat.

5. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Slowly temper the cream mixture into the egg mixture (add a little cream at a time, so the eggs don't scramble). Stir in the Gruyere, carrots and ham, then season with 1 tablespoon salt and one-half teaspoon pepper, or to taste. Stir in the cubed bread.

6. Pour the mixture into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and cover with foil. Place the dish in a larger baking dish and then place the dishes in the oven. Fill the larger dish with hot water halfway up the dish with the bread pudding to form a hot-water bath.

7. Bake the bread pudding until it is puffed and set, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

Each of 16 servings: 507 calories; 13 grams protein; 16 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 44 grams fat; 25 grams saturated fat; 251 mg cholesterol; 2 grams sugar; 857 mg sodium. 


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