Side Show

The holidays are here. It’s time for the good china, the big meals with family and all the fixins. Which, let’s be honest, are really the stars of the show. Even quirky Aunt Helen’s stuffing with oysters and cranberries or the side of bacon-wrapped chicken livers that Grandma Rosa insists on bringing. Tradition allows for that one dish at the table that—though it would look out of place anywhere else—is a must at family gatherings.

We asked our Pulse crew to let readers in on their family secrets by sharing the side dishes that make their holidays. Steal a recipe or two from these pages for a surprise twist at the next gathering.

clam dip

Speaking of ruining family trade secrets, Nanny’s not going to be invited to too many family parties now that everybody will know how simple it is to create her signature dish—this delicious quintessential New England classic. You tell your recipe to one sweet granddaughter who happens to work at a magazine…

2 (6.5oz) cans minced clams,
drained with juice reserved
1/3 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup crushed Ritz crackers
1/3 cup minced onion
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 dash freshly ground black
Garlic powder to taste
6 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Paprika to taste

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, slowly cook and stir minced clams in the lemon juice until heated and tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Transfer clams to a medium baking dish. Mix in crackers, onion, parsley, oregano, black pepper, garlic powder, butter and approximately 3/4 of the reserved clam juice. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and paprika.
4. Bake clam mixture for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve with Ritz crackers and lemon wedges.


This is a New York favorite with origins across the pond and is a perfect example of “it tastes better than it sounds.” It’s a creamy, sweet mélange of caramelized onions, butter and crumb crunch. But do not use cocktail onions! This error was made when associate editor Chris Connolly hired a caterer to recreate his ailing grandmother’s signature dish. The result of using pickled onions in place of fresh? “F-ing disgusting.”

2lbs white pearl onions, left unpeeled
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups coarse breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Blanch onions in a 3-quart pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and transfer to a bowl of cold water to stop cooking. Drain and peel onions.
3. Put onions and 1 tsp salt in same pot and add fresh water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until onions are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and place in a buttered 2-quart baking dish.
4. Melt 1 tbsp butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat, add fl our and stir 1 minute. Add cream, whisking, and bring to a simmer, 2 minutes. Stir in pepper, nutmeg and remaining 1/4 tsp salt. Pour sauce over onions.
5. Melt remaining 2 tbsp butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over low heat, then add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring until golden, 3 to 5 minutes.
6. Sprinkle toasted crumbs evenly over onions and bake until sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes.


This is pretty standard fare for any Spanish or Latin American table, though when it makes its way into the essential US holidays, it gets noticed. But when your mother was an Army brat who grew up in Peru and happened to remarry into a Hispanic family, how else are you going show off your cultural diversity?

1 box low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups rice (white or yellow)
1 bag frozen peas
1 small jar red pimentos
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 small white sweet onion, finely chopped
6 boneless chicken thighs, halved
3 sausages (your preference)
1lb peeled, deveined large shrimp
1lb sea scallops, halved

1. In a large pan, sauté garlic and onion in 1-2 tbsp olive oil until browned. Remove garlic and most of onion.
2. Add sausage and cook until brown. Remove from pan, slice each link diagonally into thirds and return to pan to sauté until browned again. Remove.
3. Add chicken, one part at a time, so they brown well. They should get a good color from the sausage already having been cooked in the same pan.
4. Remove chicken from pan and add the scallops for a quick sauté, 3 minutes. Remove.
5. Add rice to the pan drippings and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add chicken stock to the rice and stir so all pan drippings and rice are well coated.
6. Add the chicken and sausage back into the pan. The pan will start to get full at this point. Leave to cook for 20-25 minutes until the rice absorbs most of the liquid.
7. Before it is all absorbed, add the frozen peas and the preseared scallops making sure they get into the rice and liquid so they cook.
8. Five minutes later, add the shrimp on top with strips of pimento. Once the shrimp are pink and most of the liquid is absorbed, serve.


This made-from-scratch Italian staple is the pride of a staffer’s paterfamilias and is his unique spin on an Old Country favorite passed down from his mother.

8oz fresh spinach
6 tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cups ricotta cheese
1/4 cup Romano cheese grated
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black
3 cups tomato sauce
3 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium frying pan. Add garlic and cook until it starts to caramelize lightly, then add spinach and cook until wilted.
3. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, garlic, ricotta and Romano cheeses, eggs, salt and pepper.
4. Put the crespelle, brown side up, on a clean surface (baking mat). Spoon about 4 tbsp of filling in center of crespelle, staying 1 inch from sides and roll into a cylinder. Place the seam at bottom of pan on pre-sauced 9×13-inch baking dish. Continue filling and rolling the rest then pour sauce over cannelloni and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 30 minutes until cheese bubbles.

*Crespelle Recipe
Makes about 12 crespelles
3/4 cup unbleached fl our
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 tbsp olive oil for batter
Olive oil for cooking

1. Put all ingredients into blender or food processor, pulse until smooth. Cover and let rest for 35 minutes.
2. Heat a 7-inch nonstick frying pan over moderately high heat. Put a thin layer of olive oil on the pan with a brush or paper towel, then ladle 4 tbsp of batter and tilt pan to distribute it evenly.
3. Cook the batter until you are able to flip it, about 35 seconds. Once flipped, continue cooking for 5 to 8 seconds longer. Remove and stack on paper-lined plate, like pancakes. Repeat process.


This guilt-free side gets a subtle hint of nutmeg for cold weather noshing. The sister of a Pulse person brought this winner to the table last year and it’s likely to become a new family tradition.

3 tbsp light butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
3 cups 2 percent milk
3 lbs frozen chopped
spinach, defrosted and
squeeze drained
3/4 cup freshly grated
Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp freshly ground
black pepper
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a heavy-bottomed sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 10-12 minutes. Add the fl our and nutmeg; cook 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add milk and cook until thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the spinach to the sauce. Add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and mix until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Transfer spinach to large baking dish and sprinkle remaining Parmesan and Swiss on top. Bake for 20 minutes until cheese bubbles. Serve hot.


“You know how you have one go-to dish that you bring to every get-together because it’s so good? This is going to be that dish for me, it’s that delicious,” said graphic designer Rebecca “Pepper” Canese.

Store bought pie dough
4 medium tomatoes, sliced
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup basil, chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp hot sauce
1/4 tsp ground pepper

1. Line a baking sheet with paper towels, place single layer of tomato slices on towels, sprinkle with salt and let dry for 30 minutes. Pat dry and sprinkle with basil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Roll dough into 12-inch circle, 1/8-inch thick. Place in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Line dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (dried beans work well). Bake until crust begins to set, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove weights and parchment when cool, then bake until brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.
3. Layer in onions first, then tomatoes and basil. Mix 2 cups of the cheese, the mayonnaise, hot sauce and pepper. Spread over tomatoes and sprinkle on remaining cheese. Bake until golden brown and cheese is bubbly, 30-35 minutes. Cool before serving.

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