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Credit: Jonathan Bardzik

There’s a very good reason your high school math teacher assigned so many word problems. For instance:

Q: Your stovetop has four burners. You can fit three casserole dishes in your oven at the same time If you cram them just right, with that oval one slightly tipped. With a resting time of 45 minutes when your turkey comes out of the oven, how many side dishes can you deliver to the Thanksgiving table hot and fresh?

A: AHHHHHHHHHHHH! *run screaming from the kitchen*

Fully cooking the thighs of the turkey without drying out the breast meat aside, the biggest challenge of Thanksgiving is in the timing. The solution? Do as much work ahead of time as possible.

Blanch your broccoli and green beans so they just need a few minutes on the stove to finish. Pre-roast the sweet potatoes and rainbow carrots (‘cause you’re totally serving them this year, aren’t you?) then warm them back up in the oven after the turkey comes out. Mashed potatoes hold well over a double boiler – or just put them in a metal bowl over a pot of gently simmering water.

Credit: Jonathan Bardzik

My favorite time saver? Tossing gently steamed Brussels sprouts with butter. But not just any butter. Blend the best butter you can find with sharp bleu cheese, grainy mustard, shallots and a few drops of vinegar. Roll it up in waxed paper or plastic wrap. You can do this a full week ahead of the big meal. Then, 15 minutes before dinner give the Brussels sprouts a quick steam, toss them in the butter and bring them, fresh and hot to the table.

“But,” you say, “I love my Brussels sprouts caramelized.” Me too, but isn’t it time you branch out a little bit? Is a plate of mashed or duck fat-roasted potatoes really a disappointment because they aren’t French fries? Secondly, your oven is full, caramelized Brussels sprouts take 20-30 minutes, and nobody has time for that.

Do the math. Your high school teacher will be proud.

Whoever shares your Thanksgiving table this year, may it be a day of great joy with much to be thankful for.

PS My annual Thanksgiving hotline is open Tuesday and Wednesday November 21 and 22. Pop me a question on my Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter account and I’ll get back to you on everything from stuffing the bird to the best mashed potatoes ever.

Credit: Jonathan Bardzik

Bleu Cheese and Mustard Buttered Brussels Sprouts

Serves 6

Blue cheese and sharp, grainy mustard pair with rich butter to top fresh, bright steamed Brussels sprouts. You’ll enjoy the extra butter on a steak, over chicken, green beans, roast cauliflower…

Ingredients:

1-1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts

1/2 pound butter, softened

4 ounces sharp bleu cheese, softened

2 tbs grainy mustard

1 shallot, finely minced

2 tbs minced parsley

Champagne vinegar

Directions:

  • Trim bases of Brussels sprouts, cut in half and remove any loose or discolored leaves.
  • Place a steamer insert into a 4 quart saucepan with 1” water and bring to a boil. Add Brussels sprouts and cook until just crisp-tender. The core should still be very firm.
  • Blend together butter, bleu cheese, mustard, shallot and parsley using a spatula or food processor.
  • Blend in 1/2 tsp vinegar a few drops at a time.
  • Remove Brussels sprouts from water and toss with 3-4 tbs butter.
  • Roll remaining butter in parchment or plastic wrap and freeze.

Jonathan Bardzik is a Washington, DC-based storyteller cook and author inspired by the fresh foods from his mother’s garden that he finds today at farm markets. Jonathan loves to cook with an audience from farm markets and family kitchens to board rooms and conferences. Find out more here.