8 surprisingly easy Christmas dinner sides Michelin-starred chefs swear by

potato gratin

  • Insider asked Michelin-starred chefs to share their favorite side dishes for dinner, plus their tips so you can re-create them at home. 
  • Brad Carter, of Carters of Moseley, roasts his parsnips in duck fat and drizzles honey or maple syrup on top to amp up their flavor. 
  • Suzette Gresham, who runs Acquerello, always includes three "distinct and visually different cheeses" for the perfect pre-dinner platter. 
  • Andrew Zimmerman, of Sepia, makes his potato gratin extra special by adding celery root and black truffles. 
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

While stuffing, sprouts, and sweet potatoes are almost always on the Thanksgiving menu, there are a few staples when it comes to the side dishes at Christmas dinner. 

So why not try something new? To give you a little inspiration, we asked Michelin-starred chefs to share the side dishes that they love making for their own holiday feasts, plus some tips and tricks so you can re-create them at home. 

From truffle mac and cheese to a black truffle gratin, these delicious Christmas sides might just steal the show from your main course. 

Start things off with a cheese platter that'll get everyone excited for dinner.

Suzette Gresham, who runs Acquerello in San Francisco, loves making a holiday cheese platter for her family to nibble on.

"Whether as an appetizer or for wrapping up a meal, cheese is always a welcome addition," she told Insider. 

Gresham recommends picking three "distinct and visually different cheeses" for a platter. While you can cut some into smaller portions, the chef said you should never ever cut any creamy cheeses into smaller pieces.

"Decorate with fruit, herbs, crackers, and solid condiments like Membrillo (quince paste from Spain), Torta di Higos (dry firm fig cake), or Marcona almonds," she added. 

For soft cheeses, make sure you've got some crackers with a more delicate and simple flavor. Firmer cheeses, Gresham adds, can handle "something more substantial in texture and flavour."

"A toasted slice of baguette drizzled with olive oil and cracked black pepper goes with almost everything," she added. "And remember to allow the cheese to sit out for a little while before enjoying. Cheese eats better when it's not ice cold."

But most importantly, have fun with the platter and make sure to experiment. 

"Cheese is an experience and, like wine, changes within the parameters of its origins," Gresham said. "Try not to be too rigid. Be open minded."

A frisee salad will complement a heartier main course.

Andrew Zimmerman, the executive chef of Sepia in Chicago, likes whipping up frisee salad with a roasted shallot vinaigrette when he's in charge of the holiday menu at home — especially if he's serving a hearty main course.

Zimmerman adds crispy pieces of ciabatta to his salad, as well as blue cheese. 

To make the vinaigrette, first peel your shallots, toss them in some olive oil, and roast them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 to 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, mix sherry vinegar, minced thyme and rosemary, black pepper, a "tiny bit" of honey, and either Champagne vinegar or a "really good apple cider vinegar" all together. Zimmerman also recommends throwing in just "a touch of Dijon mustard to help it emulsify." 

Then just julienne or dice your roasted shallots and throw them into the dressing. 

"The sweet roasted shallots in the vinaigrette help offset the bitterness from the frisee," Zimmerman said. "And then you have the salty funkiness of the cheese."

Mix your Brussels sprouts with some roasted chestnuts to make the house smell like Christmas.

"Sprouts with chestnut cream is one of the best vegetarian side dishes you can eat," Brad Carter, of Carters of Moseley in Birmingham, England, told Insider. "They are absolutely amazing." 

Carter takes his chestnuts out of the shell, crushes them, then adds them to a pan with sautéed onions and garlic, along with cream and a splash of sherry vinegar. 

"Reduce that by about half, then fold that through the cooked Brussels sprouts," Carter said.

Red cabbage cooked in beer will pair perfectly with any duck or venison on the menu.

Legendary restaurateur Daniel Boulud serves this red cabbage side with grain-crusted venison at his restaurant Daniel in Manhattan during the holidays. 

"The lightly sweet and tart red cabbage cooked in Lambic beer, combined with toasted seeds, brings a wonderful contrast of texture and taste to the venison dish we make at Daniel," Boulud told Insider.

To make Boulud's red cabbage, first quarter a medium-sized head of red cabbage, remove the core, and julienne the leaves.

Transfer them to a large bowl and mix with one 750-milliliter bottle of Lambic beer, as well as one peeled and juiced orange (include the peel). Cover your mixture and refrigerate it overnight. 

Once your cabbage is ready, strain the mixture and save the liquid. Then heat two tablespoons of butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add one onion (finely diced), two Honeycrisp apples (diced), a pinch of chili flakes, and one cinnamon stick. Cook and stir the mixture for 10 minutes, then add your cabbage and cook for another 10 minutes. 

Next, add your reserved cabbage liquid and bring it to a boil. Season with salt and cook at a light simmer for around 45 minutes, occasionally stirring. 

Once your cabbage is tender and the liquid has reduced to a syrup consistency, stir in 1 tablespoon of butter and season with salt and pepper. If your liquid glazes before the cabbage is tender, add a little bit of water and keep cooking. Serve warm.

Give your classic potato gratin an extra special twist by throwing some black truffles into the mix.

"This would be good with turbot fish or any sort of roast," Zimmerman said. "Anything from a roast chicken to a filet mignon." 

Zimmerman throws slices of celery root into his potato gratin, which he cuts into the same size as the potatoes. Then, he'll add thin slices of black truffles "staggered in with the potatoes and celery root." 

If black truffles are out of your budget, Zimmerman recommends just grating a little right on top after taking your gratin out of the oven, or using truffle paste instead. 

"There's a lot of ways to approach it depending on how glamorous you want to get and how much money you want to spend," he said. "It takes a very familiar thing like a potato gratin and gives it a bit of extra holiday cheer."

Adding that truffle flavor is also a great way to amp up some mac and cheese for Christmas dinner.

"The holidays are always a great way to showcase luxury ingredients you normally wouldn't use during the rest of the year," Mari Katsumura,  the executive chef at Yūgen in Chicago, told Insider.

And when it comes to side dishes, Katsumura is a huge fan of mac and cheese.

"I like using a variety of different cheeses for texture and flavor," she added. "I suggest one hard-aged cheese, one shredded melty cheese, and cream cheese."

To make the perfect mac and cheese, first cook garlic and plenty of onions in a pan on low heat, stirring frequently. Then add a splash of white wine, your liquid dairy (she recommends a combination of evaporated milk and cream for "the smoothest sauce"), and then the cheeses. 

"A touch of mustard and Worcestershire really brings out the flavor of the cheese sauce," she added.

Season with salt and pepper, then fold your sauce into the boiled noodles. To give it that special touch, Katsumura recommends adding a generous drizzle of truffle oil. 

Homemade tagliatelle will bring a "golden moment" to your Christmas table.

Asimakis Chaniotis, of Pied à Terre in London, is another Michelin-starred chef who loves using black winter truffles during the holidays. 

"Black truffle brings the finesse and this golden moment to the table," he said. "It's an ingredient you don't normally use on an everyday basis, just special occasions when you're at home."

To make the homemade tagliatelle, you'll need: 115 grams of egg yolks (Chaniotis recommends using eggs from free-range chickens), 175 grams of flour (it should be "00" flour), 75 grams of fine semolina, 20 grams of olive oil, and 10 grams of salt. 

Add your flour to a stand mixer and then slowly start adding your egg yolks, with the mixer turned to the lowest speed. Then add the olive oil and salt. Knead the mix, then let it rest for a minimum of one hour before you start rolling it.

Roll the pasta using a stand mixer pasta attachment, starting on the thickest setting and slowly turning to the thinnest setting. Trim the top and bottom and cut 25-centimeter pasta sheets. Roll your pasta through the tagliatelle attachment, then dust it with some fine semolina. Blanch your pasta in boiling salted water for just two minutes. 

If you want to opt for store-bought tagliatelle, you can still make Chaniotis' celeriac cream for the noodles. First melt 100 grams of diced butter, then add 150 grams of white button mushrooms (washed, peeled, and quartered), 150 grams of celeriac (diced), 1 large clove of garlic, and 5 sprigs of fresh thyme. Once they've caramelized, pass the mixture through a fine sieve and take out the garlic and thyme.

Throw the mixture into a new pan with 60 grams of butter and 60 grams of shallots (finely chopped).  Cook the shallots on low heat so they become super soft, but don't get any color. Then add 50 milliliters of Madeira wine. 

Add 50 milliliters of whole milk, 50 milliliters of light cream, and 40 grams of black truffles (freshly grated). Bring it to a boil and add 40 grams of grated cheese (Chaniotis recommends the Greek cheese Arseniko Naxou), along with salt and pepper. Cook on a low heat for two minutes, then blend everything together in a blender on high speed until the cream becomes super smooth. 

Pass the sauce through a sieve and mix with the tagliatelle. Serve immediately with more black truffle grated on top.

Roasting your vegetables in duck fat will ensure they're not forgotten at dinner.

If you're making goose or duck for the main course, Carter recommends roasting some parsnips in the fat from the bird. 

In the last few minutes of cooking, add a little bit of honey or maple syrup on top to take them to the next level. 

Carter also loves deep-frying Brussels sprouts in duck fat to get them "super crispy." Top them off with some lemon juice and zest, plus some olive oil and black pepper. 

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