Coast Cooking

Try these easy side dish recipes to make your Christmas meal complete

Olive and mortadella pasta salad can be served warm or room temperature.
Olive and mortadella pasta salad can be served warm or room temperature. Special to the Sun Herald

For some people the Christmas turkey is the main event. For others, it is a Christmas ham, and for others, still, it is a Christmas prime rib.

Whatever your main course may be, the side dishes you serve can make or break your celebration. There are lots of complicated casseroles or dishes with complicated sauces that take half a day to prepare, but it doesn’t have to be a chore to serve your guests exciting side dishes.

Today, I’m sharing three side dish recipes that are inexpensive and can be prepared in less than 30 minutes. It may take you all day to get the turkey, ham or prime rib ready, but the rest will be a snap.

Merry Christmas!

Brussels Sprouts Braised with Smoked Bacon

4-6 strips smoked bacon

2 tablespoons butter

1-pound Brussels sprouts, halved or whole

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil as needed

Cook bacon in a large skillet (cast iron is best) over medium-high heat until crispy. Remove and set aside, then chop into small pieces. Add butter and just a tablespoon or two of olive oil to the same pan, add the Brussels sprouts and cook over medium low heat until browned and tender. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with the bacon. Taste and re-season as necessary. A tablespoon or two of Parmigiano-Reggiano will be delightful.

Pimento and Cheese Mashed Potatoes

2 pounds medium russet potatoes

6 tablespoons butter

½ cup cream (yogurt to reduce calories)

¾ cup pimento cheese (homemade or from the deli)

Salt and pepper to taste

Breadcumbs (optional)

Peel the potatoes, cut into cubes and simmer in salted water until tender, 20 minutes or a bit longer (use a fork to see if they are tender). Drain, then combine potatoes, butter and cream and mix well, no lumps unless you like them that way. Use a blender if you like. Season to taste. Keep the mixture warm in a double boiler (ban Marie), add the pimento and cheese and mix until it has all melted together. Taste and re-season as necessary. Dot with more butter and add some breadcrumbs, if you like. Place in ramekins and run under the broiler to brown. Let them rest 10 minutes or so, run a knife around the edge, and carefully remove from the ramekins.

Olive and Mortadella Pasta Salad

The quality of pasta varies widely. Imported Italian pasta, or artisan, made-in-the-USA pasta (such as Pappardelle’s Pasta) is the best. Never overcook pasta. Italian-style al dente is the way to go. It should be firm and toothsome.

1-pound fusilli, penne or rigatoni pasta cooked to package directions

2/3 cup olive salad

1/3 cup cubed best quality and thick sliced mortadella (deli)

Best quality olive oil (if you do not like the oil the olive salad was packed in)

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, stemmed and diced

Taste the olive oil the olive salad came in, if you do not like it, drain off most of it, and replace it with a better-quality oil. Try the organic and unfiltered Partanna oil some local grocery stores have started to carry. Combine all the ingredients, taste and re-season as necessary. Again, just as in the first recipe above, a good grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano might be to your liking. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The Bluffton Oyster Company at the Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival Streetfest in South Carolina on Oct. 21, 2017, gave their tips for cooking a simple, yet delicious, fried shrimp.

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