When making a meal at home there are always a few things you can do to make it feel “chef-y.” Adding more butter and salt than you think is necessary, plating things in a manner that is pleasing to the eyes, and using real napkins can all help to cultivate a restaurant vibe, but I think the real key to elevating your meal lies in the liberal — nay, wanton — use of crunchy bits.
Much like a smattering of fresh chopped herbs or a drizzle of nice olive oil, crunchy bits make your dish feel finished, but they also make it seem fun and fully realised. (They can also distract from any subpar elements, much like tinsel on a sad Christmas tree or glitter on a sub-par art project.)
I ask you: What is the best part of a green bean casserole? Don’t lie and say it is the bean which is green. You know it is not the bean. It is the fried onions. It is the crunchy bit. That is what gets people excited about green bean casserole, and you can use the power of the crunchy bit to create a similar amount of hype for every other dish you serve on turkey day.
Serve fried garlic chips with your mashed potatoes, sprinkle fried herbs on your turkey, and throw toasted nuts on top of your vegetable sides and salads. Fry a whole bunch of shallots and/or onions and put them on every casserole, not just the green bean. Put multiple crunchy things on one dish — can you think of a reason you can’t have fried shallots, and garlic chips, and toasted nuts on top of a casserole that’s made of condensed soup and green beans? Because I sure can’t! If you think things are getting too “fried” — a thought that has never occurred to me — balance it out with fresh herbs.
Now, if you want to really blow everyone’s minds — if you really want to “kick it up a notch” in the style of the Food Network stars of old — consider asking your butcher for some extra turkey skin. Take that skin home, fry or bake it to a crisp, and crumble that crunchy goodness all over every single side dish. (You can also use chicken skin; either way, brains will be broken.)
Oh, and don’t forget dessert: Candied nuts, crispy cookie crumbles, and any kind of brittle all work beautifully on top of pies and such. My favourite is candied pecans.