Photos by Jillian Elliott.

Take your friendsgiving to the next level by making these elevated side dishes

If there’s a time to stray from the Thanksgiving classics, it’s Friendsgiving. Take a break from the tried-and-true mashed potatoes and green bean casserole; they’ll make an appearance next week. Instead, take a chance on these upgraded sides that will be the talk of the table.

These decadent cheesy potatoes au gratin and flavor-packed bacon and butternut squash risotto might take a few extra steps and time (and thyme), but your friends will secretly hope you bring them again next Friendsgiving.

Cheesy Potatoes au Gratin

Serves 6-8


  • 3 large russet potatoes

  • 1 large onion

  • 4 cloves of garlic

  • 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves

  • 3/4 cup of Gruyere cheese

  • 1/4 cup Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese

  • 2 tablespoons of butter

  • 1 cup of heavy cream

  • 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, pepper and salt

  1. Heat the oven to 350 F.

  2. Peel and thinly slice the russet potatoes by hand or with a mandolin. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Remove the thyme leaves from their stems. Grate both cheeses and place them in the refrigerator.

  3. Heat two tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large pot. Saute the chopped onion and minced garlic with a pinch of salt until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.

  4. Turn off the heat and add in heavy cream and thyme, along with a teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, pepper and salt, or seasonings to taste. Stir.

  5. Add in sliced potatoes and toss until each slice is evenly coated in the cream mixture.

  6. Begin layering the potatoes in a lightly greased 8-by-8 inch pan. Start with 1/3 of the potatoes in an even layer, followed by 1/3 of the Gruyere. Next, add a second layer of potatoes, a second layer of Gruyere and the final layer of potatoes. Reserve the final layer of Gruyere for later.

  7. Cover the dish in tin foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour.

  8. After one hour, remove the foil and sprinkle the remaining Gruyere and all of the Parmesan or pecorino cheese. Raise the oven temperature to 400 F and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Serve.

Bacon and Butternut Squash Risotto

Serves 8


  • 1 medium butternut squash

  • 1 bulb of garlic

  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • 2 shallots

  • 4 slices of bacon

  • 1 tablespoon of fresh sage leaves

  • 1/4 cup of dry white wine

  • 2 cups of Arborio rice

  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, red pepper flakes and salt

  • 8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock or broth

  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese, grated

  1. Heat the oven to 400 F.

  2. Peel, remove seeds and chop the butternut squash into 1/2-inch cubes. Slice off the top of a head of garlic.

  3. Place the squash cubes on a sheet pan and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Drizzle the garlic head with olive oil, cover it in foil and place it on the pan. Roast the squash in the oven and garlic for 45-55 minutes until soft.

  4. Meanwhile, dice the shallots and cut the bacon into bite-sized pieces. Thinly slice the sage leaves.

  5. Once the squash and garlic mixture is finished roasting, remove it from the oven. Squeeze the garlic bulbs out and mash them into a paste with a fork.

  6. Add the bacon to a pan and turn the heat to medium-high.

  7. Once the bacon is crispy and the fat is rendered, remove the pieces with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan. Saute the shallot and sage in the bacon fat with a pinch of salt until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.

  8. Deglaze the pan with white wine. Simmer for 1 minute.

  9. Add in Arborio rice and toast for 2 minutes. Once toasted, toss in the roasted butternut squash, mashed roasted garlic, black pepper, red pepper and salt.

  10. Begin cooking the risotto. Start by adding 2 cups of hot stock or broth to the pot. Bring it to a simmer, and stir frequently. Once the rice has absorbed the liquid, add another cup of hot stock. Repeat this step until the risotto is fully cooked, 18-22 minutes.

    NOTE: Cooking the risotto this way releases starch from the rice and makes the risotto creamy. It’s important to keep the stock warm on a separate burner to avoid dropping the temperature of the pot when added. You may not use all of the stock.

  11. Stir in grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese. Serve.

This article originally appeared in 225 magazine’s 225 Daily newsletter.