Have you noticed the amount of menu space allocated to side dishes these days? Top chefs are identifying the sides that bring the right flavor combination to the center of the plate. Moms are making the meat go just a little farther, and the vitamins get just a little more of a chance to enter the bloodstream, by offering an extra vegetable for dinner.
Sides are, in other words, the center of attention right now. The side of the plate has become a place to show innovation and creativity in a meal. That’s why in the Test Kitchens of The Food Channel we’ve been studying side dishes, pouring over recipes, and experimenting—all so we can present a few recipes that represent the trends in side dishes.
It’s meant a lot of tasting, too. There was a delicious sautéed red cabbage nestled next to a pork chop one day, the next day we tried some tasty butternut squash with apples and maple-glazed pecans (shown, left). Then there was an amazing vegetable stir-fry with a sesame chili-orange sauce—not something I whip up at home every day.
A consumer survey conducted by research firm Mintel International says most of us are eating about the same amount of side dishes as ever, while 15-20 percent have been eating more of them in the past year. With the economy still in a lull, most people are still dining at home more often and side dishes give us the opportunity to explore new tastes without spending a lot.
In case you are wondering, side dishes are typically defined as something served literally on the side—either beside the main course on a plate, or in side serving dishes that accompany the main plate. So, it may be a side salad with your steak, or a side of baked beans with bar-b-que, or a baked potato with your salmon.
The stereotypical meal consists of meat, potato or other starch, vegetable or salad, and bread. But, the new typical is often meatless, with two or more vegetables and salad. And the bread might be cornbread, or a biscuit, or even a fruit-filled muffin.
In other words, sides have become much more than French fries, even at fast food restaurants.
And, while you are at it, help yourself to another serving or two from our website menu. Just put them on the side!