(More) Holiday Sides

These Thanksgiving side dishes wonderfully double for any festive celebration.

Chef Harper, Harper’s table, Suffolk, Sweet potatoes

Walter Bundy

Shagbark, Richmond

For Walter Bundy, Thanksgiving at his grandparents’ summer home on the Piankatank River was always filled with extended family, and kids everywhere. But the gathering, which continues to this day, extends beyond the kitchen. 

The river is crystal clear in late November, Bundy reports, and it’s very, very cold. His favorite Thanksgiving sport is roasting oysters over a charcoal grill— ”nothing better.” They’re ultra fresh, harvested right out of the river by the Shagbark chef and his dad. And at the Bundy Thanksgiving, they’ve become just one of the myriad sides. Bundy says he couldn’t imagine a holiday without all the parts and pieces: mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce. 

But one dish he wouldn’t dare skip at the family feast is his she-crab bisque. “My Aunt Jody doesn’t expect me to bring anything other than this soup,” he says. “It is kind of nice to have everyone request it.” Bundy heats it up and serves it in small cups before everyone sits down for dinner. 

“They all love it and always ask for seconds even though they know we have an enormous meal coming,” he says. “I love the smell and taste of the crab, Old Bay, and freshly drizzled sherry. My brother, Carter, is always pestering me for more, more, more. He is a true aficionado of she-crab bisque.” ShagbarkRVa.com

Va Living, Walter Bundy, Shagbark

Creamy Chesapeake Bay She-Crab Bisque
  • 1 ½ pounds Plugra butter
  • 2 Vidalia onions, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, stem end removed, minced
  • 1 bulb fennel, cored, roughly chopped
  • 1½ cups arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 32 ounces clam juice
  • ½ gallon whole milk
  • 2 quarts heavy cream
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup sherry 
  • 1 bunch tarragon, stems removed, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
  • 2 lemons, cut in half, juiced
  • 1 pint water, or more, if needed
  • 1 pound jumbo lump blue crab meat
  • 1 pound claw crab meat
  • ½ bunch chives, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Va Living, Walter Bundy, Shagbark

In a large heavy soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and fennel and cook for 10 minutes until soft, but not colored. Add rice, tomato paste, Old Bay, and flour. Cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring often with a rubber spatula so the rice does not stick. Add wine, clam juice, milk, and heavy cream.

Cook gently over low heat, stirring often until everything is soft, incorporated, and flavor develops, about 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, sherry, tarragon, Sriracha, and lemon juice. Blend in small batches, adding water to adjust consistency. 

In a skillet over medium heat, heat jumbo lump crabmeat with a bit of butter for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crab is heated through. Set aside.

In a soup pot, stir in claw crabmeat and adjust seasoning with Old Bay, sherry, and salt if necessary. Ladle into bowls and serve topped with the warmed jumbo lump crabmeat and garnish of chives. Serves 8-12

Harper Bradshaw

Harper’s Table, Suffolk

Chef Harper, Harper’s table, Suffolk, Sweet potatoes

“My grandmother used to cook everything for us,” says Chef Harper Bradshaw. “She would make everything from scratch, and it was as good as Thanksgiving gets. She would make yeast rolls, stuffing, gravy, and twice-baked potatoes,” his family’s absolute favorite. “Then once we were all plumped up, mom would break out her pecan pie, warm, with vanilla ice cream.”

Today, everything old is new again for Bradshaw. His namesake restaurant in downtown Suffolk, Harper’s Table, reflects the traditions and provisions of Tidewater, along with memories of meals spent with family and friends. And his Thanksgiving menu follows those recollections with turkey, ham, lots of gravy, and sensational sides. One that his family clamored for reimagines his grandmother’s twice-baked potatoes. 

For his version, Bradshaw uses Hayman sweet potatoes, an elusive heirloom white that’s been a fixture of Eastern Shore cuisine for centuries. Haymans have a unique—and uniquely good—look and flavor profile, with lighter skin and a white flesh that tastes like candy. When cooked they turn a delightful chartreuse. Bradshaw bakes the potatoes and stuffs them with brown sugar, butter, and pecans, before baking again to serve piping hot with a drizzle of sorghum syrup to marry the flavors. HarpersTable.com

Eastern Shore Hayman Sweet Potatoes with Pecans, Sorghum, and Butter
  • 10 small or medium Hayman sweet potatoes
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • Sea salt
  • Sorghum (chef prefers the Muddy Pond brand)

Chef Harper, Harper’s table, Suffolk, Sweet potatoes

Wash potatoes, pat dry, rub with oil, and wrap individually in foil with the shiny side in. Place on sheet pan, and roast at 400°F until fork-tender, about an hour. Set aside. Keep oven on. 

While potatoes roast, add brown sugar, flour, and cold butter in a food processor, pulsing until it resembles sand. Continue pulsing until clumps form, but don’t overprocess. Add pecans and pinch of salt, then quickly pulse once or twice to incorporate.

Once potatoes are cool enough to handle but still warm, unwrap, slit open on top, and squeeze a bit to loosen the flesh. Optionally, add a pat of butter and sprinkle of salt. 

Place potatoes on a clean sheet pan, and generously spoon pecan crumble on top of each potato, like you’re making a loaded baked potato. Roast on a lower rack for about 20 minutes or until tops are golden. 

Serve drizzled with sorghum and a sprinkling of sea salt. Serves 10

This article originally appeared in the December 2022 issue.

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum