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Side dishes—what to make? Part One

Updated: Jul 8, 2022

Side dishes can get stuck in a rut. We tend to cook what we are used to eating. Those sides we were served as children are typically the ones we continue to make and want. It is a matter of habit.

We want to experiment but the question is what different sides do you make and will they taste good with the main dish? Or, even more troubling is when you make something totally new, even exotic, but the recipe doesn’t tell you what to serve with it.

“I make a mean scallops Provençal,” Jane, a reader, said in a recent email. “I end up serving it with boxed rice pilaf because I have no clue what the French (or anyone else for that matter) would serve with it!” She goes on to ask, “Could you please write a side dish blog?”

What to serve as a side dish that is different from the usual? That is a good question. Thank you, Jane, for asking.

When I wrote Le Kitchen Cookbook: a Workbook, I created sidebars with each recipe and used them to include information about that recipe along with storage, variations, entertain, tips, and a serve with section, but I realize I don’t often include it in my blog posts.

Let me start with Jane’s specific question: what do you serve with “mean” Scallops Provençal? Because the dish already has a tomato base, I would follow your rice thought but instead of rice pilaf, a risotto would be more appropriate.

I would do a simple parmesan risotto finished off with lemon and lemon zest.


From Le Kitchen Cookbook: a Workbook page 188

This recipe was adjusted to include the lemon and lemon zest that makes this risotto a perfect accompaniment for any seafood dish.

This is a classic Italian dish that is mouthwatering. In order for risotto to become as creamy and tasty as it does, you can’t rush the process. It’s important that you stir the rice as you allow the liquid to completely absorb before adding more broth. It takes time and your attention, but trust me, the result is well worth the effort.

Serves: 4

Prep-time: 10 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes


4 cups chicken stock

1 tablespoon olive oil plus 2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup shallots or onion, diced small

11/2 cups Arborio rice Do not rinse the rice. (This is a must as it

will not work with any other rice.)

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons butter cut into slices

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon parsley minced

Salt and pepper

Lemon juice and zest of one lemon


1. Heat the stock, then lower heat to keep it simmering.

2. Reserve one cup of broth to use at the end.

3. In a heavy-bottomed skillet, add oil and butter, add onion or

shallots. Cook until translucent over medium heat, 2 minutes.

4. Add rice to the pan, stir making certain to coat rice with oil,

cook for 1 minute.

5. Add wine to pan and stir until absorbed.

6. Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth, continue to stir until the

broth is absorbed.

7. Continue this process until the liquid is absorbed and rice is

almost tender; it should have a slight bite in the center.

8. Remove from heat. Rice will be very creamy but not mushy.

9. Stir in butter, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, zest, and parsley.

10. Stir in the final cup of broth and season with salt and pepper.

Sides are a big topic, there is more to come, so stay tuned for part two and more.

What about you?

Is there something you'd like to know more about?

Let me know in the comments below.



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Jane Kelley
Jane Kelley
Jul 11, 2022

This is exactly what I wanted! Funny, my scallops provencal does not have tomatoes, but I do think that risoto could work nicely! What, though, would the FRENCH serve with this French dish? Risoto? or something else?

Adeline Olmer
Adeline Olmer
Jul 11, 2022
Replying to

I'm glad this was helpful. Stay tuned, I've been thinking about all the side dishes we make in France, especially in Provençe.

Yes, the French do serve risotto with scallops provençale. Thanks again for your suggestion. 😀

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