Classic side dishes with chicken, like mashed potatoes with gravy alongside fried chicken, work well for a reason -- the smooth potatoes contrast with the crunchy chicken -- but more creative or nontraditional dishes give your chicken meals a fresh twist. Think about the type of chicken you're making; the formality or informality of the meal; and the seasonality of the sides, before deciding which side dish to pair with your chicken entree.
Starchy Side Dishes
Traditional starchy sides, such as corn on the cob or potato salad alongside grilled chicken, match the casual setting of backyard grilling and add creaminess and sweetness to contrast with spicy barbecue sauce. Crispy roasted potatoes work well with sauteed chicken in a cream sauce, providing a change in texture to the meal. And biscuits or cornbread pair well with chicken soup because they provide substance and starch, contrasting with the soup.
Green Vegetable Sides
Roasted broccoli or cauliflower, with either baked or sauteed and sauced chicken, give variety in the meal's color, texture and flavor -- the earthy vegetables with their somewhat bitter taste offset the savory chicken. Vegetables with a little meat, such as green beans or peas with bacon bits, bring added flavor and saltiness to more mild-tasting poached or baked chicken dishes -- finish the vegetables with a splash of lemon juice to enliven all the flavors.
Sides With Beans
Red beans, in a tomato-based ranchero sauce or with Cajun sausage, lend smooth creaminess and contrasting flavors to fried, grilled or roasted chicken. Chef Bob Iacovone, formerly of the Cuvee restaurant in New Orleans, serves beans and sausage alongside a chicken roasted with hot sauce, where the beans balance the heat. The same principles apply with white beans flavored with sage, tarragon or thyme served with roasted chicken.
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A cool and tangy coleslaw or a crisp, green salad with tangy chicory lettuce or baby greens sets off the richness of fried chicken with light flavors and colors. A sweet fruit salad or grilled pineapple slices balance spicy barbecue sauce on grilled chicken. And for a side to go with poached chicken, served either warm or cold, prepare an earthy lentil salad, with diced carrots, sliced red onions and chopped parsley, dressed with a lemon or mustard vinaigrette.
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Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.