Thanksgiving, of Course

Where else would a foodie’s thoughts turn to this week but to the greatest eating holiday of the year? We had two Thanksgiving dinners that couldn’t be beat, one of which I contributed sides to, and the other I mostly cooked myself. The rest of the holiday was kind of a bust, though. I won’t go into details, because other family members may be lurking, but let’s just say that if they didn’t tempt us to their houses with promises of plenty of fatty, rich foods you’d never allow yourself to eat on a sane day and equal helping portions of guilt, we’d probably just say fuck it and go to work.

So I’ll talk about mashed sweet potatoes instead. I got to do two versions and compare. I used the same easy technique for each: simmer diced, peeled sweet potatoes over medium-low heat in a small amount of liquid and a good amount of butter for 30-40 minutes until soft, then mash gently. For the first batch, I simmered the potatoes in ¼ cup water with a healthy dash of baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice), ¼ cup brown sugar and 4 tbsp. butter. For the second batch, I simmered the potatoes in ¼ cup heavy cream with 2 tbsp. butter, salt and pepper, and mashed with another 2 tbsp. butter at the end. They both turned out great, but the first batch with the brown sugar, while not overly sweet, was more toothsome and satisfying to me.

I tried a lot of recipes for the occasion, all from various Cook’s Illustrated sources, and there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch. The winners were:

Onions Agrodolce Onions Agrodolce: Sweet-and-sour cocktail onions, Italian-style, first sauteed in butter and sugar, then simmered in red wine vinegar, water and more sugar plus herbs to create a syrupy glaze. (This was the only thing I remembered to take a picture of; click the thumbnail for the large version.) They were great as an h’or d’oeuvre with crackers, cheese and crudites, sweet on the front end with a tart bite at the back.

New York-Style Cheesecake: Quite a project, requiring 2 hours of prep and baking, 3 hours of cooling and 3 hours of chilling. The top was a bit overdone, but no one cared after pouring strawberry sauce all over it, and slicing into it revealed the creamiest, lightest, most ethereal cheesecake I’ve ever tasted. And I don’t normally like cheesecake much. I must confess, though, that I was not the one who stayed up until two in the morning to make this one; that was my stepbrother. I would have just made brownies.

Updated Green Bean Casserole: This was my favorite new recipe, an update on the holiday staple but using no canned products except french-fried onions. I blanched the green beans, then tossed them with a rich sauce of sauteed mushrooms, chicken broth and cream. I topped it all with a mixture of homemade breadcrumbs, butter and french-fried onions, and baked until brown and bubbly. I couldn’t help going back for seconds on this one!

All in all, it was a successful Thanksgiving, food-wise. And now we can all forget about it for another year. Whew.


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4 thoughts on “Thanksgiving, of Course

  1. James 27 November 2006 at 5:03 am

    Thanks for the recipe for those sweet potatoes we used to have them every thanksgiving but sinse my grandparents passed away the recipe died with them and i havent had much look finding a recipe that was just like theirs hopefully yours will be what i am looking for.

  2. Marty 27 November 2006 at 8:59 am

    I agree, I think all of the food turned out great, though I notice you forgot to mention the cheese straws and my fine little smokies in a blanket!!

  3. shannonoz 27 November 2006 at 7:29 pm

    How could I forget? We had fun with puff pastry and made some easy h’ors d’oeuvres. For the cheese straws, I used a rolling pin to roll grated Asiago, crushed pepper and salt into the puff pastry, cut it into strips, twisted each strip and baked until brown and puffed. For the pigs in blankets, my wonderful hubby bought cocktail wienies, wrapped them in a “bun” of puff pastry triangles, threw them all willy-nilly on a baking pan and baked until puff and golden. Crowd pleasers, both!

  4. […] Simmered and mashed sweet potatoes are a holiday staple (see my simple recipes here). But there are lots of other ways to cook a sweet potato. Here are some suggestions: […]

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