Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Side Dishes for Thanksgiving Dinner

Sweet Potato Casserole
Everyone has favorite side dishes, whether for Thanksgiving or any other meal or holiday. In my house, growing up, we traditionally had sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberries and stuffing to accompany our holiday turkey. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I don't stray too far from these particular sides, except for how I make them. 

Mashed Potatoes

I generally keep parsnips in the fridge, so I often add in a couple of peeled, sliced parsnips to cook with the potatoes. Whether using potatoes or a mixture of potatoes and parsnips, I usually make about 3 pounds, total (before peeling). If there are leftovers, all the better. Once the potatoes are cooked though, I just pull the pot off the burner and using a slotted spoon, scoop the cooked potatoes and/or parsnips into my ricer, keeping the cooking water in the pot.

I have not mashed or whipped my potatoes for many years. Instead, I have a heavy duty ricer, which ensures totally smooth potatoes every time. I vary what flavors go into the potatoes, but in general, I have a large bowl handy. Inside the bowl I place one or more of these possible things:
  • butter
  • cheese (cream cheese, goat Chevre, Gournay Boursin)
  • chives, or scallion
  • caramelized onion
Most often I use cream cheese, just because I always keep some in the fridge. If so, I place up to a half bar (4 ounces) into the bowl. If using butter, I either use one stick or divide that same 4 ounces between butter and cream cheese, using 2 ounces each. In addition, very often I use either chives or minced scallion. Ricing the hot potatoes directly over these ingredients ensures that the butter or cheese becomes soft enough to mix in easily once done with ricing. If the potatoes are too stiff, I use some of the potato cooking water to thin them down, rather than milk - which I almost never keep in the house.

This is my method for making mashed potatoes. It is easy enough to follow most of my method either using a hand masher or a mixer. Add milk instead of the potato water if desired. For Thanksgiving dinner, I have a 4 ounce Boursin Cheese in the fridge all ready. I will be adding some chives and scallion also.

Sweet Potato Casserole

I have my recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole on my website, but I will post it here again also. It is an easy recipe to make, whether using canned sweet potatoes (large, 40-ounce can, drained) or fresh cooked. The recipe is completely forgiving as to amounts. I have gone from using a half-cup of sugar in the sweet potatoes to using no sugar in them at all and all over in between. I have used butter in the sweet potatoes, or no butter, and even used "butter buds" back when I was in Weight Watchers. The streusel is the "main event" as far as my husband is concerned, so a lot of it goes on top of my sweet potatoes. It is easy to make about half the recipe if you are looking for a nice topping without so much excess. Nuts are grated over top of this casserole, and I use pecans, in deference to my husband's preference, but walnuts are equally good, or no nuts at all, if need be. The recipe as I am making it for our dinner is this one:

Sweet Potato Casserole

Serves 6

1 (40-ounce) can sweet potatoes, drained, OR
   3 - 4 fresh sweet potatoes (2 - 3 lbs), peeled, cubed
1/2 cup sugar or brown sugar
2 - 4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla, optional


1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using canned sweet potatoes, drain and mash them in a bowl. If cooking the sweet potatoes, bring the peeled and cubes potatoes to boil with water to just cover them and add in a tablespoon of salt, once boiling. Cook about 15 minutes, until soft. Mash the potatoes with a masher or fork. It is not important to have them smooth, unless this is desired. 

cubed potatoes in pot    |    starting to boil    |    adding salt to cooking water    |    smashed potatoes with butter & sugar
To the smashed potatoes, add the 1/2 cup of sugar (of choice), butter and vanilla. It doesn't matter if the butter is not melted into the sweet potatoes, such as if you just opened the can of cold potatoes. Just mash it in and it will be just fine.

Make the streusel by placing all three ingredients into a bowl and using fingers (always best!) or a fork, blend the ingredients together to make large crumbs.

My Quick & Easy Cornbread in cubes for stuffing
Lightly grease a 7 x 10 or 8 x 8-inch baking dish. Pour in the sweet potato mixture and spread to edges of the pan. Place the streusel over top of the potatoes and top with the nuts. Set the casserole in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the nuts are golden and the casserole is heated through. 

Cornbread in my Stuffing Recipe

This year I am making my stuffing slightly differently. Instead of using a jumbo 1 1/2 pound loaf of bread as usual, I bought a 1 pound loaf of white bread and made cornbread to use for that extra half-pound. I am going to add in large chunks of whole peeled chestnuts. I bought them at Williams Sonoma recently, and my husband and sister-in-law also love them, so this stuffing should be a hit. Other than these two changes, the recipe is just as I always make it. See my "Better than Mom's Stuffing" recipe on my website.

It is easy enough in most places to grab a little package of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix and make cornbread. It is just about as easy to make it from scratch. Here is my cornbread recipe:

Quick & Easy Cornbread

makes one 7 x 10 or 8 x 8-inch casserole

1 cup all-purpose flour (4.8 oz / 137 g)

2/3 cup cornmeal (3.4 oz / 96 g)
2 tablespoons sugar (0.92 oz / 25 g)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (0.25 oz / 7 g)
1/2 teaspoon salt (0.11 oz / 3 g)
2/3 cup milk (about 5 fl. oz.)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (1 oz / 27 g)
1 large egg (about 2.4 oz / 66 g)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking pan, either 7 x 10 or 8 x 8-inches), and set aside. Whisk together the first 5 ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, melted butter and egg. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

I wish everyone here in the U.S. a most wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with safe travels and good weather and lots of good family time. My Thanksgiving celebration is being postponed until Friday, but I plan to have a most wonderful meal of Thanksgiving myself here, safe at home.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.