Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving - The Sides

For the past 8 years, we've been spending Thanksgiving at my Mother-in-law's house. Every year, she makes the turkey, brother-in-law makes the stuffing, and I make most of the sides. Mr Minx gets mashed potato duty when we get to the house, plus he is in charge of carving the roast beast. This year, my MIL has been suffering from the dreaded Big C, so we switched venues to make things easy on her. My brother-in-law lives two streets away and has a huge kitchen. Despite that, I still made most of the sides in my tiny kitchen on the day before Thanksgiving.

We never had green bean casserole in my house when I was growing up, so it's actually a once-a-year treat to me. I made it the traditional way, but with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom with Roasted Garlic soup, rather than the plain c.o.m. And a whole freakin' can of French's onions, baby! It was crunchy yummy good!

I also made some simple cranberry sauce (1 bag cranberries, 1 cup sugar, zest of 1 orange - cook together until cranberries soften, remove from heat and stir in 1 T of Grand Mariner and the flesh from the orange, supremed and lightly chopped).

This is my standard corn pudding, the same recipe I've been making for at least a decade. It has only four ingredients - corn, eggs, cream, and sugar - and is perfect every time. Why mess with it?

On the other hand, I think sweet potatoes need a bit of messing-with. Last year I made Bobby Flay's sweet potato and chipotle gratin, which was well-received. This time I decided to make up a dish of my own, keeping the chipotle aspect but going in an even more savory direction. I call it spicy sweet potato and bacon casserole.

Casserole before streusel topping

Spicy Sweet Potato and Bacon Casserole

6 large sweet potatoes (enough to produce 5-6 cups of pulp)
8 slices meaty bacon
1 medium-large yellow onion, chopped
1/2 t ground chipotle pepper
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 T butter, melted
4 scallions, white and green part chopped
salt and pepper

Streusel:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 ground chipotle
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 T butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F. Scrub potatoes and prick them all over with a fork. Place on foil-lined baking sheet and bake until soft, about 1 hour. Let cool.

While potatoes are cooling, cook bacon until crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Discard all but one tablespoon of bacon fat from skillet and add yellow onion and a pinch of salt. Make sure to scrape up the bits of bacony goodness that remain on the bottom of the pan while you're cooking the onion. Once onion is soft and lightly golden brown, remove from heat.

Remove potato pulp from skins and place in large bowl. Mash potatoes with melted butter and heavy cream. Add chipotle and paprika and stir well. Chop bacon coarsely and add to potatoes along with cooked onion and raw scallions. Salt and pepper to taste. Spread mixture into a 13 x 9 baking pan; top with streusel mixture and bake at 350F until brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

To make streusel: combine flour, brown sugar, and chipotle with melted butter, mixing with a fork until all four is incorporated and mixture is crumbly. Stir in almond slices.

Serves 10-12

It was a big hit! It took a bit of prep, but this might become the standard for a few years, until I get the itch to try something new.

What did you have with your turkey this Thanksgiving?