By Barbara Beltrami
Is it really about the turkey? I don’t think so. Personally, I think the turkey is just an excuse for the myriad side dishes that crowd the Thanksgiving plate. And whatever they are, it’s not Thanksgiving without them. Each cook prepares his or her specialty, and each guest arrives, stepping gingerly up the walk and carrying a foil-covered dish. Aunt Somebody always does the Brussels sprouts, Cousin Somebody has to bring the cranberry sauce, Uncle Somebody has whipped up his irresistible mashed potatoes and Somebody’s mother-in-law always presents her “famous” sweet potato creation with the usual flourish, fanfare and self-congratulatory prelude. They all think their recipes are classified information and inimitable, but I’ve pretty much figured them out so here they are.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 pint Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced in half, top to bottom
1/4 cup olive oil
6 peeled garlic cloves
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat, then place sprouts cut side down in oil; add garlic and salt and pepper. Cook until sprouts start to brown on bottom; transfer them in the pan to oven; roast until they are evenly brown, about 15 to 20 minutes; toss with balsamic vinegar and serve hot or warm with turkey and all the trimmings.
Drunken Cranberry Sauce
YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings
One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
1 large tart apple, peeled and diced
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange liqueur
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup bourbon
Grated zest of one orange
Grated zest of one lemon
In a large saucepan combine the cranberries, apple, sugar, orange liqueur, water and cinnamon; bring to a boil over medium heat, then simmer until the berries start to pop. Remove from heat, stir in bourbon and zests; cover and refrigerate. Serve with turkey and all the trimmings.
Golden Mashed Potatoes
YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 whole onion, peeled
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add potatoes and onion and cook over medium-high heat until very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, then return potatoes to pot without any of the water; discard onion or refrigerate and save for another use. Meanwhile in a small saucepan heat 6 tablespoons butter and milk together until butter melts and milk is hot but not boiling. Go back to potatoes and toss them around in pot over low heat for a minute or so; transfer them to mixer bowl and mash them on low speed; add the hot milk and butter gradually, then the white pepper, and increase mixer speed to medium. When fully combined and creamy, transfer to warmed serving bowl, top with dots of remaining butter and, as soon as it’s melted from the heat of the potatoes, serve with turkey and trimmings.
‘Famous’ Sweet Potatoes
YIELD: Makes 4 servings
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Make a series of 1/8” slices cross-wise, slicing only 2/3 of the way down on the potatoes, so the bottoms of the slices are still attached. Place potatoes, evenly spaced, on foil-lined pan. In a small bowl combine the butter, brown sugar, orange juice, orange zest, salt and pepper. With a pastry brush, coat tops of potatoes and let mixture dribble down in between slices. Bake until insides are tender and outsides are crispy, about 45 to 50 minutes. Midway through cooking time, run a fork gently along tops to fan out slices; when potatoes are almost done, sprinkle nuts over tops and in between slices. Serve hot with turkey and trimmings.