As Thanksgiving (one of my favorite holidays) quickly approaches, many of us have already made or are in the process of making plans. I, as I do most years, plan to take in all orphans, wanderers, and stragglers from my social group. Given that it is sometimes difficult to travel on Thanksgiving I decided some years ago that I would have a place where all those unable to go home could go and not spend Thanksgiving alone. To that end, I have hosted what I call Epic Thanksgiving over the past few years (pictures and another post later). Yesterday I was speaking with my best friend about Thanksgiving and he was asking my opinion about how to make a good gravy. As we spoke I also told him about some of the side dishes I was going to make. He got so excited that he asked me to write down the recipes and send them to him. Never one to jump on an opportunity to write in my blog, I agreed I would share my recipes with him and with all my readers.
During the years I have served Epic Thanksgiving I have made a side dish that is so popular, it is requested every year. My sweet potatoes with blue cheese and bacon are so popular that one of my friends half jokingly requests a small casserole dish be made especially for him. I ran across this recipe when I was working at Central Market and have made it my own.
2-3lbs sweet potatoes
1 cup milk
1/2 lbs bacon (thick cut preferably)
2 cups blue cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Dice bacon into small pieces and render the fat. Remove bacon and save the fat.
2. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into large pieces. Boil in water until soft, as if preparing for mashed potatoes.
3. Warm the milk in a sauce pan.
4. Mix soft sweet potatoes with milk, bacon fat and salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning to your taste. If you don't want to use bacon fat, butter can serve as a substitute.
5. Spray a casserole dish big enough to hold all your potatoes with cooking spray. Add your potatoes and spread evenly.
6. Top with bacon and blue cheese evenly over the top.
7. Bake in a 350 degree oven until everything is hot and cheese is melted a bit. This dish can be prepared a day ahead of time and just baked the day of serving.
My next side dish is something I will be making for the first time this year. I usually change out the vegetable side for the meal. One of the previous years I made some balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts. At work as of late I have made some balsamic glazed roasted butternut squash with kale. I decided to make a hybrid of these two recipes.
2-3 lbs butternut squash peeled and diced.
2-3 lbs Brussels sprouts halved
1 lbs kale chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4-1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1.In a large pot bring about a half gallon to a gallon of water to a rolling boil. While the water comes to boil, fill a large bowl a fourth of the way with ice. Fill to half with water.
2. When the water is at a boil, drop in your Brussels sprouts. Leave them in there just long enough for them to become fork tender and bright green. Usually between 1-2 min.
3. Once they are tender, use a spider or slotted spoon to fish them out and immediately drop them into the ice water. Once all your sprouts are cooked, you may drain them.
4. Using the same boiling water you can do the same thing to your kale. The kale will take significantly less time in the hot water. (Note, you will have to make a new ice bath or use the same one provided you did not dump it out to drain your sprouts.)
6. After draining both the kale and the sprouts, dry them off with a towel.
7. Mix the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper together until smooth.
8. Toss the butternut squash and the Brussels sprouts with the sugar and vinegar mixture. You can toss the kale too if you would like. Just know it will result in crunchy kale which is not bad.
9. Roast vegetables in 350 degree oven for about 20 min or until butternut squash is tender. I usually check mine after 15 just to be safe.
10. If you have not previously tossed your kale with everything do so now. The heat of the other vegetables will heat up the kale.
11. Serve and enjoy!
Last, this is how I make my giblet gravy using the drippings from the roasted turkey.
1 cup flour
1-1 1/2 cups white wine
2 cups chicken stock or broth
Giblets from the trukey
Fat and drippings from the turkey, preferably still in the roasting pan.
Salt and pepper
1. Place roasting pan with fat and drippings over heat and get the fat hot.
2. Add the giblets and saute in the fat allowing them to brown.
3. Add the flour and mix with the fat to make a roux. Allow to cook for about a minute. If the roux looks too doughy, add more fat, such as oil. If it is too liquidy or fatty add more flour. The roux should be smooth.
4. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen all the tasty bits. The liquid will become very thick from the roux.
5. Add the stock/broth stirring vigorously so as to avoid lumps.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste and strain your gravy.
7. For added flavor, take the giblets and chop them up and add them back into your gravy.
8. If your gravy is too thick you can add more liquid to thin it out. If the gravy is too thin, you can add a cornstarch slurry to thicken it up.
9. If you gravy has a dough like taste to it, just allow it to cook a little longer over low heat.
So, these are my side dishes for this Thanksgiving. You may ask why there is not recipe for a stuffing. Well, my wife takes care of that. If she is feeling generous, she may do a guest post and give up her family secrets. I will post more about how I make my bird later. For now, I hope you enjoy these and I hope they help.