Our Thanksgiving Day menu is pretty traditional. We enjoy it that way. I understand that green bean casserole is served a bajillion times on Thanksgiving Day, but we don’t have it. Here is our menu:
Cheese Plate and Assorted Crackers with Mixed Olives
Roast Turkey, Dressing and Turkey Gravy
Bourbon Sweet Potato Puree with Carmelized Pecans
Roasted Winter Vegetables with Balsamic Vinegar Glaze
Cranberry-Strawberry Gelatin Salad
Parkerhouse Rolls and Butter
Pumpkin Pie and Whipped Cream
Kinkead Ridge Dry Riesling
(if it is released in time)
It seems like a lot when listed like that and I guess it is. We have favorite dishes for some people that I “must” fix. The same thing happens at Christmas. I try to simplify our Christmas Eve feast but each person has a “must have dish” and I wind up fixing the same thing every Christmas.
I compensate for the challenging menu by preparing as many things in advance as I can. I have already provided the recipe for my make-ahead gravy. Another dish that’s easy to make ahead is the sweet potato puree casserole. It has a subtle bourbon flavor and delicious crunchy pecans garnishing the top. You can find the recipe at the end of this posting. I hope you will give it a try. (The bourbon isn’t necessary. Rum could be used, or just rum flavoring, or nothing at all. It would still be good.)
Traditional family meals help to bind family units. It’s rather like a homecoming celebration, reaffirming the connections, especially ones that are stretched by distance. Everyone shares a table, or two; conversations are gentle (no politics allowed); the food and drink hold no surprises but are not boring, either. We know what we are getting, and look forward to it. Everyone pitches in and it becomes a family effort. I have a clipboard with the necessary chores listed with suggested times. “Volunteers” can sign up for the tasks that appeal to them or risk being assigned tasks by General Morgana. I don’t run a tight ship, but I try to keep a little order in the chaos.
This year we will have family members in age from 90 to 6 months. Those at the extreme ends are excused from chipping in. The rest vary in age from 2 years to none of your business. I hope a good time will be had by all.
BOURBON SWEET POTATO PUREE WITH CARMELIZED PECANS
6 lbs. sweet potatoes, baked until tender *
3 T. Bourbon (optional)
1 stick unsalted butter, divided, 3T., 3 T., and 2T.
8 oz. Pecan halves
salt and pepper
1 t. Kosher salt
2 T. dark brown sugar
1. Split the baked potatoes, and scrape out the flesh. Put half the potatoes into the bowl of a food processor with half the bourbon, and 3 T. butter. Process for 30 seconds or until pureed. Put into a large bowl. Repeat with other half of potatoes, bourbon and 3 T. butter.
2. Mix the two batches together. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Transfer to a 2-3 quart gratin dish or other baking dish. (Can be made to here 2 days ahead of time and kept refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.)
4. Turn oven to 325. Spread pecans on a shallow baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Toss pecans with the remaining 2 T. butter, and the 1 t. Kosher salt. (The pecans can be prepared 2 days ahead and stored in an airtight container.)
5. Arrange pecans on top of puree and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake in upper third of oven at 325-350, until heated and pecans are slightly browned, about 35 minutes.
* I often use plain, canned sweet potatoes. (Make sure you don’t use the candied ones.) It works out just fine. Puree them and follow the rest of the recipe as directed.