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Published: Tuesday, 11/8/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Thanksgiving co-stars: Don’t go too sweet with side dishes

BY DANIEL NEMAN
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
Baked Acorn Squash with Cranbery Compote and Citrus Glazed Asparagus, Baked Acorn Squash with Cranbery Compote and Citrus Glazed Asparagus,
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Thanksgiving is not a day to diet.

You can watch your weight on the other 364. The day is all about the cornucopia, about an abundant harvest. When you give thanks, you want to give thanks for a serious amount of food.

Butter, fat, cream, pies — bring it on. If it helps, you can remind yourself that turkey is low in fat. That’s true, but it is beside the point.

On Thanksgiving, we let it all hang out. It will all be hanging out over our belts, anyway.

The turkey is the star of the show, but it’s just turkey (or ham or goose or tofurky, if you prefer). We’ll get to that next week. If you’re making a meal for family or friends, it is the side dishes that can let you shine. Unless you or a guest has dietary reasons for not eating them, a little butter, sugar or cream is a great way to make those side dishes memorable.

But we have one word of caution: Even though it’s Thanksgiving, don’t go overboard. If all of your side dishes have butter or sugar or cream in them, you’ll run the risk of making a meal that is too rich. If one or two dishes are buttery or sweet, your guests will be happy and satisfied.

So in the spirit of abundance, you might want to try a Sweet Potato Rösti. We took rösti, a traditional Swiss dish of potatoes and butter often served as breakfast, and Thanksgivinged it up by using sweet potatoes. A little cinnamon makes it even more festive and appropriate for the holiday.

If you’re feeling naughty, you could go so far as to add a bit of brown sugar, just to impart a hint of additional sweetness, but we won’t officially recommend that. These dishes are fattening enough as it is.

Which brings us to Baked Acorn Squash with Cranberry-Orange Compote. Squash is so abundant this time of year, bringing a seasonal warmth and a rich, nutty flavor to any meal. It’s a natural part of the Thanksgiving dinner, especially when paired with the ultra-traditional condiment of cranberries.

Squash reaches its fullest potential when it is cooked with butter and brown sugar (or maple syrup or even honey). This recipe begins there and adds an entirely new dimension with a thickened sauce of cranberries mixed with orange juice and orange zest — and sugar — to deliciously balance out the berries’ natural bitterness.

The dish will win raves, but it has a benefit beyond that. Simply cooking it will make your house smell great. It will make your house smell like the best Thanksgiving ever.

Another dish with a scent so enticing it should be used to make scented candles is Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Pecan Crunch. It tastes as good as it smells, and it smells as good as its name sounds. This recipe is definitely worth the effort, though it takes a few steps and includes cutting sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Raw sweet potatoes are hard to cut, so be sure to use a knife that is very sharp and fairly heavy, and at all times think about where your other hand is in relation to the knife.

But did we mention that it is worth the effort? Vanilla, cinnamon, butter, brown sugar, pecans, and dried cranberries, all cooked on top of sweet potatoes. That is a dish to give your guests something to think about long after the football has ended.

At this point, perhaps you are thinking that something healthy is called for. A bit of greenery, perhaps. A vegetable that isn’t all starch. Asparagus, though it is usually thought of as a springtime treat, is a natural accompaniment to turkey. Its bright and slightly astringent flavor serves as a counterpoint to the heaviness of the turkey and gravy.

A batch of Citrus-Glazed Asparagus is just the thing to cut the rich texture of the rest of the meal. But don’t worry: It’s still sweet. The light, citrus part of the dish is matched by the use of marmalade to make the sticky glaze, with paprika and cumin added for savory undertones.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Pecan Crunch. Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Pecan Crunch.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Citrus plays a similar role in a recipe of Glazed Sweet Potatoes. The acid from the lemon juice and pineapple help to balance the other dishes’ richness, but heating the juice and the fruit (and adding butter) also helps to concentrate their sugars.

If Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for the bounty of America, it doesn’t get more American than creamed corn. It’s a peculiarly American treatment of a native American crop. The trick to this version is to build the flavor on a foundation of leeks, which give everything they are in a touch of class. The other trick is to use heavy cream, which blends especially well with leeks or, for that matter, anything else.

Have you had enough richness? Have you had enough fat? Are you ready to throw in the towel? Just for you, we will add one last recipe for Sweet Potato Pancakes.

Yes, it sounds heavy, but these pancakes are baked, not fried. They are held together with a bit of egg and just a hint of flour, with much of the flavor coming from scallions. The recipe was developed by Weight Watchers, and two of the pancakes have just 97 calories.

It’s a light, alternative dish in a heavy meal. Slip it in at Thanksgiving, and no one will be the wiser.

Contact Daniel Neman at dneman@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.

 

RECIPES

Sweet Potato Rösti
2 pounds (2 large) sweet potatoes

3 tablespoons butter

Cinnamon to taste (a few dashes)

Salt and pepper

Carefully slice sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and microwave until half-cooked, about 5-6 minutes (if you don’t have a microwave, slice in half and steam over boiling water in a covered pot until half-cooked, about 10 minutes).

As soon as the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, grate them using the largest holes of a grater. You will not be able to grate the peel, which should be discarded after grating.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add cinnamon to taste (I like to use just a few dashes for a light cinnamon flavor).

Brush some of the butter mixture on the bottom and sides of a sauté pan. Heat the pan over medium-high heat, and spread a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Brush more butter on top, and season with salt and pepper. Add another layer of grated sweet potatoes, and repeat with the butter and seasonings. Continue with the layering until you run out of sweet potatoes — you may still have butter left.

Cook until the bottom of the potatoes starts to turn brown and becomes crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Do not allow it to burn. Place a plate over the pan and flip the plate and pan over so the potatoes turn upside-down onto the plate. Return the pan to the heat and slide the potatoes back into the pan with the top side now on the bottom. Cook until the potatoes on the bottom start to turn brown and crispy, another 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yield: 5-6 servings

Baked Acorn Squash with Cranberry-Orange Compote
1 acorn squash

2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar (OR maple syrup OR honey)

3 tablespoons butter, sliced in 4 pieces

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

8 ounces (1 cup) Cranberry-Orange Compote (recipe below)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Quarter the squash and remove the seeds. Place the squash cut-side up on a sheet pan. Sprinkle with the sugar. Place 1 slice butter on each quarter. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover the squash with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until tender, about 15 minutes more, basting periodically.

Serve each portion topped with 4 tablespoons (2 fluid ounces) of cranberry-orange compote.

Yield: 4 servings

Source: The Professional Chef

Cranberry-Orange Compote
1 pound cranberries

6 ounces (3/4 cup) orange juice

4 ounces sugar

Zest of 2 oranges, julienned if not using a micro-plane

Salt and pepper

Combine the cranberries, juice, and enough water to barely cover the berries (which will float) in a nonreactive medium saucepan. Add the sugar and simmer over medium heat until the berries are soft and the liquid is thickened, 8-10 minutes.

Stir in the orange zest. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Yield: 2 cups

Source: The Professional Chef

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Pecan Crunch
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, divided

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 cup dried cranberries

6 tablespoons butter, cut up, divided

1/2 cup flour

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix 1/4 cup of the brown sugar, orange juice, vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon each of the cinnamon and ginger, and salt in large bowl. Add sweet potatoes; toss to coat well. Spoon into 13x9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with cranberries. Dot with 2 tablespoons of the butter, cut into small pieces. Cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes.

While the sweet potatoes cook, mix flour, remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon each cinnamon and ginger in medium bowl. Cut in remaining 4 tablespoons butter with a fork until coarse crumbs form. Stir in pecans. Remove sweet potatoes from oven and stir gently. Sprinkle evenly with pecan topping.

Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes longer or until sweet potatoes are tender and topping is lightly browned.

Yield: 8 servings.

Source: McCormick spices

Citrus-Glazed Asparagus
2 teaspoons sesame seeds

2 bunches of asparagus

1/4cup orange marmalade

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper

Heat a dry skillet over medium heat and add sesame seeds. Cook, stirring frequently, until seeds give off an aroma and turn golden. Immediately transfer the seeds to a plate to cool.

Remove the woody bottoms of the asparagus and steam the spears until bright green and just tender, about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on their size.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together marmalade, lime juice, paprika, and cumin. Bring to a simmer, then season with salt and pepper. Toss the asparagus in the glaze and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Yield: 6 servings.

Source: Adapted from the Associated Press

Creamed Corn
1 medium leek, light green and white parts only (3 ounces total)

8 ounces (1 cup) heavy cream

Salt and pepper

Ground nutmeg, to taste

12 ounces corn kernels, fresh or frozen

Clean the leeks thoroughly by slicing them lengthwise and fanning the layers open under cold water. Allow to dry. Combine the leeks and cream in a nonreactive small saucepan, and season with salt, pepper, and a few dashes of nutmeg. Simmer over medium heat until the cream has reduced by half.

Steam the corn over boiling water until fully cooked, 4-5 minutes. Drain, and add to leek mixture. Simmer to reach a good flavor and consistency, 2-3 minutes more. Adjust salt and pepper, if necessary.

Yield: 5 servings

Source: Adapted from The Professional Chef

Glazed Sweet Potatoes
2 pounds (2 large) sweet potatoes

4 ounces pineapple, diced small

2 tablespoons lemon juice

4 ounces sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Scrub and blot dry the potatoes. Pierce the skins in a few places with a fork. Arrange in a single layer on a sheet pan. Bake until very tender and cooked through, 45-50 minutes, turning once. Remove, and lower heat to 350 degrees.

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, combine the pineapple, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, butter, and salt and pepper to taste in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook until lightly thickened. Keep warm.

As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut into slices or large chunks. Arrange them on a sheet pan. Pour the glaze over them and bake in the (350 degrees) oven until very hot, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yield: 5 servings

Source: The Professional Chef

Sweet Potato Pancakes
2 teaspoons canola oil

1 (3/4-pound) sweet potato, peeled and shredded

2 scallions, finely chopped

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Place rack on lowest rung of oven. Preheat oven to 400e_SDgr. Brush large rimmed baking pan with oil.

Combine potato, scallions, egg, flour, and salt in large bowl; mix well. Place potato mixture by packed 1/4 cupfuls two inches apart in prepared baking pan, making total of 8 pancakes. Press each into a 3-inch circle. Bake until bottoms are browned, about 20 minutes. Spray pancakes lightly with nonstick spray; gently turn. Bake until cooked through and browned, about 10 minutes longer.

Yield: 4 servings Source: Weight Watchers



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