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holiday sidekicks

24 November 2009

dj

when my friend Paul asked me for Thanksgiving side-dish ideas, i began to think not about food, but about classic and cult television characters. go figureLucy and Ethel. Mary and Rhoda. Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. for me, the combination of perfectly balanced personalities (comedic mastermind and straight gal; independent, midwestern career woman and artistic, husband-seeking New Yorker; cape-clad super-heroine teacher and student) and sometimes zany antics entertained and demonstrated that things are generally better when you have a trusted sidekick.

so, what side dishes best complement the Thanksgiving turkey? the pairings are clearly endless. i keep my holiday meals simple, but they have combinations of rich, spicy, wonderful flavors. i’ll share just some of the things i plan to make in the next few days. hope you’ll let me know what you’re creating.

beginning with dessert (of course), i’ve already prepared and frozen Kate’s Apple Pie, with Arkansas Black, Belle de Boskoop, Golden Russet and Waltana heirloom apples. i just need to bake it on the big day. tomorrow i’m going to try Tyler Florence’s pumpkin and banana pie (minus the meringue…ack), using Kate’s crust recipe. i’ll let you know how that turns out; i plan to top it with lots of whipped cream.

next, the carbs: Perfect Northwest Macaroni and Cheese, minus the King Crab, plus some crispy pancetta for the topping. mashed potatoes are a definite requirement, so some rose fingerlings, whipped with a good measure of butter, half-and-half  and some Velveeta. did i really say that? yes, that’s how my dad made them, and that’s how everyone at my house likes them.

grandma Ida

i do a pretty traditional whole-berry cranberry sauce. this New Englander cuts back on the sugar, so the sauce is more tangy. oh, and i’ve had a request for a butternut squash dish; i’ll bake and whip the squash, add some spices (like a little cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves), then finish the dish by baking in a casserole with a mixture of pecans and my apple crisp topping. if i had a family-favorite to share, it would be this: my grandmother’s sweet potato and apple casserole. super easy to make, with that lovely balance of sweet and tart.

whatever your traditions, there can never be too many good sidekicks. i know i’m particularly grateful this year for my happy-go-lucky, laid-back sidekick, Elroy, who is continually glued to me. especially when there’s something cheesy in the kitchen, with his name monogrammed on it. wishing you and yours a happy holiday!

Ida’s Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole

INGREDIENTS

3 medium-size fresh sweet potatoes (i use garnet yams)
2 – 3 tart apples (e.g., Granny Smith or Waltana)
1/2 stick organic butter, cut into small pieces, and more to butter the casserole dish
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus a little more for sprinkling
2 teaspoons cinnamon, plus a little more for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS

  1. peel the sweet potatoes and place in a large pot of cold water.
  2. boil the potatoes until they are cooked through, but are still firm; be careful not to overcook.
  3. drain the potatoes, and let cool.
  4. butter a covered casserole dish. (mine is 3 quarts)
  5. peel and core the apples, then slice into 1/4-thick pieces.
  6. preheat oven to 350F.
  7. cut the cooled sweet potatoes into a little slimmer than 1/2-inch slices.
  8. place a few pieces of the butter on the bottom of the casserole dish.
  9. put a layer of the sweet potatoes over the butter.
  10. place a layer of apples over the sweet potatoes.
  11. sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over the apples (use more, if your taste dictates).
  12. sprinkle a teaspoon of cinnamon over the sugar.
  13. dot the apple layer with butter.
  14. repeat the process (the top layer should be sweet potatoes).
  15. bake covered for about 40 minutes, or until the apples are cooked.
  16. remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little sugar and cinnamon.
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4 Comments

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  1. November 24, 2009

    Thank you! We are making the sweet potato and apple casserole in Montana this Thanksgiving–I see Elroy approves.

    Still have not been able to hold an Arkansas Black apple in my hand. Where did you find them?

    • November 24, 2009

      anything for you! you can find Arkansas Black at the U District Farmers’ Market.

      Sent from my iPhone

      • February 23, 2010

        Forgot to leave a note about how this recipe worked out for us. Answer: Beautifully. After driving 10 hours across the Inland Empire we picked up our sweet potatoes in Seeley Lake, Montana–where Norman McLean spent some of his best writing years. Ida’s recipe declared its importance above the turkey and expected side dishes with its radiant fall colors. The same kids who claim to dislike sweet potatoes loved this dish (thank you apples!), and by noon the next day the leftovers were gone. So William made another batch himself that very night. Now that is a compliment.

        There is something cozy about technology now. We had written down the recipe but lost the scrap of paper. No problem. We fired up the laptop and connected wirelessly to Scout’s True North and had the recipe, along with photos and story, right there in the middle of the kitchen in a snow-covered log cabin in Montana’s Swan Valley. No cell phone reception, no television, just a nice fire and dear relatives cooking together and Scout’s True North in the center of all the commotion.

  2. February 23, 2010

    happy to have been in Montana with you, however vicariously.

    my pumpkin and banana pie? horrid. my counsel: stick with never-fail pumpkin basics. thankfully we had Kate’s apple pie to fall back on.

    thanks for letting me know about your sweet potato success!

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