Sexy Sides….(not obliques!)…for Thanksgiving Dinner. 3 Recipes, 1 Post

I love turkey and the nap that follows as much as the next person, but for me the meal on this big day is all about the sides.  Oozy green beans and burnt marshmallow topped sweet potatoes are no longer my thing.  Oh no, the heavy from-a-can sides are in the past; lets go fresh and pure.  Lets take the traditional foods & amp up the flavor factor & the nutrition.  I know what your thinking…..Thanksgiving/nutritious?  Huh, what, really?  Well, if I’m going to have copious leftovers to devour, my manageable potbelly does not need to turn into a  kettle corn sized drum.

Come and sit down at a table of very sexy sides…..

Lets begin with the sweets.  I’m not a marshmallow hater per say,  just more of a clean food lover.  This recipe is an evolution from my grandmother’s sweet potatoes and apples.  It was beautiful and had the simple ethnic tradition of our Hungarian heritage all over it.  But it was time to sex it up.  I made it less time consuming and created a rich comfort food side. Its buttery, smooth and has that intoxicating mix of salty-sweet.  This is quite possibly one of the most delicious things I ever made.

No marshmallows no mo! Butter pecans is where its at…keep it real!

Butter Pecan Crusted Smashed Sweet Potatoes & Apples

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  In a large stock pot boil 3 sweet potatoes and 2 large apples roughly chopped with the skins on – about 6 – 6.5 cups total.  Drain the sweets & apples once they are soft, add 4 tblsp butter, pinch sea salt, 3/4 tblsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg & 2 tblsp maple syrup. Roughly mash them with a potato masher, it should remain chunky but smooth.  In a small sauce pan over medium heat  melt 2 tblsp butter adding 3/4 cup chopped pecans, heavy pinch of sea salt and 2 tblsp brown sugar – stir to combine and coat nuts.  Place apple mixture in a square or round glass baking dish and sprinkle butter pecan mixture over top.  Bake at 375 uncovered for 15-20 minutes until the nuts brown & a crust forms.

I promise no one will miss the marshmallows…..

While most of us keep on passing anything green when it comes around to our plate, this dish should be tried at least once:  Roasted brussel sprouts.  I can hear you through the internet…”What?! Brussel sprouts?  Not a chance.  Those baby cabbages smell bad.” Yes, you are correct, they do smell bad, but I promise these baby cabbages taste soooo nice….(pssst, there is a secret ingredient).  Here’s how I do it:

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Pre-heat oven to 425 F.  Using 1 lb of brussel sprouts, cut off the bottoms and then cut in half.  Spread on a baking sheet and toss with 2 1/2 tblsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper and (here is my top secret ingredient)…nutmeg.  Freshly grated is best, but use what you’ve got, a heavy 1/4 tsp plus more for the finishing.  Roast uncovered for 20-25 minutes, tossing occasionally, until they are crusty brown on the outside and tender on the inside.  Sprinkle a pinch more nutmeg over top to finish.

This will put the “green” back on your plate.

The secret ingredient unveiled!!! Put the greens back on your plate!

And finally my Sassy Cranberry Sauce.  I don’t even need anything to eat this with.  Shamelessly, I consume it straight out of the bowl.  Its got zing, its got crunch, its got texture.  What it doesn’t have are those bizarre, unearthly ridges molded from the inside of an aluminum can.  This side has moxy & I surmise if you eat it, you will too.

It will sparkle in your mouth!

Many blessings to you this Thanksgiving & everyday you wake up.  I’m grateful you read my blog!

Sassy Cranberry Sauce

1 cup unrefined sugar

1 – 12oz bag cranberries

3/4 cup water

1 stick cinnamon

1/3 cup raisins

¾ c celery, chopped fine

½ c grated carrots

1 tblsp freshly grated ginger

Juice & zest from 1 orange

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Combine cranberries, water, sugar and cinnamon stick in a medium sauce pan and cook on medium high heat.  Once simmering stir in raisins through nutmeg.  Simmer, stirring often until it begins to thicken, about 10-15 minutes.  Let cool before serving.

Note: Cranberries are tangy to the 10th power so you need alot of sugar to balance that.  I tend to lean toward the less sweet so 1 cup of sugar was a bit much, you decide.


Sweet n Sour Green Papaya Slaw

Once upon a time I went to a gentle little backpacker lodge of zero stars known as Maqai on the teeny, tiny little enchanted island of Gamea off the coast of Taveuni.  The staff was extraordinary, so much so that when my friend and I left after only being there for 5 days, we cried.  (Hey, don’t judge, they treat you like family versus guests.)

The kitchen staff singing "isa lei" the traditional farewell song.

The cooks were the light of my life.  The food was traditional Fijian, hearty and of gargantuan proportions.  This recipe is inspired by a similar salad created by one of these local chefs with un-ripened papaya being the star ingredient.  At first, I couldn’t place what it was made from, my initial guess was radish, which I had seen only once before in Fiji.  I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer so I went up and asked my new friends in the kitchen.  And to my surprise her answer was un-ripened papaya.  Brilliance!  There are so many and what to do with them?  This is my improvised rendition of her resourceful dish.

What you need.

The ginger stands out with its quick heat and zing to the palette.  The lemon juice is in the background and assists in lightening up the coconut milk.  My favorite part about this is the raisins.  That pop of unexpected sweetness against the heat of the ginger and chili is perfect!  Might I also suggest a few ounces of fresh pineapple to add to the sweetness of this delicate tropical slaw.  It is critical that you soak the un-ripened papaya to tenderize it otherwise the texture is like eating raw potato.  I would eat this as a side dish with grilled fish or chicken and it would work great in a po-boy style sandwich!

NOTE: Un-ripened papaya contains very strong enzymes so unless you want to exfoliate your palms and have them peeling for over a week it is advised to wear plastic gloves while handling it.  (Embarrassingly I am speaking from experience here.)

Sweet n Sour Green Papaya Slaw.

Sweet n Sour Green Papaya Slaw
3 cups grated un-ripened papaya, (1 medium green papaya)
¾ cup carrot, grated
¼ cup raisins
1inch thumb ginger, peeled and minced or pounded
1 small clove garlic, minced fine
1 small chili, minced fine (optional)
1 heaping tblsp cilantro, chopped
3 tbslp fresh lemon juice
sea salt to taste
2 1/2 cup light coconut milk

Using an unripe green papaya, cut in half-discarding the seeds, peel the outer skin,  and grate on the round hole side of a box grater.  Place in cool water with a heavy pinch of salt and let sit for 30 minutes.  Squeeze very well to drain as much water as possible.

Pound garlic, chili and ginger with a mortar and pestle or mince very finely.  Combine all the ingredients except for salt as it will draw water out. Refrigerate for 30 minutes salting just before serving.  Coconut milk becomes solid when refrigerated so if you are serving after storing it in the refrigerator for a long period of time make sure you remove it at least 30 minutes before serving.  Serve cool or room temperature.