Sunday, December 28, 2008

Keeping Up The Sides

Although I come from a Christmas roast-beef family, the spousal unit grew up with turkey as the traditional holiday dinner so that’s what we usually have. Not a sacrifice for me, since I like turkey, and besides, at Christmas and Thanksgiving both, it’s all about the side dishes. These are the sorts of things I eat only at the holidays. For some reason they just don’t taste the same at any other time of the year.

Cranberry-Orange Relish

One package raw cranberries (about 2 pints)
2 navel oranges, washed, cut into eights, and seeded
2 cups sugar or to taste

Wash and pick over the cranberries, discarding any bad ones. Put the rest in the bowl of a food process with the sugar and pulse, adding the orange sections one at a time, until everything is coarsely chopped. Taste for sugar and put somewhere cool. This can be made a day ahead.

If you prefer a molded relish, prepare one 3 oz package of orange-flavored gelatin. You can reduce the amount of sugar in the relish by about ¼ cup. Allow the gelatin to cool until it is the texture of raw egg whites. Mix the relish into the gelatin thoroughly; a fork works well and be sure to use a large mixing bowl as this can spatter. Pour it into a mold and set in the refrigerator until the gelatin has congealed. Again, this can be made ahead of time and I have found that if you don’t have orange Jello on hand, cherry or strawberry works well, or plain gelatin made with a cup of orange juice and a cup of hot water.

Sweet Potatoes

6 to 8 large sweet potatoes
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ stick of butter, melted
½ t. salt
1 T. vanilla extract or brandy vanilla

Cook the sweet potatoes, two at a time, in the microwave until they are just done. I find that cooking them on full power for five minutes, flipping them, and then cooking five more minutes is plenty. You want to only partially cook them so that the skins are easier to remove. I do not recommend trying to peel raw sweet potatoes unless you are a masochist.

Allow them to cool and then peel them carefully with a sharp kitchen knife. Your vegetable peeler is going to get gunked up if you use it. Cut the partially cooked sweet potatoes in one inch slices and layer them loosely in a slow cooker, sprinkling each layer with sugar and just a pinch of salt. Melt the butter, add the vanilla, and pour it over the sweet potatoes. Cook for six hours on low.

The key to meltingly delicious sweet potatoes is in the long, slow cooking to bring out the natural sugars, which is why I use the slow cooker. If you think you are going to have enough (we never seem to!) keep back two cups of this for the best sweet potato pie you have ever tasted. No brag, just fact. I had full bird colonels standing in line for this pie when I brought it to the office at Camp Lejeune.

Sweet Potato Pie

Combine the 2 cups of sweet potatoes, 2 eggs, 1 cup of milk with 4 T. of butter melted in it, a little cinnamon and nutmeg, and additional sugar if needed (I do but that’s because the spousal unit has a sweet tooth. Molasses is the traditional sweetener in my mother’s Southern family, but you may prefer to add up to half a cup of brown sugar or Karo syrup). Beat well, pour into two pie shells, and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees and back about 45 minutes more or until the filling has set in the middle. Protect the edges of the pie shells with strips of aluminum foil as they will dry out and begin to brown before the pie is done. You can remove the foil for the last 15 minutes of baking.

Possibly superfluous cooking tip: For easier pouring, measure the syrup or molasses in the cup in which you melted the butter.

Waldorf Salad

2 crisp eating apples such as Macintosh or York
Half a head of celery, cleaned and trimmed
½ cup chopped walnuts
2 T mayonnaise
2 T lemon juice or mild vinegar
2 T sugar or equivalent in artificial sweetener

Mix the mayonnaise, lemon juice and sugar in the serving bowl and allow the sugar to dissolve. Core and dice the apple without peeling them, and toss with the dressing. Cut the celery into ½ inch slices and add to the apples. Place somewhere cool. Just before serving, stir in the walnuts. This can be made ahead but add the walnuts at the last minute.

Corn Pudding

1 stick of butter
1 box of Jiffy cornbread mix
1 can of cream-style corn
1 can of regular corn
1 egg
6 oz sour cream

Melt the butter. Mix all the ingredients together until they are blended but don’t overmix. The cornbread mix will be still just a little lumpy. Bake in a buttered loaf pan in a preheated 350-degree oven for one hour. Test for done-ness with a skewer; if the pudding is done it will cling to the skewer in distinct clumps and will not look raw. Serve hot.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We LOVE sweet potatoes and in the summer I bake them on the BBQ grill and serve them with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.
We're ham people for Christmas and Turkey for Thanksgiving.