The 4th Thursday of November comes and goes each year without much thought in my mind. Coming from a multicultural household, we ate wildly delicious food all year. At times, Thanksgiving felt like the one day a year we ate bland potatoes and poultry out of obligation. However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that there are no rules when it comes to food at the Thanksgiving table. The plethora of dishes we’ve come to associate with Thanksgiving don’t have a “required ingredients” list, and so straying away from those traditional recipes will inevitably leave you with something tastier than the year before. There are endless ways to go about innovating your Thanksgiving dinner, but here are 3 ways I’ll be adding some flair this year.
Shiro Miso Sweet Potato Casserole
I’m not a huge fan of overly-sugary sweet potato casserole, so here’s something that’s a little closer to the savory side.
4 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 cup cream/whole milk or dairy alternative
2 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp miso paste
1/2 stick melted butter
(to taste) salt and pepper
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup neutral oil
10g fresh basil leaves
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and place cut side up on a sheet pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40-60 minutes (until tender).
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the cream, brown sugar, miso paste, and melted butter until thoroughly combined.
When sweet potatoes have cooled, scoop out the flesh and add to the mixing bowl. Discard the skins. Mix the puree with a fork or whisk until homogenous. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Scoop puree into an 8x11 (or smaller) casserole dish. Using a teaspoon, place heaping dollops of ricotta across the casserole. Place back into the oven until casserole is heated through (15-20 minutes).
Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When oil is shimmering, carefully fry the basil leaves until dark green, translucent, and crisp.*
Remove casserole from the oven and garnish with fried basil leaves.
*Make sure your basil is completely dry before attempting to fry. Remove basil leaves as they start to turn translucent, and they will finish crisping up and darken outside of the oil. For an easier and safer topping, simply slice fresh basil and top the casserole after it’s been baked.
Allium and Lemon Pesto Stuffing
Stuffing is arguably one of the most popular sides at the Thanksgiving table. This lemon pesto stuffing brightens up the dish, giving it some acidity and welcome herbaceousness.
For the stuffing:
Loaf stale sourdough (or bread of choice)
1/2 pound of Italian-style sausage (optional)
2 stalks of celery
1 medium shallot
1 medium yellow onion
1/4 cup of white wine
16 oz chicken or vegetable broth (plus more as needed)
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
For the pesto:
About 2oz (50g) fresh basil, or a mix of basil and flat-leaf parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
.5 oz (20g) pecorino-romano (or similar cheese)
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup cashews or any fatty nut
Salt to taste
Cut or tear bread into bite-sized pieces (between ½ and 1 inch). Spread in a sheet pan and allow it to become stale overnight or toast in a 300-degree oven until very dry.
Finely dice celery, leek, shallot, and onion. Set aside.
In a food processor, combine all ingredients for the pesto and pulse until very smooth. If pesto looks dry, add additional olive oil as needed.
Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Remove sausage from casing and crumble into the pan. Brown the sausage and break it into small pieces, add olive oil as needed.
Remove sausage from pan reduce heat to medium-low. Add all vegetables to the pan. Add a pinch of salt and cook until soft lightly caramelized. When vegetables are done cooking, deglaze the pan with white wine and some of the chicken broth.
In a large bowl, combine stale bread, sausage, half of the pesto, and all contents of the pan. As the bread soaks up the liquid, add additional chicken broth as necessary. Add broth until liquid just begins to pool at the bottom of the bowl.
Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place stuffing into an 8x11 casserole dish and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is crisp, and stuffing is heated through. Remove from oven, top with remaining pesto, and bake for additional 5 minutes. Garnish with lemon zest before serving.
Nuoc Cham Roasted Potatoes
In my humble opinion, having sweet potatoes casserole, stuffing, and mashed potatoes on the same plate is incredibly unbalanced. Who said mashed potatoes were obligatory on the Thanksgiving table? These roasted potatoes are glass-shatteringly crispy and the nuoc cham will never fail to slap you in the face.
2 lbs baby golden potatoes
Nuoc cham (click here for recipe)
Sprinkle of cilantro (or mint if cilantro averse)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. (375 is fine if the oven is being used for other dishes.) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil potatoes until fork tender (about 10 minutes for baby potatoes).
Strain potatoes and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Place potatoes on a large sheet pan and gently smash with the bottom of a glass.
Drizzle potatoes generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast potatoes until deeply golden and crispy (30-45 minutes).
Place potatoes in a serving dish. Drizzle generously with nuoc cham and garnish with chopped cilantro or mint.
Bonus! Leftover Sweet Potato Pancakes
After a day of recipe testing and not enough mouths to eat everything, I whipped up these pancakes for a quick lunch.
Ingredients (makes approx. 3 pancakes):
1/2 cup sweet potato casserole
2 tbsp AP flour
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp fish sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Pesto (for topping)
Ricotta (for topping)
Whisk together the sweet potatoes, egg, flour, water, and fish sauce with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Spoon batter into the pan and cook like any other pancake. Serve with pesto and ricotta.
Food Writer for Pro Home Cooks
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