I like turkey… but other than cooking and seasoning the bird properly, let’s face it, it’s not too exciting.
No, it’s the side dishes that make the holiday meal interesting. When else could I put bacon in the Brussels sprouts, sour cream in the potatoes or butter-toasted nuts in the rice?
By the way, if you are looking for a new turkey recipe, here are links to two of my favorites. Some years we fire up the outdoor turkey fryer and use this recipe from the New York Times.
Other times, we stick to the traditional oven roasting method and use this recipe:
Balsamic- Braised Brussels Spouts with Bacon
This recipe is adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound small Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed
1/4 pound bacon, finely diced
2 tablespoons finely diced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup lower sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Swirl in the olive oil and butter and wait another minute. Add the Brussels sprouts, and season them with 1 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Shake the pan, rolling the Brussels sprouts around to help them brown evenly. After a few minutes, turn the heat to medium and cook another 3-4 minutes until the sprouts soften slightly.
Add the diced bacon to the pan and cook a minute or two, until it starts to crisp. Stir in the shallots and garlic and cook another minute or so, until they are translucent. Pour in the balsamic vinegar and reduce by half. Add the chicken stock and reduce to about 1/4 cup, stirring and shaking the pan often to glaze the sprouts. If you start to run low on liquid before the sprouts are cooked, add a little water to the pan. You want the Brussels sprouts to be tender yet still have a bit of a crunch to them. Overcooked Brussels sprouts are the reason that a lot of folks think that they don’t like the vegetable. Serve immediately or transfer to a baking sheet to cool.
Wild Rice and Toasted Pecan Pilaf
Here is a special rice pilaf that just seems perfect for a holiday meal. This is from Gourmet Magazine, April 1993.
1 cup pecan halves, chopped coarse
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large onion, halved lengthwise and sliced thin lengthwise
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
1.4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 cups wild rice, (about 1 pound) rinsed well in several changes of water and drained
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small baking pan toss the pecans with the butter, the thyme and the salt until they are coated well and roast them in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes, or until they are crisp and fragrant.
In a flameproof casserole, cook the onion and the bell pepper in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring for 5 minutes, or until they are just softened, and with a slotted spoon transfer them to a bowl. Add the rice to the casserole and cook it, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, Stir in the broth, heated to boiling, and salt and pepper to taste and bring the mixture to a boil. Bake the mixture, covered in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes. Stir in the onion mixture, bake the pilaf , covered, for 30 minutes more, or until the rice is tender and the broth has been absorbed, and stir in the pecans. Serves 8.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Nutmeg and Sour Cream
I love sweet potatoes but I don’t want them to taste like dessert, which is why I love this recipe from Emeril Lagasse.
4 large sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons sour cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Rub the sweet potatoes with the oil and place in an ovenproof baking dish and roast potatoes until tender, about 1 hour, turning over after 30 minutes. When potatoes are cooked, set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Cut the potatoes in half and squeeze the potato pulp into a three quart saucepan. Set the flame to medium low and mash gently until smooth with a potato masher. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, sour cream, and butter and fold together until thoroughly combined. Remove from the heat and serve immediately, or keep warm , covered, until ready to serve. Serves 4-6