Side dishes enhance turkey flavor

Published 10:50 am Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The crowning glory for most home cooks will be the presentation of a beautifully cooked turkey on the Thanksgiving dinner table.
Actually, in my opinion, one of the easiest things to prepare for the meal is the turkey. Seriously, if you get the oven temperature right, you just put it in and leave it alone for several hours. You may have to open the oven and baste a little, but pretty much, that’s about it.
The hardest part to do is to get the side dishes right. With so many different preferences at the Thanksgiving meal, those who devour the feast are hoping for different things.
Some people in the family may think having turnip or collard greens on the table is a must. Others, however, will feel cheated if they don’t have sweet potato casserole. Still others will wonder what happened to the meal if there isn’t a big bowl of fluffy mashed potatoes sitting in the center of the tabel.
Personally, I only serve sweet potato casserole if ham is the main dish — and that doesn’t happen until Christmas. And, I usually only serve mashed potatoes if there is fried chicken or pot roast on the table — neither of which happen at Thanksgiving at my house.
So, you can see finding the right side dishes to satisfy a variety of tastes may be the most difficult part of preparing a dholiday meal.
If you’re not the kind of hostess that asks guests to bring a dish along, you have my sympathies and prayers as you prepare you feast for tomorrow.
If you still need an idea or two to cover the side dish needs at your holiday table, I’ve found a few recipes that offer something that may be out of the ordinary for your Southern family and still be quick and easy to prepare.
This first recipe is one for carrots fixed some way other than dipped in Ranch-style dressing or thrown into the slow cooker with a roast. It’s quick and easy, and pretty tasty as a bonus.
Sweet and Spicy Carrots
2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into 2 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup apple cider
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. freshly chopped parsley leaves, for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil ove medium heat and add the carrots. Cook for 2 minutes, then drain in a colander and set aside.
In a medium-size pot combine all the remaining ingredients, except the parsley, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Add the drained carrots and toss to combine. Simmer on low heat for five minutes to incorporate flavors. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with parsley and serve.
If you don’t want to take the time to peel and cut the carrots, baby carrots would do well in this recipe.
This next recipe isn’t extremely quick, but it can be prepared ahead of the turkey and warmed just before serving. It takes about 50 or 55 minutes to bake this dish — so, keep that in mind as you make your plans.
Corn Casserole
1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn
1 (8-ounce) package corn muffin mix (recommended: Jiffy)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the two cans of corn, corn muffin mix, sour cream, and melted butter. Pour into a greased 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and top with Cheddar. Return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Let stand for at least five minutes and then serve warm.
To liven up the cranberry sauce, you might consider changing your traditional can-shaped condiment to something a little more interesting. This recipe needs to be made the day before a noon meal or the morning of an evening meal in order to allow proper setting time. Otherwise, it’s a quick and simple recipe that will give your cranberry sauce a whole new meaning.
Orange-Cranberry Sauce
1 pound (4 cups) fresh cranberries
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup 100 percent cranberry juice, not cocktail
1 cup honey
Wash the cranberries and discard any that are soft or wrinkled. Combine the orange juice, cranberry juice and honey in a two-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for five minutes. Add the cranberries and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens. Do not cook for more than 15 minutes as the pectin will start to break down and the sauce will not set as well. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Carefully spoon the cranberry sauce into a 3 cup mold. Place in the refrigerator for 6 hours and up to overnight. To unmold and serve, immerse bottom of mold in hot water for 10 to 15 seconds and turn upside down on a serving dish. If necessary, carefully run a warm knife around the edge of the mold.
Happy cooking and happy Thanksgiving.