Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving is Coming: Side Swiped

We are a day away from the Third Annual Blackened Out High Holy Days. For the next two days, eating and drinking will take precedence over all other things including breathing and blinking. Tomorrow is of course Thanksgiving. A day in the Blackened Out cult where you are forgiven for all of your sins for the year so long as you stuff your gullet with food, drink too much, and pass out watching football. This is our religion. You are free to join.

Friday is a day for also overindulging. Usually we head to the Old Green Lady with Legend and the Pope. However, that was canceled this year because Legend is getting married. So instead of upholding tradition, he and Megorita will be wearing jeans and a white button down while standing under a moss strewn oak tree with a photographer telling them to "Look natural." We wish them well. Instead we will make turkey gumbo.

Sides are important. Case in point, the "Meat and Three" restaurants which dot the South like waitresses in a diner. Sure the meat is important, but so too is the option to choose three homey side dishes like macaroni and cheese, collard greens, mashed potatoes, or butter beans. That is where the real magic lies.

Here is a rough outline of two dishes I am cooking this year. And as promised, the recipe for the world's greatest mashed potatoes (as so called by people in my office). Now listen, today when you are at the store by yourself these three things, no matter what 1) at least 2 pounds of unsalted butter (leave this out overnight to soften), a bunch of lemons, and a box of Kosher salt. I don't care if you just bought that stuff, get more. Thanksgiving needs those three things in abundance, you can never have too much.

Cornbread, Andouille, and Kale Dressing

I have no idea how this will turn out, but ever since making the duck and kale gumbo a few weeks back, this idea has intrigued me. Making cornbread tonight. Tomorrow, I''ll simmer the kale in water with a good amount of onion, red pepper, garlic, and a large smoked ham hock. Ill strain and reserve the broth. Then I will saute some andouille with the trinity (minus green peppers, add jalapeno). To this I'll add the kale and let it cool. Then, fold in the cornbread that has been broken into small chunks. Cover the whole thing with the reserved broth. When it cools, add in an egg or two, and place in a greased baking dish. Once turkey is done, pop it in the oven for 45 minutes or so. Could be a disaster, could be brilliant.

Roasted Sprouts of Brussels

Trim outer leaves of brussel sprouts. Blanch in heavily salted water then dunk in ice bath. Drain and dry. Toss in some olive oil, garlic, shallot, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Place in baking dish and roast for about 35 minutes until nicely browned. If you can roast them under the turkey, even better.

Mashed Potatoes

This isn't rocket science. It is much more important than that. Growing up Lindsay's mom only made real mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving, as a result on Thanksgiving Lindsay becomes a real picky eater. As in, the only thing she will eat is a huge plate of mashed potatoes with gravy. If the mashed potatoes do not meet her approval, things get ugly in a hurry.

First, go to Bed Bath and Lineneny Things and get yourself a ricer. Not a food mill, a ricer. A food mill is too rough with the potatoes. This creates an attractive environment for starch to mingle, imbibe a few cocktails, and create gummy mashed potatoes. You want to coddle these potatoes, make them feel special, lull them into a false sense of security and then ram a bunch of butter down their throats.

You want to use Yukon Golds here; five pounds is a good start (recipe is easily doubled or tripled, but never quadrupled). Get a large stock pot (or a pot you would use to cook pasta in) and fill it halfway or so with cold water and at least a 1/4 cup of salt. Peel the potatoes and place directly into the pot. Bring to a boil, then a rapid simmer, until you can pierce the potatoes easily with a knife. Drain through a colander and cover with a towel (this allows potatoes to steam and cool slightly). Meanwhile, in a large pot melt 2 pounds of unsalted butter. Yes, 2 pounds. To this add, a few good cracks of pepper, a couple dashes of hot sauce, and a pinch of salt.

Keep the heat on low, you do not want to brown the butter. Now, rice the potatoes a few at a time into the pot. Once all the potatoes are riced, gently fold the potatoes. Listen up. You have gone to all this trouble to make sure the potatoes are not starchy. Be gentle, fold and stir as if you were trying not to wake a baby. Once all the butter and potatoes have been incorporated, taste. It likely needs more salt, if so add it. If not serve immediately.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving or if you are a member of the Blackened Out Faith, a Gluttonous High Holy Days to you and your belly.

1 comment:

NOJuju said...

That is exactly how I do my mashed potatoes, only I add cloves of garlic to the boiling potatoes and rice the softened garlic along with the potatoes, mixing in creamy garlicy gorgeousness to the already perfect potatoes. Then, I stir in a bit of creme fraiche at the very end (and skip the hot sauce).

Heaven is a side dish.