News Column

Favorite Thanksgiving Side Dishes

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Nov. 18--Turkey always seems to grab the spotlight at the Thanksgiving meal. But the holiday table wouldn't be complete without some savory starters and side dishes to dress it up.

Potatoes, green vegetables, fragrant biscuits, maybe even a sturdy soup to start things off, can round out a tasty, satisfying meal. So we've assembled a few recipes to get you started for the weeks ahead.

Traditional holiday foods are a specialty at the Colonial Williamsburg taverns, and the cookbooks published by the foundation, including "Holiday Fare: Favorite Williamsburg Recipes," are handy references. Other Williamsburg recipes, plus a few favorites served over the years, complete the list.

These dishes can bring a variety of colors and tastes to your table or provide a great dish to bring to a friend's celebration. Remember to read the recipe carefully before starting to make sure you've assembled the ingredients needed and allowed enough time to keep the stress level down.

Hot Cranberry Wassail

1 64-ounce container sweetened cranberry juice, or cranberry juice cocktail

2 1/2 cups apple cider

3 cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon aromatic bitters

1 cup golden rum (optional)

2 oranges, cut into wedges, for garnish

Whole cloves, for garnish

Fresh cranberries, for garnish

Combine the cranberry juice, apple cider, cinnamon sticks, allspice, nutmeg and aromatic bitters in a large sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.

To serve, pour the wassail into a heat-proof serving bowl or traditional wassail bowl and add the rum, if desired. Garnish with the orange wedges studded with cloves and fresh cranberries.

Serves 12

"Holiday Fare: Favorite Williamsburg Recipes," by John R. Gonzales

Sweet Potato and Orange Soup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon water

2 medium leeks, white part only, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 large carrots, 1 chopped and 1 cut into strips 1/8 inch wide and 1 1/4 inches long

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

Salt and pepper to season

5 cups chicken broth

3/4 pound sweet potatoes, peeled, cut in quarters and covered with cold water

3/4 pound white potatoes, peeled, cut in quarters and covered with cold water

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup orange juice

Heat butter and 1 tablespoon water in a 5-quart sauce pan over medium heat. Add chopped vegetables and crushed garlic. Season with salt and pepper and saute for 5 minutes. Add chicken stock. Drain and rinse potatoes and add to the stock and vegetables and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Tie the bay leaf and herbs in a small piece of cheesecloth and add to the simmering soup. Simmer slowly until the potatoes are cooked, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

While the soup is simmering, blanch the carrot strips in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Transfer the blanched carrots to ice water. When cool, remove the carrots from the water, drain and refrigerate. Toast the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and keep at room temperature.

Remove the soup from the heat. Discard the tied herbs. Puree the soup in a food processor. Strain. Return the soup to medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low.

Heat the carrot strips and the orange juice in a non-stick pan over medium heat. When hot, add to the soup. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Pour equal portions of the soup into 8 warm soup plates and sprinkle toasted pumpkin seeds over each. Serve immediately.

"The Trellis Cookbook" by Marcel Desaulniers

Pumpkin Muffins

1/2 cup butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup milk

1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup raisins, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 1 1/2 inch muffin tins. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and mix well. Blend in the pumpkin. Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add alternately with the milk. Do not overmix. Fold in the nuts and raisins. Fill the greased muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake for 25 minutes

Makes 6 dozen.

Note: muffins can be frozen and reheated.

Courtesy Chef Linwood Blizzard, executive chef of Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Taverns.

Tavern Sweet Potatoes

This Thanksgiving dish can be prepared a couple of days in advance and baked on Thanksgiving Day.

3 pounds sweet potatoes

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar, divided

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large pot, place sweet potatoes and cover with cold water. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool, peel and mash the cooked sweet potatoes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and butter a two-quart casserole dish. Reserve two tablespoons of brown sugar for the topping. Combine remaining sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and milk. Stir in the mashed sweet potatoes and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mixture to casserole dish and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar. Bake until potatoes are hot and the sugar has slightly caramelized, about 20 to 30 minutes.

"The Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook"

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

3 pounds all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 large head garlic

5 tablespoons heavy or whipping cream

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Salt, to taste

1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley, for garnish

Place the potatoes in a large sauce pan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and cook until tender, 20 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, peel the paper-like outer skin off the garlic and separate the cloves. Place them in a sauce pan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the garlic is very soft, 15 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.

Drain the potatoes and return them to the sauce pan. Shake over medium heat to remove the remaining moisture, 10 to 15 seconds. Set the potatoes aside.

Slip the skins off the garlic, and combine the garlic cloves and the cream in a food processor. Puree.

Transfer the potatoes to the bowl of an electric mixer and add the pureed garlic, butter, egg yolk, pepper and salt. Beat until just smooth. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Serves 6.

"The New Basics Cookbook," by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

Kale with Crispy Garlic

Coarse or kosher salt

3 pounds kale, stems removed, leaves torn into bite-size pieces

Ice water

1/3 cup olive oil

8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Add the kale and cook over moderately high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain, refresh in a bowl of ice water and drain again thoroughly. (Kale can be prepared to this point up to 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate.)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook over moderately low heat until light golden, about 8 minutes; don't let the garlic get too dark, or it will be bitter. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to paper towels and let stand for up to 5 hours. Reserve the oil in the skillet.

Just before serving, rewarm the garlic oil. Add the kale, season with salt and pepper, and cook over moderately high heat until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and two-thirds of the crisp garlic. Transfer to a warmed platter and sprinkle the remaining garlic on the top.

Serves 12.

Food and Wine magazine

Spinach and Artichoke Casserole

Three 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach

One 8-ounce package cream cheese

1/2 cup margarine

Two 8 1/2 cans artichoke hearts, drained, or frozen equivalent

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs

Cook chopped spinach. Drain well. Mix with cream cheese and margarine while hot. Season to taste. Place layer of spinach in two-quart casserole, then layer of artichokes. Repeat. Cover with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. May be prepared early in the day and refrigerated or frozen.

Serves 6 to 8.

River Road Recipes II, published by The Junior League of Baton Rouge, La.


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