On top of all the other joyful madness that occurs this time of year, in my world Thanksgiving means conjuring strange foods we eat only once a year, leaving the house to buy the one item I forgot despite multiple grocery store visits, unbuttoning my pants ’cause I ate too much, then sitting comatose on the couch watching football, spending the day with my mama and Jill, carving and brining and folding and napping and catching up, and drinking wine, and reading uninterrupted in a comfy chair for at least an hour, and some really blissful sleep. A holiday left blessedly uncommercialized, all about food and family. What’s not to love?
If you have some flexibility with your holiday menu, and/or you’re still holding auditions for possible new items, allow me to urge you to consider these fresh takes on everybody’s favorite: sweet potatoes.
SWEET POTATO BISCUITS
(from Gourmet online, August 2008)
Idon’t need to sell you on these, do I? I mean, come on! Sweet. Potato. Biscuits. Has there been a lovelier combination of three food-related words in the history of the English language?
Okay, so I tend towards hyperbole, but to be perfectly honest, these really are delicious. And they disappeared in about an hour when I made them a few weeks back. Some friends had brought over slices of fantastic, local Black Forest ham, so we layered that onto the biscuits as part of a brunch spread. I urge you to do the same!
Also, I think that these would work quite well at the Thanksgiving table, wrapped up in a napkin in a basket and slathered with butter and/or honey. They’d also probably work wonderfully in building one of those “leftovers sandwiches”—cranberry jelly + turkey + sweet potato biscuit = I’m betting on a win.
1 lb sweet potatoes (that’s about 2 medium-to-large potatoes)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 T sugar
2 T milk
1 T baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
NOTE—You will need to make the sweet potato puree & let it cool before you can make the biscuits, which will take about two hours. Feel free to do this step up to two days ahead, to save time.
Prick the sweet potatoes all over, then bake on a baking sheet until they are very soft to the touch, ~1 hour. Let them cool before halving the sweet potatoes and scooping their contents into the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth.
The biscuit recipe calls for only 1 cup of the puree, which is almost exactly what my two sweet potatoes yielded. If you have extra, stir it into pancake or muffin batter, or use it as homegrown baby food!
Stir the 2 tablespoons of milk into the 1 cup of sweet potato puree, and let the mixture cool for at least 30 minutes before using.
When you’re ready to bake the biscuits, heat the oven to 425° once again. Grease a baking sheet.
Whisk the dry ingredients together, then blend in the butter with your fingers or a pastry cutter until the mix looks like coarse meal. Stir in the sweet potato mixture to form a loose dough.
Drop the dough onto a greased baking sheet, spacing them at least 1” apart. Bake the biscuits until they have browned a bit and are firm to the touch, approximately 18-20 minutes. Transfer the biscuits to a rack to cool, and serve warm.
STIR-FRIED SWEET POTATOES WITH SAGE
(barely adapted from Mark Bittman)
A far cry from the traditional teeth-achingly candied treatment sweet potatoes normally get, this side dish pairs them with brown butter and sage, leading to a sophisticated flavor that I think would work perfectly on a Thanksgiving table (especially if you use sage in your stuffing.)
4 T olive oil
2-3 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and grated, about 4-6 cups
5 T butter
4 cloves garlic, crushed with the back of a heavy knife
generous handful of fresh sage leaves
Salt and pepper
Heat olive oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. When shimmery, add sweet potatoes and season with a bit of salt & pepper. Cook, stirring rarely, until the sweet potatoes begin to brown. Stir more frequently until the potatoes are tender but not mushy. Be patient! This will take a while (15-20 minutes)
In the meantime, heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sage; shake pan occasionally. When the butter browns, turn off heat.
Carefully remove the sage & garlic from the butter, saving the former and discarding the latter. Once the potatoes are ready, drizzle them with the butter and garnish with sage leaves.
Mmmm, sweet Turkey Day, come quickly. I am ready for you.
NISHTA MEHRA is an English teacher, a lover of words, with a heart for great food. Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee as the first-generation daughter of Indian immigrants, she is equal parts Southern belle & good Punjabi girl. Her amazing recipes can be found at BlueJeanGourmet.com, where she blogs about food and all about life. In 2010, the Houston Press called her one of Houston’s Top Ten Blog Stars, and in 2011, the Houston Web Awards named Blue Jean Gourmet the city’s Best Food Blog. She is also the founder & director of Valentines for Soldiers-Houston, an annual community and fundraising event benefitting members of the U.S. Military.
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