Ahhh Thanksgiving…it’s like the Super Bowl for foodies. And it can also bring about hours of undue stress on those brave enough to host Thanksgiving dinner. This year, we’re having friends over for the big day…some of whom are serious foodies. No pressure there at all. I’ve already ordered the turkey (from Groff’s Content Farm) and have opted to use the Barefoot Contessa’s Roast Turkey with Truffle Butter recipe to fancy it up. With the bird squared away, I decided to turn my attention to side dishes. I loved the brussels sprouts, bacon and fig dish I made a few months ago, so it was a no brainer to add it to the menu. Not only is it an easy dish to whip up, it has a sophisticated look and taste that will wow any dinner guest. But what else was I going to bring to the table? I searched the web and became overwhelmed with all the options. There I was, rocking back and forth and chanting “too many dishes…too many dishes”. And then I received the November issue of Food and Wine in the mail (otherwise known as my salvation). Hello, nurse!
The magazine was bursting at the seams with Thanksgiving suggestions, emphasizing a “back to the classics” approach to turkey day. Although the ingredients were typical Thanksgiving fare (mashed potatoes, green beans and sweet potatoes, to name a few), the recipes elevated them above the scary casseroles one remembers from their youth. One such dish was their Five Spice Glazed Sweet Potatoes topped with Walnut Toffee. No odd conglomerations of raisins and marshmallows for these sweet potatoes (sorry Mom…I still love your sweet potato souffle). Adding the aromatic pungency of Chinese Five Spice powder (a combination of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and Szechuan peppercorns) to a traditionally (and sometimes overly) sweet dish brings a completely different feel to these potatoes.
I decided to make a test batch of the recipe to make sure it was worthy enough to end up on the plates of my foodie friends. And instead of using regular sweet potatoes, I decided to work with some white sweet potatoes I got from Garner’s Produce. Also called Cuban sweet potatoes, white sweet potatoes aren’t as sweet as the more familiar orange sweet potatoes. For this recipe, using the white sweet potatoes turned out to be an asset. The sugar and spice combination of the glaze didn’t overpower the potato, bringing out an almost smoky flavor. Instead of using the walnut toffee, I used some of the excess glaze to create a candy coating for the walnuts. I knew instantly this dish would stand up well against a (fingers crossed) deliciously herbed bird.
Recipe: Five Spice Glazed Sweet Potatoes (adapted from Food and Wine)
- 6 pounds sweet potatoes (orange or white), peeled and cubed
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tsps Chinese five-spice powder
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- Divide the sweet potato cubes into two baking dishes and pour 1 cup of water into each dish. Cover the dishes with foil and roast the potatoes for about 25 minutes. The potatoes need to be fairly tender but not mushy.
- While the potatoes are roasting, add the butter, salt, sugar and spices to a small saucepan over medium high heat. As the butter melts, stir the sugar and spices into it. Let the glaze cook for about four minutes.
- Remove 3 tablespoons of the glaze and pour them over the walnuts. Toss to evenly coat the nuts and set aside.
- Remove the potatoes from the oven and pour out any excess water. Drizzle the remaining glaze over all of the potatoes and return the dish to the oven. Bake for about ten minutes while occasionally basting the potatoes. The potatoes should be nicely glazed and tender. Top with the glazed walnuts before serving.
Number of servings (yield): 12
Meal type: dinner