Here I am giving away all my secrets. Truth is, they are never my secrets. I get almost all my recipes from Epicurious, America’s Test Kitchen and my mother-in-law. I’m a big believer in knife work, technical precision, high quality ingredients and kitchen gadgets, so if these recipes are a little on the high maintenance side, well, so am I. Would love to hear stories if you make any of these!
Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Step 1. Buy a potato ricer.
Step 2. You are awesome.
I got this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen and it changed my whole vision of potatoes. No more peeling meant I make mashed potatoes much more often than I otherwise would. Stirring in the hot butter before the half and half helps coat the starch in fat so that it doesn’t become as gluey and stiff when the liquid is added.
I try to time it so that I rice the potatoes just as people are (supposed to be) arriving.
- 2 pounds potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold work best), unpeeled and scrubbed
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
- 1 cup half-and-half, (warm)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
- Ground black pepper
1. Place potatoes in large saucepan and cover with 1 inch water. Bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender (a paring knife can be slipped into and out of center of potatoes with very little resistance), 20 to 30 minutes. Drain.
2. Cut potatoes in half. Rice the potatoes one half at a time into the empty but still warm saucepan.
4. Stir in butter with wooden spoon until incorporated; gently whisk in half-and-half, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. (If you must hold them, a pre-warmed crockpot will do the trick for about an hour.)
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
These have come to eclipse regular mashed potatoes not just in our family, but among the friends I’ve made them for as well. One friend told me, “I was thinking if I had to be on a desert island with just one food to eat for the rest of my life it would be those mashed white sweet potatoes.” Top that.
I found these years ago in Perfect Vegetables, my favorite recipe book of all time, and have made them precisely by the recipe (okay maybe I added a little extra cream and sugar now and again) ever since. Cut them just like it says to, and you can’t go wrong.
It’s worth it to track down WHITE sweet potatoes (sometimes called Jersey Whites). The orange are okay, but the white are phenomenal.
I never have to rice these. They practically mash themselves by the end of the cooking time.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 pounds white sweet potatoes (about 2 large or 3 medium-small potatoes), peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- pinch ground black pepper
1. Combine butter, cream, salt, sugar, and sweet potatoes in 3 to 4 quart saucepan; cook, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until potatoes fall apart when poked with fork, 35 to 45 minutes.
2. Off heat, mash sweet potatoes in saucepan with potato masher, or transfer mixture to hopper of food mill and process into warmed serving bowl. Stir in pepper; serve immediately.
Roasted Root Vegetables
Which may or may not have become known as “Roasted Toot Vegetables” in households that don’t regularly consume a lot of fiber–and even households that do. I cannot believe I just wrote that. Adapted from Epicurious.
Take the time to cut everything to the specified sizes so it all roasts properly.
If you’ve never peeled a celeriac, you cut off the stems and roots and then use a sharp chef’s knife to slice off slim chunks of the outer layers until only the white flesh remains.
- 2 large sweet potatoes (again, I prefer white sweet potatoes), cut into 1 1/4-inch-long by 1/2-inch-wide by 1/2-inch-thick strips
- 1 medium fennel bulb, cored, cut into 1/3-inch-thick wedges
- 1 large carrot cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 medium celery root (celeriac), peeled, cut into 1 1/4-inch-long by 1/2-inch-wide by 1/2-inch-thick strips
- 14 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tablespoon dried sage leaves
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 bunches green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/3 cup (about) chicken stock
- 1 Tablespoon honey
Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine first 5 ingredients in large bowl. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Add olive oil and toss to coat. Spread vegetables out on large rimmed baking sheet. Roast vegetables until almost tender, stirring every 15 minutes for 45 minutes. During the last 15 minutes, heat chicken stock and dissolve honey into it. Mix green onions and stock into vegetables. Bake until vegetables are just tender, about 15 minutes longer.
Acorn Squash Wedges with Cilantro-Chile Vinaigrette
These are a fabulous, fresh and spicy change of pace from the other creamy, heavy fare. I made no significant changes to the recipe found here. Warning, I have to sharpen my knife at least once while cutting up the squashes. Squash rind murders blade edge.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Lime and Chives
Yes, this is the third recipe with sweet potatoes in it–and not a marshmallow in sight. You got a problem with that? I started by making this dish according to the recipe, but they were soggy. So I’ve changed it a little by just using lime juice instead of making a syrup. A kick of lime and chives is, again, a welcome addition to the heavy Thanksgiving table.
- 3 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (10 cups)
- 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lime zest
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.
Toss potatoes with butter, salt, and pepper in a bowl until coated well, then spread in 1 layer in 2 shallow baking pans (15 by 10 by 1 inch) and roast, uncovered, switching position of pans halfway through roasting, until potatoes are tender and undersides are browned, 15 to 20 minutes total.
Toss potatoes with lime juice and zest in a large bowl, then sprinkle with chives.
Thanksgiving Weekend Recipes
When you’ve had enough turkey, bring on the pasta. If you can recover enough from Thursday to make fresh ravioli on Saturday, you are a better man than I am, Gunga Din. I make these pumpkin ravioli a couple of weeks ahead of the holiday and freeze them so I only have to boil them and do the sauce.
These are legitimately delectable, but the subtle flavors can get lost in a big meal. I serve them as a course on their own if I’m doing a European-style plated dinner, or I make them the main entre. I have tried to tweak the recipe a little here and there, but it turns out Wolfgang Puck got everything right the first time with an obscene amount of butter.
Do not use canned pumpkin! It is way too watery. I use a peeler to shuck the skin of a pie pumpkin. It usually destroys the blade by the time I’m done, and I have to buy a new peeler. Worth it. I hear you can microwave the pumpkin a little and try to scoop it out. Never tried it though. Like I said, Wolfgang gets the job done.
Also, don’t pay any attention to the couple of plebeians who gave it anything less than 5 stars on Food Network reviews. If you didn’t follow the recipe, don’t review it, dude. Geez.
Fettucini with Butternut Squash
If you don’t have the time to make fresh Pappardelle as in the recipe, you can use boxed Fettucini. I actually like it best with homemade fresh fettucini. The holidays have normally been the only time when I dare to make fresh pasta. Normally with the children clinging to me like barnacles in the kitchen I just don’t feel up to delicate pasta work.
If you like buttery squash and appreciate subtle flavors, you will love this. If you don’t, you won’t. I’m crazy about it.
Note: Half an inch is very small. Way smaller than your hairstylist thinks. I buy the pre-cut butternut squash and then cut it down to half-inch cubes. If you use any larger chunks, it takes forever to cook and then the outer layers of your squash fall apart. What I’m trying to say is follow the recipe. Half-inch cubes means half-inch cubes.
- 12 ounces pappardelle or fettuccine pasta
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, divided
- 3 cups 1/2-inch cubes butternut squash (from 1-pound squash)
- 5 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps sliced
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- 1 5- to 6-ounce package baby spinach
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, (or Parmesan and Romano) divided
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, melt 1/4 cup butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add squash and cook until almost tender, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Add mushrooms, sage, and remaining 1/4 cup butter; sauté until mushrooms are soft and squash is tender, about 8 minutes. Add spinach; stir until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add pasta to sauce in skillet. Toss to coat, adding pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese.
As Salty would say, “Dat’s nummy!”