Keep Your Eyes on the Sides

There’s much to crave on the Thanksgiving table–and a glorious bird like the Miso and Herb Rubbed Applewood Smoked Heritage Turkey would certainly be something to be thankful for.  A lot of work goes into cooking a stellar bird, but I have a confession: I only have eyes for the side dishes.

thanksgiving-side-dishes-montageYep, it’s true. I’d be happy to skip the turkey altogether, though propriety obliges me to sample at least a little, especially if I’m dining at someone else’s house. Instead, I’d load my plate with mashed potatoes, dressing, biscuits, green beans, gravy, and cranberry sauce. And supreme among side dishes is the sweet potato dish. It’s the Judi Dench of supporting players, so good it outshines the star and takes home an Oscar for, oh, five minutes of screen time.

Of course, sweet potatoes labor under an identity crisis. Mistakenly labeled “yams,” they are neither a yam nor a potato. In fact, sweet potatoes aren’t even botanically related to yams; the misnomer has lingered ever since soft varieties, which resemble the yams predominately found in Africa, were first introduced to the market decades ago. But they are sweet, which can confuse people in the kitchen. Sweet potatoes often are laden with butter and brown sugar, and topped with marshmallows in the classic casserole that many find too much like dessert. (Not me–I love the stuff–pass it all down my way, please.)

Despite their sweetness, these tubers play nicely with savory ingredients, as evidenced in this bread pudding recipe. The sweet potatoes themselves have impressive nutritional credentials–they’re low in calories yet high in fiber and vitamins A and C–and we boost the health factor even higher by using multigrain bread and sauteed kale. The indulgence comes from whole milk and egg yolks, which give the custard a luscious quality, and a touch of full-flavored Cheddar cheese. But baking the bread pudding in a muffin tin offers built-in portion control. A half-cup serving (one bread pudding “muffin”), which is plenty on the crowded holiday plate, comes in at just 134 calories and less than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving.

All of that makes me feel just fine about helping myself to seconds.

A longtime editor, writer, and recipe developer, Alison Ashton is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef. She has worked as a features editor for a national wire service and as senior food editor for a top food magazine. Her work has appeared in Cooking Light, Vegetarian Times, and Natural Health.

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