By Elisa Ludwig
Your family may very well be embracing upside-down or spatchcocked turkeys, miso butter gravy and Brussels sprouts tart tatin. But no matter how forward-eating the crowd, there’s always room for something familiar, even old-school in the mix. At the holiday table, people take comfort in the foods they grew up with.
So no judgment, okay? And no need to wait for these dishes to come back into style to make them for this Thanksgiving or Christmas. Delve into your family recipe collections for a relative’s long-forgotten casserole or cake and bring it back into rotation. Or visit the pages of vintage magazines and cookbooks for inspiration. (If nothing else, you’ll be amazed at how the art of food photography has advanced.)
Consider the cheerful, colorful delight of a cranberry gelatin ring. The crisp, cool counterpoint of a relish tray, replete with olives, celery and pickles. The rich and indulgent appeal of creamed spinach or onion gratin. Nobody—and we mean nobody—will turn their noses up at twice-stuffed potatoes. A batch of Parker house rolls will disappear before you can even say “pass the butter.” Oysters, dried corn, mincemeat and fried onions may make an appearance., and if they do, welcome them with your best casserole dish. Bonus points if you can incorporate Ritz crackers.
Here’s a perfect timeless crowd-pleaser to get you started. Steve’s bourbon sweet potato mash takes the melty-marshmallow classic and spikes it with just enough bourbon to cut the sweetness. It’s easy and quick to turn out and feeds a big crowd. Just don’t be surprised if the hasselback yams with hazelnut streusel get neglected when this familiar favorite’s around.
Bourbon Sweet Potato Mash
6 pounds yams, washed and dried
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 birds eye chiles or 1 jalapeno, seeded, ribbed and diced
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup mini marshmallows
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Brush yams with vegetable oil. Set them on a baking sheet and roast until soft, about 1½ hours. If serving right away, leave oven on. Using potholders or oven mitts to avoid burning yourself, halve yams lengthwise while still hot and allow them to cool some. When cooler, scoop out yam flesh into a bowl and discard skins.
2. Mash potatoes some with a potato masher or fork. Add bourbon, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, butter and salt and continue mashing until potatoes are pureed and ingredients are incorporated.
3. Transfer potatoes to a 4-quart baking dish. Top with marshmallows; bake until heated through and marshmallows are browned, about 15 minutes.