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It’s all about the side dishes….

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite culinary times of the year.

Every family has their “must have” have recipes, meaning the holiday just won’t be good without these yummy dishes. In addition to those “must haves” many us always look for new and interesting dishes to try on our families. That’s why Thanksgiving is so special; it’s all about many, many dishes. Yes, lots of sides.

Two traditional Thanksgiving foods are Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes. First let’s look at the Sprouts.

I love Brussels Sprouts! I grew up being fed these tiny cabbages by my mother. My wife, on the other hand, does not like them and so I don’t serve them too often at home. But this time of year I begin to think of foods I haven’t had for awhile and Brussels Sprouts takes the lead.

When buying, look for firm, tightly wrapped leaves that have not yellowed or browned. You can store them in your refrigerator for a few days if need be. The following recipe can be made a day or two ahead and kept in the refrigerator until ready to bake.

Creamed Brussels Sprouts with Gruyere

Serves 6

For the casserole1 lb Brussels sprouts4 strips bacon, diced1 cup leeks, sliced2 cloves garlic, crushed1 tbl flour3/4 cup chicken broth2/3 cup heavy cream1 tbl lemon juice1/2 cup gruyere cheese, grated1/4 tsp salt1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

For the topping1 tbl extra virgin olive oil1 cup dry bread crumbs, panko are great1/4 cup walnuts, chopped1/2 cup gruyere cheese, grated2 tsp lemon zest Pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350, grease a 2 qt casserole dish and set aside

Clean Brussels sprouts by cutting off just a little of the stem and removing the outer leaves. Blanch in lightly salted boiling water for 4 minutes. Remove to strainer and rinse with cold water to cool and stop the cooking process. Cut into quarters through the stem, set aside.Sauté bacon in fry pan until crisp, remove to paper towel with slotted spoon.

While the bacon is cooking heat broth and cream in another pan. Add leeks to bacon fat and sauté until soft and translucent adding garlic for the last couple of minutes. Add flour, salt and pepper and cook for another minute or two. Whisk in the cream/broth mixture and bring to a simmer adding the lemon juice.

Add sprouts, bacon and the ˝ cup of cheese, toss and transfer to prepared dish.

For the topping heat oil in a fry pan and add the bread crumbs and walnuts. Stir continuously until crumbs begin to brown lightly, remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. When cool, stir in the cheese, zest and salt and pepper. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture on top of casserole and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

This dish can be made a day or two ahead. Just save the topping for just before you bake.

Here’s a great tasting and simple sweet potato recipe.

Maple/Cranberry Sweet Potatoes

Serves 6

1 1/2 lb sweet potatoes1/2 cup maple syrup, the real thing please2 tbl butter, meltedPinch salt2 cups orange juice1/4 cup sugar 1 tsp lemon zest1 bag fresh or frozen cranberries

Preheat oven to 350

Peel potatoes and cut into wedges lengthwise. Combine maple syrup with melted butter and a pinch of salt, toss potato wedges. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with non stick spray. Arrange wedges so they are not touching each other. Bake, turning once, for about 40 minutes. When done toss in remaining maple syrup/butter mixture.

For cranberries combine orange juice, zest, sugar and a pinch of salt and bring to a simmer in a sauce pan. Add cranberries and bring back to simmer. Cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes, should have thickened.

When plating the potatoes garnish with some of the cranberries, serve the remaining in a dish on the side.

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