For me, Thanksgiving is all about the sides. It’s kind of like being taken to a concert of a huge star, and only watching the backup singers: “…the turkey is fine, but those potatoes are like a little bit of heaven.”
Every time I turn on the TV someone is talking about how to make perfect mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving. Sadly, this is lost on me. I was never a big mashed potato fan. Give me my potatoes (and my cookies) with a little crunch, please. I’m a roasted potato fan, which is a good thing, because they take much less effort. While I agree that mashed potatoes fall well within the dowdy (a good thing), homey, Thanksgiving aesthetic, they are, in truth, very sneaky. It can be difficult to get mashed potatoes just right.
This year Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving, so I’m hoping Mr. Piddleyboo (my Pop’s version of a Hanukkah Santa Claus) drops some latkes on my Thanksgiving plate. That’s all the potato I need.
If you need a Thanksgiving starch that is soft and supple might I recommend a grand old Southern tradition? Spoon bread. Or is it one word: Spoonbread?
Spoon bread is a pudding made with slow-cooked corn meal. Some recipes involve whipping egg whites before they are introduced into the batter, but I insist that if you’re going to all that trouble just go ahead and make a Corn Soufflé. Please note that the presentation of either item on my Thanksgiving table will make me happy in equal amounts.
Don’t let the word soufflé or the concept of making one daunt you. If you have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, soufflé is well within reach, and can even be made partially or fully in advance. Yes, it will collapse if made in advance, but yes, it will taste better than if you had served it piping hot, straight from the oven. (Use technology to crow about your achievement: take a picture of your soufflé straight from the oven in its fully puffed glory and email or tweet to your friends and family. “Wait until you taste this!”)
Shall we discuss our table manners? As idealized as this big meal has become, we all know the potential family minefield that the usual Thanksgiving Dinner presents. Keep in mind that however tempting, or however deserving the potential target may be, it is poor etiquette to fling spoons full of mashed potato at your table mates.