This year Thanksgiving will be at my place here in Texarkana. So, you know what that means... I've gotta cook! Yikes...

See, I come from a long line of cooks. For some reason it skipped me and went to my daughter. Therefore, I'm always trying to prove myself in the kitchen. lol This year, I'm gonna shock my family and their taste buds. I'm making some "non traditional" sides they're gonna love. Well, at least I hope they will.

Our Thanksgiving dinner is pretty much the same each year. We don't deviate very much. But not this year... if I can help it. I'm gonna make them branch out a bit with a few sides sure to get them talking. Let's just hope the "talking" is good talking. Below are three new recipes I'm adding to our family Thanksgiving feast.

1. Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes 

5 lbs. sweet potatoes
2 small garlic heads, about 2½ in. in diameter
1 cup (8 oz.) unsalted butter
¾ cups heavy cream, warmed
2 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cooked bacon slices, chopped
¼ cup chopped, toasted pecans
Sage leaves

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Wash and dry potatoes, pierce with a fork several times, and place on baking sheet. Cut off tops of garlic heads; wrap in foil.

2. Bake potatoes until very tender, 1 hour, 10 minutes to 1½ hours, adding garlic the last 45 minutes of baking, baking garlic until soft. Let both stand until cool enough to handle.

3. Scoop out potato pulp into a large bowl. Discard skins. Squeeze softened garlic out of their skins into bowl.

4. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, swirling skillet to prevent burning, until butter begins to foam and turns a light brown color, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Reserve 3 table-spoons brown butter for drizzling; add remaining brown butter to bowl with potatoes.

5. Add cream, salt, nutmeg and cayenne to bowl with potato mixture. Beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until potatoes are smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to serving bowl.

6. Sprinkle with bacon and pecans, and drizzle with reserved brown butter. Garnish with sage leaves.

Serves: 8
Active time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

2. Cajun Creamed Corn

6 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked
¼ cup chopped thick-cut bacon
1 tbsp. salted butter
1½ tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup heavy cream, divided
5 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tbsp. Cajun seasoning
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup loosely packed baby arugula
Sliced scallions

1. Preheat grill to medium high (400°-450°), or heat a greased grill pan over medium high. Grill corn uncovered, until tender and lightly charred, about 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove corn from grill. When it’s cool enough to handle, cut kernels off cobs.

2. Cook chopped bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels, reserving drippings in skillet.

3. Melt butter in hot drippings in skillet over medium heat. Add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually add milk and heavy cream, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture boils and thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

4. Add cheese gradually to skillet, whisking constantly until melted after each addition. Whisk in Cajun seasoning and nutmeg, and return to medium heat. Cook until blended, 1 to 2 minutes. Add corn kernels and bacon, reduce heat to medium low, and cook, stirring often, to allow flavors to meld, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and fold in arugula until wilted. Sprinkle with scallions.

Serves: 8
Active time: 25 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Tip! Use a Bundt pan when cutting corn off the cob. The center of the pan holds the ear in place as you slice, and the ring catches the kernels as they fall.

3.  Mashed Potatoes with Country Ham & Cheddar

Mashed Potatoes with Country Ham & Cheddar

3 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup (8 oz.) salted butter, cut into ½-in. cubes, softened
¾ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1¾ tsp. kosher salt, divided
8 oz. aged white Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups), divided
4 large egg yolks Cooking spray
5 oz. country ham, thinly sliced
½ cup thinly sliced scallions (about 4 scallions)

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place potatoes in a large stockpot. Add water to completely cover potatoes and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high. Reduce to medium-low heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Drain and return potatoes to pot. Mash potatoes to desired consistency.

2. Add butter, crème fraîche, remaining ¾ teaspoon salt and 1 cup of the cheese; stir just until smooth and incorporated. Let stand 10 minutes.

3. Add egg yolks, and stir just until incorporated.

4. Coat a 2-quart broiler safe baking dish with cooking spray. Transfer mashed-potato mixture to dish, and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Top evenly with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake in preheated oven until potatoes are heated through and cheese has melted, about 20 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium high. Add ham, and cook until ham is brown and crisp, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain; let cool 10 minutes.

6. Increase oven temperature to high broil; broil potatoes until the cheese is bubbly and top is brown and golden, about 2 minutes.

7. Remove mashed potatoes from oven. Crumble crispy ham on top, and sprinkle with scallions. Serve hot.

Serves: 12

Active time: 30 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

Quick Tip! Free up your oven: Bake the mashed potatoes early in the day, and then transfer them to a slow cooker set to ‘low.’ They’ll stay warm and creamy.




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