When we think of tradition in America, celebrating Thanksgiving certainly jumps to the forefront. This holiday has been observed since the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest with a dinner consisting of corn, squash and the vegetables they were able to grow during that first summer.
Every continent has a form of “thanksgiving”, Africa has Kwanzaa, India has Pongal and China has the August Moon Festival. Most cultures in the world celebrate the end of the harvest with a shared feast of the bounty, which is exactly what Thanksgiving is.
In America, this celebration involves a huge meal shared at home with family and friends. Turkey is the main course, along with stuffing, vegetables, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, bread and pies that almost always includes pumpkin.
I have been hosting Thanksgiving at my home for many, many years. Over time, certain dishes have become favorites – and that is not the turkey. For my children the stars of the table are side dishes that they have looked forward to on Thanksgiving all the years they were growing up. Now that they are adults, they still request the same dishes.
Here are a few of our favorites.
Red Wine Cranberry Sauce
Opt for a homemade cranberry sauce this year instead of the usual canned version. It doesn’t take long to make and it tastes so much better.
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups dry red wine or port wine
- 2 packages whole cranberries
- 4 long strips of orange zest
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the wine has reduced slightly, about 4 minutes.
Add the cranberries and the orange zest. Simmer until the cranberries soften and split open and the sauce thickens, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the zest.
Set aside to cool for at least several minutes and up to several hours. Serve warm or at room temperature. The sauce keeps well for at least a week in the refrigerator, so it is one of the dishes you can make ahead. The sauce also keeps well in the freezer.
Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- 2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 8 cups)
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in an oiled 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice and salt in a small bowl. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes; toss to coat.
Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender and starting to brown, 45 to 50 minutes more. Sprinkle generously with freshly ground black pepper.
What are your favorite Thanksgiving dishes?