Sweet Potato Mash and Warm Asparagus Salad [Thanksgiving 2013]

Recipes, Side Dishes

Thanksgiving is not a Vietnamese tradition by any means, but our families have come to welcome the opportunity to have dinner together on a nationally-designated Thursday each year. Martin and I were assigned side dishes and dessert, and his parents made soup and hosted the party. Our soy sauce glazed chicken with sticky rice stuffing is a crowd-pleaser, so my parents handled that this year.

Soy Sauce Glazed Chicken with Sticky Rice Stuffing

Soy Sauce Glazed Chicken with Sticky Rice Stuffing

The side dishes we selected are colorful, easy to prepare in advance, use seasonal ingredients, and reheat well at our final destination. They are also both – *fanfare* – vegetarian / vegan! (I did use C&H light brown sugar, so depending on how that was processed, it arguably is or is not vegan.) In lieu of traditional mashed potatoes, we wanted to use sweet potato for its brighter flavor, not that we don’t love a good, butter-laden mash a la Thomas Keller. We were also assigned to bring a salad but, with the cooler weather, decided to go with a warm roasted asparagus salad instead. Both turned out to be great hits, so save these recipes for next year, serve them up at Christmas dinner, or make them “just because.”

Ready to Party

Ready to Party

**Note: I doubled the proportions for our dinner party, so while each recipe yields 4 servings, the photos will depict twice as much of each ingredient.

Sweet Potato Mash Ingredients:

Sweet Potato Mash Ingredients:

2 lbs sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

Step 1: Scrub the sweet potatoes under cold running water to remove any dirt and pick off the roots. Stab all over with a fork (like piercing a frozen dinner for the microwave).

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Step 2: Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the skins pull away from the tubers and the sugars are dark but not burnt. Set aside and let cool.

Peeled Sweet Potatoes

Peeled Sweet Potatoes

Step 3: When cool enough to handle, peel the skins off the sweet potatoes. Add to a medium sized mixing bowl.

Sweet Potato Mash - the final product

Sweet Potato Mash – the final product

Step 4: Mashing with a fork, sprinkle in the salt, sugar, and spices. Taste and adjust to your liking.

Warm Asparagus Salad Ingredients:

Warm Asparagus Salad Ingredients:

12 ounces fresh asparagus (preferably the younger, thinner variety)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Lemon Vinaigrette Ingredients:

Lemon Vinaigrette Ingredients:

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon honey or agave *

1/4 cup olive oil, slowly drizzled to emulsify *

Salt & pepper, to taste

* adjust the sweetener and oil depending on how much juice you get out of your lemon

Vinaigrette proportions based on this Food Network recipe

Ready for the Oven

Ready for the Oven

Step 1: Break the woody ends off the asparagus (the stem will easily snap in just the right place; if you’re fighting with it, you’re not doing it right). Rinse in cool water and drain well. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Roasted Asparagus

Roasted Asparagus

Step 2: Roast in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. The stems will be tender and sweet and the tops will be toasty but not dark.

Whisking the Lemon Vinaigrette

Whisking the Lemon Vinaigrette

Step 3: Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, and sweetener. While simultaneously whisking, slowly drizzle in a consistent stream of olive oil. Taste and season as needed. The emulsification will mellow out the sharp acidity of the lemon juice (if it’s still too tart, keep whisking and adding oil). Set aside.

Warm Asparagus Salad

Warm Asparagus Salad

Step 4: Cut the asparagus into one-inch, bite-sized pieces and add to a bowl. Toss in the dressing or serve alongside, if desired. Serve warm or cold.

Didn’t I tell you these were easy? Especially if you have a good oven, since it will be doing most of the work. These dishes were great accompaniments to the rest of our Thanksgiving dinner which featured….

Sup Mang Cua (Vietnamese Crab & Asparagus Soup)

Sup Mang Cua (Vietnamese Crab & Asparagus Soup)

Martin’s parents made a soup commonly found at Vietnamese-Chinese restaurants, crab and white asparagus soup or súp măng cua. His mom adds a special twist that I don’t see very often (if ever!) – hard boiled quail eggs. With firm whites yielding to a smooshy yolky middle, it’s fun to find one of these surprises sitting at the bottom of your soup bowl. Garnished with fresh cilantro and a sprinkling of white pepper, this soup transports me back to fond memories of childhood.

Nuwave Oven

Nuwave Oven

When I was a kid, I used to stay up late at night watching infomercials on the little TV in my bedroom. I was always especially fascinated if it were food related (I’ve seen the flavor injector segment of the Showtime Rotisserie oven more times than anyone really should). Anyway, it turns out my parents were doing the same thing, so they got one of these — a NuWave induction oven. It actually did a pretty good job of cooking our humble 3-pound chicken in about 45 minutes.

Our dads carving the turkey... I mean, chicken.

Our dads carving the turkey… I mean, chicken.

So from our home to yours, we hope you enjoy these recipes for potluck-friendly side dishes that are sure to please the guests of your next holiday party. Wait – where’s the dessert, you ask? I guess you’ll just have to tune in again this Wednesday… ;)

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Beer Braised Bratwurst and Apple Slaw

Main Dishes, Recipes

Even though Oktoberfest in Germany ended earlier this month, it’s not too late to celebrate with beer and brats here in the States! That’s right, folks — contrary to popular belief, traditional Oktoberfest does not wait until October to begin. This annual sixteen-day festival runs from late September to the first week of October each year, though Oktoberfest events in the States (or at least here in Southern California) run throughout the 10th month of the year. I love holidays, so one night after work, I decided to surprise Martin with a festive batch of beer braised bratwurst accompanied by seasonal pumpkin ales.

Beer Braised Bratwurst, Apple Slaw, Mashed Potatoes, and a seasonal lager

Beer Braised Bratwurst, Apple Slaw, Mashed Potatoes, and a seasonal lager

This recipe is a great way to prepare your favorite store-bought brand of bratwurst (or, I suppose, “bratwurst-style sausages,” to be all-inclusive). We’re not quite skilled nor equipped for stuffing our own force-meat at home, so a quick stop at a local butcher shop or grocery store is in order. While you’re there, grab a six-pack of your favorite brew along with a good-sized white or sweet onion. I served ours over a bed of mashed potatoes with a dollop of apple slaw, though you are welcome to whip up more traditional potato pancakes, sauerkraut, or a cabbage-based slaw.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 lb of bratwurst (I used Trader Joes seasonal pork Hofbrau Brats)

1 medium (or 2 small) white or sweet onions, sliced top-to-bottom like for the Office Burger

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Salt & pepper

12 ounces of beer (any will do – I used the Oktoberfest lager, also at Trader Joes)

1 tablespoon brown sugar

(Optional) Apple Slaw Ingredients:

(Optional) Apple Slaw Ingredients:

2 apples (I used one honey crisp and one granny smith)

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon honey

Extra virgin olive oil until emulsified, about 1/3 to 1/2 cup

Mm butter...

Mm butter…

Step 1: Melt the butter in a large skillet.

Sear the Brats

Sear the Brats

Step 2: Brown the sausages on all sides, getting a nice dark sear. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Saute the Onions

Saute the Onions

Step 3: In the buttery, fatty goodness, saute the onions. Season with salt and pepper.

Wilted Onions

Wilted Onions

Step 4: After about 5-10 minutes, they should have wilted like this. Sprinkle with a bit of granulated sugar (to help with the caramelization). Continue to saute for a few more minutes.

Simmer Simmer

Simmer Simmer

Step 5: Pour in the beer and bring to a simmer. Add in the bratwurst and continue cooking until the beer has reduced to a glaze-like sauce. If needed, sprinkle in a bit of brown sugar to combat any bitterness from the beer. During this stage, prepare the apple salad or any side dishes.

Braising the Brats

Braising the Brats

Step 6: By the time the beer becomes glaze, the sausages will have cooked for anywhere from 20-30 minutes. Remove one and insert a meat thermometer, ensuring that the internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees. Once you’re there, it’s good to go!

Time for Apple Salad!

Time for Apple Salad!

For our side dish, I whipped up a quick apple-based slaw. I forgot the honey my first time around so it turned out way too acidic… I won’t be making that mistake again any time soon! The recipe above should yield a balanced, sweet & sour salad perfect for the savory sausages.

Whisk Whisk

Whisk Whisk

To prepare the apple salad, whisk together the dressing ingredients, starting with the mustard, vinegar, lime juice, and honey and then drizzling in the oil until well emulsified.

Cut the Apples

Cut the Apples

Julienne the apples — if you have a mandoline, slice on the thickest setting and then cut the slices into strips.

Toss in the Dressing

Toss in the Dressing

Toss in the dressing until well coated. Season with salt. Let chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Ready to drink and devour. Prost!

Ready to drink and devour. Prost!

We served two sausages per person for a hearty dinner that paired perfectly with my Sam Adams Octoberfest and Martin’s Hoegaarden. It took a bit longer than anticipated for a weeknight dinner (mostly because I’m paranoid about cooking pork and really wanted those sausages to simmer in the brew for a long time) but for an hour’s work, we ended up with a deliciously festive meal. So try it out, raise your glass, and Prost!