Thanksgiving for 2, 2012: Some Sides, Grandma Style
“Tradition” is relative.
Putting together a “traditional” Thanksgiving feast for two, I know I am slipping a little bit in terms of what was considered “tradition” when I was a little kid. Traditionally, the fact that Italian side of the family hosted Thanksgiving meant there would definitely be a pasta course, possibly in addition to lasagne, and sometimes a light soup poured over thin, Italian crepes wrapped around a bit of cheese. I didn’t really know anything about the grand tradition of gelatinous, can-shaped cranberry “sauce” because I grew up with a raw, boozy relish (served up by a grandmother who doesn’t even drink). And I didn’t really experience a proper Southern-style sweet potato casserole until well into adulthood because my other grandmother always brought her famous, individual-serving sweet potato balls (and in another tradition, my other grandmother, who hosted Turkey Day would always ask her how long they needed to be in the oven and at what temperature, even though the answer was the same for decades).
It’s a good reminder that tradition, to some extent, is what you make it. There hasn’t been a Thanksgiving Lasagne in ages (though I’m sure Mr. Kitchenette is going to start the lobbying effort to reinstate it any moment), not since moving and deaths and marriages and the general flow of life moved our family celebration farther and farther south and changed the faces around the table from mostly family to mostly friends. But some traditions have hung in there, and I’m excited to scale them down for my Thanksgiving table for two — and maybe yours, too.
Uma’s Sweet Potato Balls
The original recipe from my Uma included adding sugar to canned yams and resulted in a side dish so achingly sweet I couldn’t get all the way through one even as a sugar-fiend of a child.Not something you’d expect to be one of the signature dishes of a diabetic, but this one, she broke all the rules, especially if it meant eating something she liked to eat. Here, I’ve updated it a little, possibly made it a touch healthier (don’t worry, it’s still pretty damn sweet) and made sure you won’t be left with piles of leftovers. Though to be honest? I still only eat half of one of these at a time…
1 large sweet potato
2 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large marshmallows
1 cup cornflakes, crushed
Preheat oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Wrap the sweet potato in foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender. Remove from foil and allow to cool slightly before cutting in half and scooping out roasted sweet potato into a medium bowl.
To the sweet potato add, brown sugar, butter and salt. Smoosh together with potato masher until thoroughly combined. Cool mixture to room temperature (at least) or in the ‘fridge overnight.
Place a small amount of room-temperature potato mixture in the palm of your hand and put a marshmallow on top of it. Spoon more potatoes around it, packing it together like a snowball, adding more potatoes as you go, until half the potato mixture is wrapped around the marshmallow. Repeat with the second marshmallow.
Roll the finished balls in the crushed cornflakes.
The sweet potato balls can be made up to this point three days ahead if storing in the ‘fridge (or indefinitely, I guess, if storing in the freezer), wrapped or bagged individually.
When ready to serve, bring the sweet potato balls to room temperature and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the marshmallow begins to melt (the ball will begin to collapse and crack). Serve warm.
Gramma Straffi’s Cranberry-Orange Holiday Relish (cut down to size)
Once you have this on hand for the holidays, you’ll find all kinds of additional uses for it, my favorite being to mix with equal parts of mayo for a sandwich spread (leftover turkey sandwich or otherwise….). You might also find it hanging around long enough — or that you like it so much — that it reappears for Christmas dinner.
Serves 2, with leftovers
1/2 lb fresh cranberries
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 navel orange
2 Tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Mariner or Triple Sec, or more to taste
Quarter the orange half, leaving the (thoroughly washed) peel on. Place orange pieces, cranberries and orange liqueur in food processor, chop.
Add sugar, starting with 1/4 cup and increasing to taste.
Refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Keeps well in the ‘fridge for about a month.