Well, Diane Morgan has done it again. There are some cookbook authors that you just know can hit the ball good and solid every time. Diane Morgan is just such an author. She seems to have found a formula that just keeps working.
That’s because she is a sensible cook and a straightforward writer. Diane’s approach to food is practical. She seems to know just what her audience expects, and she delivers exactly that. Yet somehow, without ever straying too far from the tried and true she manages to bring something fresh and modern to her work as well.
When I first picked up her latest title from Chronicle Books, The New Thanksgiving Table, I was a little confused. After all, I considered her previous book The Thanksgiving Table to be the definitive guide to this particular holiday.
But I have to admit, I was taken with just how easy this new book is to read. Which to me translates into a cookbook that is easy to use as well. It is laid out with plenty of space between the text and recipes. The useful information is highlighted with simply shaded boxes. The ingredients are in bold type, which makes list making a breeze. So despite my pre-conceived notions of redundancy, I found myself already liking this book.
But as I emphasized to myself, there is more to a cookbook than a sensible layout and an (extremely) approachable subject. And as I began to read further I was reminded what makes Diane Morgan a perennial favorite of this here cook.
Because the “more” I am referring to is the comfortable familiarity that is so abundant in both the recipes and her prose. After all, this is first and foremost a cookbook celebrating the most food-centric of all the American holidays – Thanksgiving. And if there is one holiday that comes with a whole cornucopia of culinary baggage it is Thanksgiving.
No matter how often we celebrate this holiday, the cooks in the family all know that there are definitely indispensable dishes that simply must find their way to our tables. Diane has done a delectible job in meeting these expectations too, because nobody will ever be perfectly comfortable with 5‑spice mung bean salad sitting front and center on their Thanksgiving breakfront. Diane knows this and handles our presumptions expertly.
The grandest of these expectations is of course, the turkey. The basic turkey know-how (buying, defrosting, brining) is well documented in this book. There is even a whole chapter dedicated to leftovers! So even (or perhaps especially) first time Thanksgiving hosts will feel at ease when tackling their first big bird.
But beyond all the turkey 101 information Diane has also included eight ways to cook a turkey, including a spatchcocked turkey. I find the concept of a spatchcocked (backbone removed and pressed flat for grilling) a very intriguing idea. But I admit I have reservations and will have to try this method for myself. Though I think I will save that particular experiment for a less important dinner.
So now that we have finished with the mandatory turkey discussion let’s get to the “more” I mentioned earlier. To me, the “more” of this book is the way Diane has tweaked or nudged all your favorite Thanksgiving specialties into the slightly new territory. Nothing scary, just enough askance to make you look twice!
For example, there is not a single Green Bean Casserole recipe in this entire book. But before you raise your arms aghast, take a closer look. There is a Green Bean with Lemon-Butter Bread Crumbs and Toasted Almonds recipe. This preparation has all the crunchy allure of the original, yet its deft handling is not only sophisticated, it’s downright healthy!
She brings that same sort of artistic restraint to the 6 different cranberry recipes in this book. There is a fairly traditional Cape Cod Cranberry Compote with an applejack brandy twist to appease the strictest of traditionalists. As well a more graceful Framboise Cranberry Sauce.
My personal Thanksgiving “must have”, the sweet potato is thrice represented. In fact, the most adventuresome of the three preparations is the recipe I am choosing to present to you today.
Diane’s recipe for Honey & Chipotle Glazed Sweet Potato Spears with Lime seems a match made entirely for my taste buds! I love the slightly spicy, intriguingly smoky quality that the chipotle brings to the classic roast sweet potato concept. Yet the sweet & spicy, buttery rich flavors are kept from becoming too rich, too heavy or too cloying with a generous amount of lime juice. Are you salivating?
I was so inspired by Diane Morgan’s modern, regional, or just plain original takes on so many of the most beloved Thanksgiving foods that I have decided to dedicate the whole upcoming week attempting to do the same. That’s right, I am off on one of my tangents. Nothing but uninterrupted reinterpreted Thanksgiving classics for a whole week!
I will be posting 2 recipes a day. One will be a traditional Thanksgiving recipe and the other will be an updated version of the same beloved standard! My versions may be lighter; they may be more exotic; they may even be downright bizarre! But I promise you, come Thanksgiving nobody will be able to accuse you of having missed any of the Thanksgiving “must-haves”, even if they don’t immediately recognize them!
Sounds like fun. I hope you will join me!
- 4 lb uniformly (medium) size orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled, cut in half crosswise then cut into 1/2‑inch wedges
- 1 T plus 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 t spice islands ground chipotle chili powder
- 1/2 c honey
- 1/3 c fresh lime juice
- 1 t kosher salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the sweet potato wedges in a large bowl. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with the 1‑tablespoon butter and set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the 1/2 cup butter. Whisk in the chipotle powder and then add the honey, lime juice, and salt. Bring to a simmer stirring constantly; continue simmering for three minutes to meld the glaze.
Pour the glaze over the sweet potatoes and toss until well coated. Arrange them in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the bowl, drizzling any remaining glaze over the potatoes. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Roast, covered, for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and baste the potatoes. Continue to bake, basting every 10 minutes for another 20 minutes, until tender, nicely browned, and caramelized at the edges. Serve immediately, or keep warm in a low oven for up to 30 minutes. Baste before serving.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD