“Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!” I’ve heard these words often in the last 13 years of my professional career. Usually it’s in response to a dish or recipe I’ve made for family, clients or friends. As with everyone who loves to cook, I pay special attention to what people enjoy and I try to repeat the dishes that bring happiness to those I care for.
There are recipes I repeat that are Thanksgiving classics: buttermilk mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts w/ bacon, cornbread dressing and cranberry sauce. We find comfort in the expected tradition of these side dishes. But I like to put a new spin on a few other dishes: green bean casserole gets a makeover with fresh mushrooms, cream and freshly fried crispy onions; my family likes duck instead of turkey; and I make a sweet potato apple gratin in honor of my mom.
Funny thing about sweet potatoes. I never really cared for them. As a kid growing up in Texas, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top were traditional in our family. I faced each Thanksgiving with a certain amount of dread because I was required to have a “taste” of everything, and I DID NOT LIKE SWEET POTATOES! My mom, however, loved them. LOVED them! I feared I was doomed to “taste” that dreaded marshmallow sweetened dish for the rest of my life. They were, after all, a tradition.
It was not until I had a family of my own and my parents came to visit, that I attempted to change the dish that was my mom’s favorite. I sheepishly asked if she was okay letting me experiment with sweet potatoes and apples, with the only sweetener coming from apple cider and a bit of maple syrup. I am not sure where I found the recipe but I was desperate not to have to make marshmallow sweet potatoes and be required to take a polite “taste” in my own house. I am, after all, a polite Texan, and if my mom said I was supposed to do something, well, I did it. Luckily, she was happy to let me experiment and thankfully, I was successful.
The sweet memory of my mom enjoying this recipe will always hold a place in my heart. There’s nothing fancy or complicated about apples and sweet potatoes lightly roasted, but each time I make this dish I smile. It’s a memory of how a marshmallow aversion built a lovely connection with my mom and started a new tradition. Thanksgiving is indeed my favorite holiday.
Wishing you a day full of family, friends and food you love.
Happy Thanksgiving Friends!
Chef Deb Traylor
Apples and Sweet Potatoes w/Maple Cider Glaze
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, for greasing pan
3 large sweet potatoes (4 1/2 pounds), peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 large Granny Smith** apples (3 pounds)–peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4- inch thick
salt and pepper
several sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (more if you like it sweet)
3/4 cup apple cider
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 tsp. kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease two large, shallow baking dish with two
tablespoons butter. Alternating the sweet potato and apple slices,
arrange in the baking dishes in a single layer of concentric circles.
In a medium saucepan, combine the maple syrup, cider, butter and salt. Simmer over moderate heat for 8 minutes until reduced slightly. Pour the mixture over the slices in each of the baking dishes and cover the dishes securely with foil.
Bake in the center of the oven for 50 minutes. Remove the dishes from the oven, uncover and baste the apples and sweet potatoes with the pan juices. Increase the oven temperature to 400° and place the dishes in the upper third of the oven. Continue baking for about 25 minutes
longer, basting a few more times, until the sweet potatoes are tender and nicely glazed. Serve hot.
**I also use Honeycrisp or any crisp, sweet apple, or a mixture of your favorite apples.
The recipe can be prepared up to one day in advance and refrigerated. Reheat,
covered, in a 400° oven for 25 minutes.