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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Try some new sides for holiday dinner

Planning has already begun. Menus are being discussed. What are we serving for Thanksgiving this year? In my family, we are very traditional. We usually serve the same side dishes every year. Some of those dishes are Dirty Rice, my mom’s Eggplant Dressing, and Oyster Dressing.

Every year, I try to cook at least one dish that is a new version of a classic. Today, I am sharing a couple of those dishes, Sweet Potato Casserole and Carrot Soufflé. I have also reprinted one of my staple holiday dishes, Dirty Rice. Any of these dishes would be welcomed by your family at dinnertime. Let’s get to the recipes.

Sweet potatoes are almost always found on our holiday dinner table. A staple in the southeast U.S., Louisiana is the second-highest sweet potato producing state. It is healthier for you than a regular potato. Unfortunately, most recipes, including mine, has a large amount of sweetness added to it. It is a comforting dish for a wonderful gathering of family and friends.

Sweet Potato Casserole

4½ cups sweet potatoes cooked and mashed

1 stick butter melted

1/3 cup milk

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup light brown sugar

½ cup flour

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. In a large bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, 1 stick melted butter, milk, sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Spread sweet potatoes mixture into the baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and flour. Cut and mix in 3 tablespoons butter until the mixture is creamy, them stir in the pecans. Sprinkle pecan mixture over sweet potatoes. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Here is a recipe from Piccadilly Cafeteria. This chain was started in Baton Rouge in 1932. It quickly expanded in the South. Unfortunately, many of those restaurants have closed. They do have a few still in the Memphis area. This is the dish that most people think of when they hear Piccadilly. It’s a great way to get your young ones to eat vegetables, since you barely taste the carrots.

Carrot Souffle

3 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

6 eggs

1/2 pound butter, softened

1/4 cup flour

Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350℉.

In a large pot filled to just below the steamer with water, add the carrots. Steam the carrots for 12-14 minutes or until they are very tender. In your blender, add the carrots, sugar, baking powder, vanilla extract, eggs and butter. Mix until everything is creamy with no chunks of carrots. Add in the flour and pulse a couple of times until just combined. Pour into a 13x9 casserole dish and bake for one hour or until top is golden brown. Sprinkle top with powdered sugar before serving.

This recipe is a repeat from a few years ago. It is one I cook for every holiday. It gives me a chance to use one of my dearest treasures, a pan my mother used to cook with. I still remember her using it to prepare holiday dishes.

Dirty Rice

1 pound ground chuck

6 cups cooked rice

1/2 cup green onions, chopped

2 tablespoons garlic, minced

3 tablespoons Creole seasoning

2 cups chicken stock

Brown ground chuck over medium heat. Drain the fat. Add the green onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add the rice and mix well. Add the creole seasoning and mix well. Add stock and cook until it is all absorbed. Taste and adjust the seasonings before serving.

I know that this year has been trying. There are always reasons to give thanks. I hope you spend some time with your loved ones this holiday season. It’s something I think we all need and can give thanks for.

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