When I think of Thanksgiving, cooking and hosting comes to mind. I have been hosting the big feast for a few years now. I wouldn't have it any other way, but do realize most people are invited to a friend's or family member's house and are confused about the perfect dish to take. As the host, I have a proper menu planned and if someone offers to bring something, I give him or her a choice out of the list of dishes for the meal. Most hosts are not as controlling as 'yours truly', making it a lot easier for the person contributing to the feast.
A few things to remember when thinking about the perfect dish to take: it needs to be something you can make ahead of time. Preferably it should be either served room temperature or can be heated up in a microwave, as we all know oven space is a premium on Thanksgiving or any other big get together.
I have a couple things up my sleeve to make things easier for you as well as the host. One of things I usually serve before the big dinner is some kind of a cheese platter. Last time I made a fig and apricot compote to accompany the cheese. I laid out some crackers with a bowl of compote, goat cheese as well as Manchego. The combination of the sweet and tangy compote is amazing with the creamy, tangy cheese.
The dried fruit is cooked in a combination of fresh orange and lemon juice. A drizzle of honey and a dash of salt completes this quick cooking compote. It is cooked for all of 15 minutes until it turns all thick and gooey. I would highly recommend this to take to someone's house. You can make it the night before and take the cheeses along with a wooden cutting board to create a beautiful platter.
Another spectacular dish to take is a sweet potato soup. I am particularly proud of this recipe. As I was looking at my holiday recipes, I realized I didn't have a soup. Since I am not a big soup person, I don't think of including one while planning a menu. This time I forced myself to come up with a really delicious recipe. I started with fresh sweet potatoes that I roasted in the oven and combined with some roasted cumin seeds, an onion and garlic. Did I mention I was trying to take the Latin route- it is one of my favorite cuisines and I love mixing things up for Thanksgiving. I also added a chipotle pepper to enhance the smoky flavor. Some chicken broth, brown sugar and a few other ingredients later I had a delicious soup. Sweet potatoes are very healthy for you but their consistency can be a bit dense, even in a soup form. In order to cut the richness I made cranberry compote. I started with fresh cranberries and cooked them in orange juice. I added orange zest, brown sugar and to mimic the smokiness of the soup I added smoked paprika. To finish the sweet savory compote I added chopped cilantro.
If you take this to someone's house- be aware- they might ask you to make this every year, which would be fine since it is super simple to make. You will be a rock star at the Thanksgiving dinner.
Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup with Smoked Paprika Cranberry Compote
- 4 to 5 medium sweet potatoes, skin pierced with a fork
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the sweet potatoes on a cookie sheet and roast till cooked, about half an hour to forty minutes. Take out and let cool. Take the skin off and roughly chopped.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon roasted cumin seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 chipotle pepper, chopped
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 cups chicken broth
- ¼ cup half and half
- ¼ cup milk
- Zest of a lime
- Juice of half a lime
Heat a heavy saucepan and add the olive oil. Add the roasted cumin seeds and sauté for 20 seconds on medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, chipotle pepper, brown sugar and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Blend the mixture in a blender until smooth. Transfer back to the saucepan and add the half and half and milk. Mix well and add salt. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes and turn the heat off. Add the lime zest and juice. Mix well and check for seasonings.
Serve the soup with a dollop of compote.
Smoked Paprika and Cranberry Compote
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup cilantro, chopped
Bring the cranberries, orange juice, zest, smoked paprika, salt and brown sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Simmer, covered for about ten minutes or till the cranberries burst open. Check for seasonings and cook uncovered for another two to three minutes. Turn heat off and add the cilantro.