I’ve been feeling a little down. I blame it on Thanksgiving vegetable side dishes.
Thanksgiving is the Superbowl of cooking. I’ve nailed turkey, and taken satisfaction from thick rich gravy. Traditional sides like perfect mashed potatoes, and my grandmother’s basic bread stuffing deliver comfort.
However, each year I seek fresh excitement from new sides, exciting takes on root vegetables and greens, pumpkins, and various members of the brassica family. Two years ago it was a kale and cauliflower gratin. Last year was a celery root, turnip and rutabaga gratin.
This year I was stumped. Nothing was exciting me. I’ve roasted carrots in honey and thyme (delicious), glazed cippolini onions with pomegranate vinegar and topped cranberry compote with cider-braised pork belly. Where was the next big adventure?
I stumbled into it this past week. At the end of a night of recipe development I needed one more for my Saturday market demo. I sliced sweet potatoes into thin quarter rounds so they would cook fast. After nearly burning them in butter and oil, I added some cider and braised them until tender.
While the potatoes cooked, I pulled a bag of field spinach – the stuff with a little tooth – from the fridge and fried up bacon for a hot vinaigrette. I added the last tablespoons from a jar of jalapeño jelly from the fridge and brightened it with a healthy splash of cider vinegar. I tossed the spinach together with the cider glazed potatoes and tossed it all in the hot bacon fat dressing.
I took a quick bite and plated it for photographs. After a couple shots, my photographer, Matt, and friend, Nancy, took a quick bite. “This is really good!” they both said.
I guess so. When I turned around, the bowl was empty.
So how good is it? Nancy is serving it for Thanksgiving. It will adorn Matt’s holiday table too. And, with lifted spirits, I’ll add a large bowl to our meal this year. Happy Thanksgiving!
Sweet potatoes + spinach with hot bacon vinaigrette
Make it vegetarian: We received several requests today for a vegetarian version. Skip the bacon and start by warming 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Proceed with sautéing the shallots and, if you have some, whisk in a tablespoon of red miso paste before dressing the spinach.
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs butter
- 1 cup apple cider
- White pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- 3 slices thick-cut bacon
- 1 shallot, minced
- 3 tbs jalapeno jelly
- 1 tbs mustard
- 1/3 cup Cider vinegar
- 1/2 lb of field spinach*
*This is not the salad for tender, baby spinach. The hot vinaigrette will melt it. Use spinach with a little more substance.
- Quarter sweet potatoes lengthwise and cut in thin slices.
- Melt butter together with oil in a 3 quart sauté pan over medium heat. Add potatoes and cook 5 minutes until they begin to brown.
- Add cider to potatoes, cover and cook until fork tender. Uncover and let any remaining cider reduce to a glaze. Season to taste with salt, white pepper, nutmeg and cayenne.
- Meanwhile, cook bacon in a 10” skillet over medium low heat, browning on both sides. Remove to paper towels.
- Add shallot to bacon fat, turn heat to medium and cook until softened. Add jelly and mustard. When jelly “melts” whisk in cider vinegar. Cook, reducing slightly.
- Chop bacon and toss with spinach and potatoes. Toss with hot vinaigrette.