Turkeys and hams grab the spotlight on our holiday tables, and perhaps that’s as it should be. A few folks might go for a Christmas goose, or even a round of beef, but who gives serious attention to the sides? I do and I hope you do too.
We tend to push aside the old standard side dishes that we relish all year long and go for souped up versions of candied yams, scalloped potatoes and fancy casseroles (although a few of the more serious cooks may make these dishes on a Sunday whim). But a good holiday side doesn’t have to be exotic or even adventurous.
Rouses has recently had Mississippi grown white sweet potatoes that are amazing. I am pretty sure these were grown in Vardaman, the Sweet Potato Capital of the World, as everyone knows. What makes these sweet potatoes special is that they are so sweet, and I mean candy sweet. Pop a few in the oven and roast until tender, cut them in half and sear in hot butter until they are brown and crusty. Yum! Another great and easy idea is to make mashed sweet potatoes, with a puddle of melted butter in the middle. If you want to take it a step further, add collard greens that have been simmered in ham stock until tender. It’s a Mississippi take on Irish colcannon.
Speaking of mashed potatoes, have you ever made pancakes out of them? Add a little flour, an egg, maybe some corn that has been browned in butter, season well, and sauté until crispy and they are a real treat. For some reason they go very well with a dollop of fig preserves. Just try it!
An old standard that never gets old are greens. Collard, turnip or mustard greens may be seriously old school but are delicious and healthy. Collard greens are my favorite, but there are a few tricks you have to keep in mind to get them right. Number one is to not overcook them and turn them into mush. Greens should have a little crunch to them, like most vegetables What really makes for delicious greens is the stock you cook them in. Spend an hour simmering a good ham stock (ham, an onion, a carrot and maybe a hot pepper), and your greens will be tender, delicious and wonderful.
Do I need to remind you again that you should be shopping the local certified farmers markets? The Saturday Ocean Springs market is my favorite and it will also be open on Sundays until Christmas. The freshest and best produce can be found there, along with herbs, a few snacks, but they one booth you do not want to miss is Chef Robby Holms, who is a world class baker and always has baked goods that will blow you away. His breads are some of the best I have ever had, anywhere in the world,
One last suggestion, OK? If you know someone who just might be alone over the holidays, please remember them. Nothing is worse than spending a family holiday by yourself.