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Potluck: Thanksgiving calls for new side dishes

I was getting worried. I was afraid it was going to be a BYOC Thanksgiving this year.

That’s Bring Your Own Chair.

It’s been 16 months since the storm took the roof of my newly remodeled kitchen and adjoining dining room. The table and chairs I had were ruined. I figured I’d just pick out a new set.

Ah, but I’m not so easy to please. I didn’t want wooden seats this time. Too hard on the butt. Also, I was looking for a table and six chairs, roomy but small enough that everyone could eat within slapping distance.

But what color wood did I want? What shape of table?

Online shopping produced lots of possibilities, with the probability of a BYOS Thanksgiving — that’s bring your own screwdriver — because it’s an assembly job beyond my capabilities.

I found a wonderful farm table at the Riverside Outlet store, but that left the daunting task of picking out chairs to go with it.

Finally, months later, I found something that meets all my requirements. The table is glass and chrome. The chairs are fully upholstered in a dark red leather (not vinyl), back and seat.

Granted, it’s not everyone’s taste, but it’s mine. To me, the red chairs rock with the black countertops and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen.

I now feel complete. Let the Thanksgiving planning begin.

In addition to my potato casserole and granddaughter Kaylie’s squash casserole, what in the world are we going to have for Thanksgiving dinner besides turkey?

Without new ideas, I might be reduced to canned corn again.

I grabbed a couple of old Southwest Times Record Potluck Cookbooks to see what I could find.

From 1980, I found an interesting recipe for sweet potato sticks submitted by Mrs. E.C. Etter of Fort Smith.

I like this idea.

Glazed Sweet Potato Sticks

6 sweet potatoes or yams

1 can (6 ounces) frozen orange juice, thawed and undiluted

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 large orange, sliced

Cook potatoes until tender. Peel and cut in sticks. Place in shallow baking dish. Blend orange juice, butter, sugar and salt (no, there is no salt listed; I guess salt to taste) and heat only until well blended. Pour over potatoes and place orange slices on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, basting well.

Makes 6 servings.

I’ve had potato casserole and I’ve had broccoli casserole, but I’ve never had potato-broccoli casserole. I found this one in a 1982 cookbook. The recipe is credited to June Boyd of Fort Smith.

Potato-Broccoli Casserole

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Dash ground nutmeg

2 cups milk

3 ounces cream cheese

1/2 cup (2 ounces) Swiss cheese

4 cups (16 ounces) frozen hash brown potatoes

1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped broccoli, cooked and drained

1/4 cup fine bread crumbs

1 tablespoon butter

Melt 2 tablespoons butter. Blend in flour and seasonings. Add milk. Cook, stirring, until bubbly. Add cheeses; stir until melted. Stir in potatoes. Place 1/2 of mixture in a 10x6x2-inch casserole. Top with cooked and drained broccoli. Spoon remaining potato mixture over broccoli. Cover bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Mix bread crumbs and 1 tablespoon butter, melted. Sprinkle around edges of casserole. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

Apparently we quit giving readers credit for their recipes in 1984, so I don’t know who to thank for this squash casserole. Kaylie’s already got squash covered, but if you’re looking for something a little different …

Savory Squash

1 1/2 pounds yellow summer squash or zucchini, sliced

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 cups cooked rice

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon seasoned pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 cup soft bread crumbs

1/2 cup sliced almonds, optional

Cover and cook squash and onion in a small amount of water in a saucepan until squash is tender but not soft. Drain well. Combine with rice, cheese and seasonings. Blend together eggs and mayonnaise; stir into vegetable mixture. Turn into a buttered shallow 2-quart casserole dish. Top with bread crumbs and almonds. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Makes 6 top 8 servings.

It’s a good thing I looked in the file drawer for one more side dish, because I found out we were giving credit to readers again in 1987, which is rather funny because the first recipe I looked at was credited to … me.

It was for a chicken casserole and for some reason it starts with a package of noodles romanoff.

I made strange things a quarter-century ago.

A few columns over is where I found this holiday dressing credited to Joie Jeffords of Fort Smith.

Plantation Cornbread Dressing

1 1/2 cups diced celery

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped green pepper

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

6 cups cornbread crumbs

2 slices toasted bread or day-old rolls

3 eggs

4 good pieces of chicken (I guess she means to skip the neck or wings)

3 chicken bouillon cubes

Water

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 soup can milk, or more if very moist dressing is desired

Salt, pepper, garlic and sage to taste

Simmer chicken pieces in bouillon and water to barely cover until done.

Take chicken off the bone.

In a skillet, saute celery, onion and green pepper in butter. Remove from heat and stir in chicken soup and milk. Cook until smooth. Add dry ingredients. Add milk, eggs, chicken and seasoning. Spread in a large baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

I still have to decide on what kind of bread or rolls to serve.

I’ve been on the lookout for something different.

Usually when I open an email from King Arthur Flour, it’s a sales ad. Last week, the company was offering free shipping with the purchase of a bread proofer ($147.95).

If I made a lot of bread, I might consider one, but I don’t.

Below the photo of the proofer is a tease: “At last! You’ve been asking for a recipe for dense, tender, ‘cheese-y’ salt-rising bread for years; here it is.”

I’m embarrassed to say I have no idea what salt-rising bread is. Have I ever eaten it? I don’t think so.

Well, I had to click.

The company credits the late cookbook author Bernard Clayton for the recipe, who in turn cited its publication by the Ladies Aid Society of the First Presbyterian Church of Polson, Mont., in 1912.

King Arthur urges readers to read the entire recipe before starting in order to plan a timeline.

“We also suggest you read our tips, below — so you’re not surprised by the bread’s unusual aroma as it rises and bakes.”

This bread begins with a starter and you don’t use any yeast.

However, after reading the whole thing, trusty old Sister Schubert is looking better and better.

Classic American Salt-Rising Bread

Starter 1:

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons cornmeal

1 teaspoon sugar

Starter 2:

1 cup hot water (120 degrees to 130 degrees)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Dough:

4 tablespoons soft butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

To make Starter 1: Heat the milk until it’s nearly but not quite boiling; small bubbles will form around the edge of the pan (or microwave container), and you might see a bit of steam. This is called “scalding” the milk.

Combine the scalded milk, cornmeal and sugar in a small heatproof container. The container should be large enough to let the starter expand a bit.

Cover the container with plastic wrap and place it somewhere warm, between 90 degrees and 100 degrees. (King Arthur food experts write, “We find our turned-off electric oven, with the light turned on for about 2 hours ahead of time, holds a temperature of 95 degrees to 97 degrees, perfect for this starter.”)

Let the starter rest in its warm place overnight, or for 8 to 12 hours. It won’t expand much, but will develop a bubbly foam on its surface. It’ll also smell a bit fermented. If it doesn’t bubble at all, and doesn’t smell fermented, your starter has failed; try again, using different cornmeal, or finding a warmer spot.

To make Starter 2: Combine the hot water (120 degrees to 130 degrees) with the salt, baking soda and sugar, stirring to combine. Add the flour, stirring until everything is thoroughly moistened.

Stir Starter 1 into Starter 2.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the same warm spot Starter 1 was in. Let it rest until very bubbly and doubled in size, 2 to 4 hours. If it’s not showing any bubbles after a couple of hours, move it somewhere warmer. If it still doesn’t bubble after a couple of hours, give it up; you’ll need to start over.

(I don’t know about you, readers, but I’m getting a little worried about attempting this.)

Transfer your bubbly starter to a larger bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer (or your bread machine bucket).

Stir in the soft butter, salt and flour. Knead until smooth; the dough will be soft and fairly elastic/stretchy.

Shape the dough into a log and place it in a lightly greased 8 1/2x4 1/2-inch loaf pan.

Cover the pan, and place it back in its warm spot. Let the loaf rise until it’s crowned about 1/2 to 3/4 inch over the rim of the pan, which could take up to 4 hours or so. This won’t form the typical large, domed top; it will rise straight up, with just a slight dome.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, until it’s nicely browned. Again, it won’t rise much; that’s OK.

Remove the bread from the oven; if you have a digital thermometer, it should read about 190 degrees to 200 degrees at its center. Wait 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

Store cooled bread at room temperature for 5 to 7 days; freeze for longer storage.

Makes 1 loaf.

King Arthur Tips: “If you’ve never made salt-rising bread, please be prepared to trust us through some of the following procedures. Yes, it’s supposed to smell that way. Yes, it’s very important to keep the starter warm. If you’re willing to take on a challenge (which this will be, if you live in a drafty house in a cold climate), the end result will be a distinctively flavored, fine-grained loaf of bread that will stay fresh for almost a week; and makes wonderful toast, as well.

“The bread’s aroma is redolent of cheese, but there’s no cheese in this bread; the flavor comes from the slight fermentation of the ingredients, during the bread’s preparation. Speaking of fermentation, be prepared; the starter and dough will smell like … dirty socks? Old sneakers mixed with Parmesan cheese? Somewhat unpleasant, anyway, but please bear with it — it’s just the enzymes and bacteria doing their jobs and giving the bread its special qualities.”

Still want to make this bread?

Good luck. I’d wait until after the holidays. Who knows what the house will smell like after you’re done.

Looking for a recipe? Have one you’d like to share? Write to Potluck, Times Record, P.O. Box 1359, Fort Smith, AR 72902. Email: jharshaw@swtimes.com

(Jay Harshaw is a page designer and food editor for the Times Record. She also writes a weekly food column, “Potluck.” She began her newspaper career in 1986 as a features clerk before becoming a reporter and copy editor. She is originally from California and attended Cal State Fullerton.)

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