Thanksgiving is just around the corner and it’s time to start thinking about what to bring to dinner to accompany that juicy turkey. I have fond memories of the Thanksgiving dinner table. Family and friends gathered around the table that is overflowing with amazing dishes that are sure to delight our taste buds and fill our tummies with warmth, goodness and love.
It has been tradition since the very first Thanksgiving that the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving dinner feast be a big, juicy turkey. It has been said that the Native Americans introduced Pilgrims to turkeys, bringing them to the first Thanksgiving feast. Many delicious dishes have since become tradition to accompany the turkey, including mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, yams and sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, hot rolls and of course pumpkin pie.
My dad was the only person allowed to cut the turkey and it was an important event in itself. All of the amazing smelling dishes were already set on the table, but none of us could dig in until dad sliced the turkey. He would put his apron on and pull out his special knife that was only used at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Before slicing into the turkey, he would say a prayer and we would all give thanks. Then finally, he would cut the first slice and then my brother and I would fight over who would get the biggest piece of the browned turkey skin, my personal favorite! Then dinner officially began with friends and family passing around the endless dishes from left to right, filling our plates, trying to get a sample of everything that was passed around until there was no more space on the dinner plate.
As I am writing this I can almost taste some of our family favorites that are served each Thanksgiving. Each family has their own special must have dishes that have become tradition. What side dish is a must have tradition at your home?
This year I want to share with you a twist on an old favorite that is served each year at our table. Candied yams have always been on our family table. They were prepared mashed up with tons of butter, brown sugar, spices and topped with marshmallows. These are no doubt delicious, but I want preserve the goodness of the yam and make the yam the highlight of the dish instead of the roasted marshmallows on top. My Maple Glazed Yams and Cranberries have just the right amount of sweetness, perfect unadulterated texture, the maple glaze with the hint of orange, cinnamon, ginger offers the perfect combination of sweetness and spice and the cranberries add a burst of delicious tart flavor. They are sure to delight your taste buds, add beautiful color to your Thanksgiving table and make your friends and family smile. Whatever you serve at your Thanksgiving table this year, whomever you break bread with, remember to look around at the little things and give thanks for all of the blessings in your life. Happy Thanksgiving!
Preparing the Yams
One trick to making these yams turn out just perfect. Boil a pot of water. Place peeled yams in boiling water and set the timer for 3 minutes. Then immediately remove them from the boiling water and place in a colander until ready to slice. If you aren’t going to slice right away, have some ice cubes surrounding them to cool them down. A lot of yam casseroles dice up the yams. I like to slice mine lengthwise in half and then slice them into 1/4 inch slices. This not only makes for a beautiful presentation, but each slice is the perfect thickness, allows for even baking and a perfect texture. Layer the sliced yams in your casserole dish. You can use any 9 x 13 pan or since it’s Thanksgiving, if you have a decorative casserole dish, pull it out and use it. It will just make the dish even more beautiful. Layer the yams in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Then add next layer and repeat, assuring that each yam slice is salted.
For the cranberries. The maple glaze will give the cranberries a wonderful sweetness, but they may still be tart for some. If you don’t like the natural tartness of cranberries, you can make them sweeter by slicing them in half before simmering them in the glaze. When they are sliced in half and then simmered in the glaze it allows the glaze to soak more into the cranberries, making them a little sweeter.
Finally, cover them with foil and bake. It is a good idea about halfway through baking to remove from oven and use a spoon and gently pull some of the liquid up off the sides and spoon it over the top of the yams to help keep them extra moist. Repeat when you remove them from the oven. You will know they are done when you can easily stick a fork into the yam. You want to be able to stick a fork in them easily but have them keep their shape and not fall apart when doing so. This dish can be prepared in the morning and baked in the afternoon if desired.
Maple Glazed Yams & Cranberries
3-4 large yams, peeled
½ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup brown sugar
6 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. fresh orange zest
¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger
2 cups fresh cranberries
Salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 350°.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile peel the yams with a potato peeler. Place yams in boiling water for 3 minutes, no longer, then remove from boiling water. Slice yams in half lengthwise. Then slice into ¼ inch slices. In 9 x 13 casserole dish or decorative baking dish, place slice yams in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt. Then place second layer of sliced yams on top, and again sprinkle with salt.
In a small saucepan, add butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice, zest, cinnamon and ginger. Heat over medium low heat until butter is melted. Add cranberries and simmer for about 5 minutes. Pour cranberries and sauce evenly over sliced yams, making sure each yam is covered with the sauce. Cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes or until yams are tender when pricked with a fork. Half way through baking, use a spoon and drizzle the glaze over the top of the yams to keep them moist and repeat when removing from oven.
- 3-4 large yams, peeled
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 6 Tbsp. butter
- 2 tsp. fresh orange zest
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ginger
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- Salt, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile peel the yams with a potato peeler. Place yams in boiling water for 3 minutes, no longer, then remove from boiling water.
- Slice yams in half lengthwise. Then slice into ¼ inch slices. In 9 x 13 casserole dish or decorative baking dish, place slice yams in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt. Then place second layer of sliced yams on top, and again sprinkle with salt.
- In a small saucepan, add butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice, zest, cinnamon and ginger. Heat over medium low heat until butter is melted. Add cranberries and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Pour cranberries and sauce evenly over sliced yams, making sure each yam is covered with the sauce. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until yams are tender when pricked with a fork. Half way through baking, use a spoon and drizzle the glaze over the top of the yams to keep them moist and repeat when removing from oven.