Holiday season is among us! The most wonderful time of the year!
As a child, Thanksgiving was the most important and most anticipated food holiday of the year for me. Christmas was all about gifts and family bonding, but Thanksgiving? It was all about the food! I would mentally prepare myself for the feast, devising a plan for what I would eat first, what I’d save for last, and how many plates I’d attempt that year. The goal was to be as stuffed as Winnie the Pooh after devouring all the honey.
Thanksgiving was my late-grandmother’s holiday; she was the chef of the family. There was an immense joy road-tripping to see her and knowing that she’d be preparing my favorite dishes, all in one trip. Every year, I was amazed with the amount of food she prepared, as if it weren’t the norm. From fried turkey, baked turkey, ham, pot roast, and roasted chicken, you were sure to need a nap before leaving her house. However, despite the variety of meats, the most important part of Thanksgiving dinner was THE SIDES! Her famous macaroni and cheese was the main reason we all gathered drooling around the table, along with her sweet potato pie.
While the sides held the utmost importance for our family, I’m sure we’re not alone in this sentiment. Mac and cheese, stuffing, cranberry sauce, casseroles (such as green bean or sweet potato), gravy, mashed potatoes, cornbread, dinner rolls, candied yams, collard greens, deviled eggs – I can taste them all already! Thanksgiving was not the time to experiment with the dinner menu. Every year, the same dishes. Every year, the same excitement. Every year, rekindled nostalgia.
Thanksgiving sides have made appearances in a few food product developments in recent years. From Brach’s Turkey Dinner Candy Corn to Jelly Belly’s Holiday Favorites Jellybeans, to Baskin-Robbin’s newest ice cream flavor of the month, Turkey Day Fixins, the sides remain the unsung heroes of the holidays.
Apart from the macaroni and cheese, candied sweet potatoes are my second favorite side dish. The sweet, caramelized, earthy, slightly nutty, & buttery brown notes of the sweet potatoes pair so perfectly with the salty, buttery, cheesiness of the macaroni.
Sweet potatoes often go unnoticed during seasonal flavor trends. In my opinion, sweet potatoes tend to be overshadowed by Fall’s notorious, yet underwhelming pumpkin spice. With similar combinations of warm spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and clove, the flavor of sweet potato is enhanced, while the flavor of pumpkin is subtle and slightly overpowered. Yet, we still haven’t hopped on the Sweet Potato Spiced Latte trend.
As a self-proclaimed PSL hater, I propose that we make the underrated sweet potato spice the transitional fall-to-winter sensation! We don’t have to replace pumpkin spice, but let’s give it some genuine competition. Just imagine all the possibilities!
Beyond candied sweet potatoes and sweet potato pie, a plethora of sweet potato pairings are waiting to be explored. Some of my favorites include sweet potato cheesecake, sweet potato poundcake, and sweet potato cornbread. I’ve been using this recipe for Sweet Potato Cornbread with Peach Bourbon Butter for a couple of years now and it’s been a hit from the beginning – the one time I was allowed to try something new for Thanksgiving dinner, it turned out great!
The combination of sweet potato and cornbread creates a moist yet rich taste with a hint of familiarity. The additional peach bourbon butter takes this recipe and its complex flavor profile to another level. The only recipe adjustments I make for personal preference are roasting the sweet potatoes in the oven until they caramelize and cooking down sliced peaches with whatever bourbon I have on hand, sugar, and cinnamon.
*Warning* – if you prepare this sweet potato cornbread for your holiday meal this year, you will be tasked with making this dish for all future holidays. So CHEERS to the start of new traditions and honoring the warmth and nostalgia of the foods and people that bring us together!
Sweet Potato Cornbread with Peach Bourbon Butter
· 3 Cup self-rising White Cornmeal
· 1 Cup Brown Sugar
· 1/2 Cup White Sugar
· 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
· 1 tsp Cinnamon
· 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
· 2 Cup cooked sweet potato (you will mash them)
· 3 eggs
· 1 Cup Half and Half
· 1 Cup Heavy Cream
· 1/2 Cup butter (for sauce)
· 1 Cup Peach Bourbon – I used Deep Eddy Peach Bourbon
1. Wash and pierce your sweet potatoes 4-5 times with a fork. Heat in a microwave-safe bowl for about 5 minutes, flip, then cook for another 5 minutes or until soft.
2. Spray your cast iron skillet with non-stick oil and set it in the oven while you preheat to 425F.
3. In a large mixing bowl, mix your dry ingredients, then add all your wet ingredients and gently fold them all together. – Your mix should be smooth and kind of thick, but you don’t want to over mix.
4. Bake at 425F for about 30 minutes. The top should be golden and puffy with visible cracks around the edge.
5. While your sweet potato cornbread is baking, start your Peach Bourbon Butter so it’s ready to pour on top as soon as you take the cornbread out of the oven.
6. Pour 1 cup of the bourbon into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. As it boils, the water evaporates and the bourbon will reduce down. You want it to slightly stick to a spoon (about 15 minutes)
7. Remove from heat and add a stick of butter to the bourbon and stir until melted.
8. Once your sweet potato cornbread is golden brown and the toothpick comes out clean, you will pour the bourbon butter over top.
9. Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy!