Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. As a kid, I’d get up with my parents at 6 a.m. and watch them wrestle a giant Butterball into a paper bag. By noon, the bag had invariably split, spilling turkey juices all over the oven and bathing the house in a smoky haze.
It was bliss.
I returned to my childhood home for Thanksgiving through my 20s and early 30s. Then I got married and decided to host my own dinner. I invited work friends, my stepdaughter and my in-laws. I forgot to take the plastic-wrapped giblets out of the turkey. I also tried to roast the 18-pound bird in a broiler pan. Drippings quickly flooded the oven, and we ate dinner amid a smoky haze.
At 4, my oldest son grabbed onto my enthusiasm for Thanksgiving. He woke early, watched as I put together the turkey (plastic-wrapped giblets out of the bird and on the counter), then helped me mash the potatoes and stir the dressing.
At bedtime, he looked at me and said, “That’s all it was? A dinner?”
Well, yes. There’s no Turkey Bunny or Pumpkin Claus. So for my son?
Not so much bliss.
“You get the turkey, and the cranberries and the mashed potatoes, and the pumpkin pie, and those sweet potato things.”
“Oh, Sammy,” I said. “I’m not going to make the sweet potato things this year.”
“What? You have to make the sweet potato things. Don’t make the dressing.”
Yes, I have a budding foodie. A child who shares my love of this holiday where we gather around a table, pause in our busyness and reflect on the blessings of family and friends. It may be hokey, but for me and mine …
… it’s bliss.
Sweet Potato Things (aka Sweet Potato Brulee, courtesy of Bon Appetit)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prick 3 large sweet potatoes all over with a fork, then bake on a baking sheet until tender, about 1 hour. Cool 30 minutes, then peel. Place in a food processor, and puree until smooth.
Whisk 3/4 cup whipping cream, 3 large egg yolks, 1 1/2 tablespoons packed golden brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg in a large bowl to blend. Whisk 2 1/2 cups sweet potato puree into the cream mixture.
Turn oven down to 350 degrees. Butter 8 3/4-cup ramekins. Divide sweet potato custard among cups. Place in a 13X9X2-inch metal baking pan. Add enough hot water to come halfway up sides of cups. Cover pan with foil. Bake custards 1 hour. Uncover pan. Bake until custards are firm in center, about 15 minutes more.
Remove from water. Chill uncovered until cold, at least 2 hours. (You can do all this up to two days ahead, which is a godsend this time of year! Simply cover the custards and keep them in the fridge.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Transfer sweet potato custards to baking sheet and rewarm for 15 minutes.
Preheat broiler. Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon sugar over each custard. Broil about 2 minutes, or until sugar melts and browns, rotating pans so custards broil evenly. Serve warm.