AMF’s friend group has been holding an annual friendsgiving feast for some time. Every year there is a contest for the best side dish. This year they got a trophy to award to the winner. I knew I had to have the trophy and started planning my strategy in early October. By planning my strategy, I mean I scoured the web for delicious sounding recipes and saved them all to a secret Pinterest board. In the end, I decided to make my recipe for butternut squash rissoto and tried a savory version of sweet potato casserole. I am happy to report I won the trophy.
I was not originally planning to blog about these recipes because I try to focus on healthy eating, so I did not take any photos of the cooking process or finished products. I’ve had a few requests for my recipes, so here they are. Maybe next year I will try to defend my Friendsgiving Champion title with a healthy Thanksgiving side, that will be a fun challenge!
First Place: Loaded Sweet Potato Cassarole
2 40oz cans of sweet potatoes/yams in syrup
1 stick of butter (I use True Goodness by Meijer organic)
1 package of organic uncured smoked bacon
2 cups sharp cheddar
2 tsp seasoning salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1.) Preheat oven to 325. I ended up baking mine on our friends’ big green egg because their oven was occupied. Cook bacon until crisp using your favorite method. I did mine on a sheet pan in the oven at 325 for 20 minutes while I prepared the potatoes.
2.) Strain sweet potatoes and add to a large pot on medium heat. Add butter. Use potato masher to mash sweet potatoes to a mashed potato like consistancy. Cook until butter is melted and potatoes are warm.
3.) Add seasoning salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Stir gently and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
4.) Turn heat to low. Add cream and 1 cup of cheese. Gently stir and cook until mixture is well combined and cheese is melted.
5.) Transfer mixture to a square baking pan (9×9 or 8×8). Top with remaining cheese. Bake until cheese is melted and edges are browned. Top with chopped bacon. Garnish with green onions, if desired.
Second Place: Butternut Squash Rissoto
2 lbs cubed butternut squash (I buy the fresh cubed squash from Costco)
1.5 cups short grain arborio rice ( I use this kind, also available in most grocery stores in packs of one for around the same cost per unit as Amazon)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 stick (4 TBS) butter
1/2 bottle of dry white wine (I used Le Crema Chardonnay from Costco)
Salt and pepper to taste (I used garlic salt)
1 cup fresh shaved parmesan
1/2 cup heavy cream
Fried Sage: 1 package fresh sage + 4 TBS butter
1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roast squash in a single layer on parchment paper. I typically drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Confession: this time I cooked the squash in leftover bacon grease from the sweet potato casserole. The pan was already ready and bacon is delicious… I couldn’t help it. Cook squash for 40-50 minutes or until soft and brown. Turn 1-2 times while baking.
2.) Add 4 TBS butter to dutch oven on medium high heat. Add onion. Cook until translucent. (3 minutes or so)
3.) Add arborio rice and stir into onions and butter. Turn heat to medium low. Measure out 1/2 cup of broth and add 1/2 cup wine. Heat wine and broth in microwave until it is warm (30 seconds or so).
4.) Pour warmed broth/wine mixture into rice and stir. Measure out the next 1/2 cup wine and 1/2 cup broth and heat in micro. Stir current batch until rice has absorbed most of the liquid. The rice is ready for more liquid when you stir to the bottom of the dutch oven and there is no liquid in the bottom of he pan. Stir frequently while cooking the liquid into the rice.
5.) Prepare a new batch of wine/broth, heat, and add to rice. Repeats steps 4 and 5 until you have added a total of 6 cups of liquid to your rice. The whole process should take around an hour and require a lot of stirring. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6.) Stir in parmesan, heavy cream and roasted butternut squash.
7.) Remove stems from fresh sage. Melt butter in frying pan over medium high heat. Fry sage in butter. Sage is done when it’s crispy and browned. Drain sage on a paper towel and allow to cool. Sprinkle with garlic salt. Chop and add to rissoto.
Note: I made a double batch and used a whole bottle of wine, 4lbs of butternut squash and 3 cups of rice. It was WAY too much for our group of 15-20. I transferred the finished rissoto to a crock pot and served it heated to low.
Bonus Recipe: Bacon Bourbon Pecan Pie
1 refrigerated pie crust (I’ve never mastered pie crust, my MIL taught me a new recipe I hope to get the hang of soon)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 TBS Bourbon
1/3 cup butter
3 eggs lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup pecan halves
16oz uncured smoked bacon, cooked extra crispy and chopped into small pieces
1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare pie crust in 9″ pie plate. Bake pie crust for 10 minutes. Cover the edges with aluminum foil.2.) While pie crust is baking, stir together butter, corn syrup, sugar, Bourbon, eggs and vanilla.
3.) Roast pecan halves and chopped pecans on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 10-15 minutes
4.) Mix roasted pecans into filling mixture. Fill baked pie crust and bake for 10 minutes with crust covered with aluminum foil.
5.) Remove pie from oven and top with bacon pieces. Push bacon pieces down into pie.
6.) Return to oven and bake for an additional 40 minutes. Remove aluminum from crust during last 10 minutes of baking.