While I love the traditions of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I also try to honor the various traditions and dietary needs and quirks of my expanding family. Last year, preparing my first big family Thanksgiving meal since Lev’s death, I borrowed a leaf from the creative new American chefs and used old ingredients in new ways. Nowhere was that more obvious than in my sweet potato and pumpkin recipes below. Though a few might have missed traditional sweet potatoes and pumpkin and pecan pies, my innovative menu was enthusiastically received.
Gingered Pumpkin Soup with Molasses Cream
The Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook, p. 37
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 16-oz. cans unsweetened pumpkin puree
4 cups chicken or vegetarian stock
2 cups half-and-half
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and pepper to taste
In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring often, until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in pumpkin and chicken stock. Increase temperature to high and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to low. Pour in cream; stir in sugar and ginger; season with salt and pepper. Do not boil. Heat until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls. Serve with a dollop of molasses cream on top. Serves 8-10.
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons dark molasses
Combine cream and molasses in a large chilled bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until the cream forms soft peaks.
Note: Do not omit the cream to cut calories. The soup is too thin without it. The molasses gives an extraordinary flavor to the whipped cream and would be delicious on pumpkin pie as well. I turned my sweet potato pone into an English pudding for Christmas dessert with the addition of molasses cream.
Sweet Potato Pone
Neiman Marcus Taste, p. 186
A nice twist on traditional Southern sweet potato casserole. The majority of the family preferred the texture of the pone when I served it last Thanksgiving. I turned around and served it with Molasses Cream (recipe above) as dessert at my Christmas dinner.
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled (about 6 cups)
5 large eggs
2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 3-quart, deep, round casserole dish. Grate sweet potatoes. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with condensed milk, vanilla and milk. Stir in melted butter, cinnamon and pecans. Add sweet potatoes. Pour the pone mixture into the casserole dish; bake one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serves 8-10.