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Cookbook Review

Fred Thompson's Southern Sides: Your Quick Fix For Thanksgiving Side Dish Monotony + His Sweet Potato "Guacamole" (!) Recipe

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Tue, Nov 13, 2012 at 7:00 AM
click to enlarge Fred Thompson's Southern Sides Cookbook - UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS
  • University of North Carolina Press
  • Fred Thompson's Southern Sides Cookbook

If you're feeling uninspired by the same Thanksgiving sides, you've still got time to order a copy of Fred Thompson's Southern Sides for express delivery before the turkey oven timer goes off.

Sure, California is miles from the South, at least last we checked the election results. And the topic of Southern sides has been covered so often by various authors, we certainly weren't pining for another book on the topic. And yet just a few pages in, the prolific cookbook author had our full attention with his recipe tributes to fresh heirloom beans and peas (Pink-Eye shell beans, late harvest October beans, Dixie Lee peas, fresh butter beans) as well as those old-school pintos, that we'll be trying throughout the year.

But first, there's that Thanksgiving menu of countless side dishes to finalize. Appetizers, too, perhaps even Thompson's sweet potato "guacamole" that has an oddly compelling bi-coastal holiday ring to it. Get more, and that "guacamole" recipe, after the jump.

Part of Thompson's charm is how he nestles nostalgic Jell-O salad and his mom's turkey stuffing (with cream of chicken soup) recipes between those for more fresh ingredient-oriented fare. Recipes like oven-roasted sunchokes with warm bacon vinaigrette, and a classic (but canned soup-free) Appalachian cabbage pudding ("one of my holiday favorites," he says). And really, even in the current farmers market-fresh era, isn't generational recipe diversity what Thanksgiving is all about?

click to enlarge Cornbread, Apple and Sausage Dressing with Dried Cranberries - UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS/ FRED THOMPSON
  • University of North Carolina Press/ Fred Thompson
  • Cornbread, Apple and Sausage Dressing with Dried Cranberries

As are those enthusiastic family stuffing versus dressing and/or casserole debates. Thompson doesn't hesitate letting you know "the absolute best oyster casserole" recipe for Thanksgiving is his version with a dozen fresh ingredients. Thirty pages prior, he's also touting "Fred's favorite oyster dressing," which hails from an earlier, 3 ingredient era (oysters, Ritz crackers, plenty of butter). It's a pretty great melding of then and now, complete with the recipe contradictions that so many cookbook authors avoid these days.

The book goes on this way, Thompson talking, seemingly aloud and mainly (hilariously) to himself. A contemporary recipe for cranberries with raisin and currants that he dubs a "conserve" comes with this header: "Don't you just love the word 'conserve'? It makes anything sound old-moneyed and southern." Or, one could argue, 21st century hipster. In the "We Chill, Congeal and Pickle" section of the book, Thompson includes a recipe for frozen cranberry-banana salad made with Cool Whip and canned cranberry sauce. Sure, why not?

Our favorite chapter, "All Hail to the Bitter Greens," includes creamed turnip greens and a "greens gratin" with blue cheese, both (fresh) takes on creamed spinach. Need some potato side dish inspiration this Thanksgiving? Thompson's suggestions include an apple-and-leek smashed version and "grilled potato slices fancied up." Among the sweet potato recipes, you'll find a grilled sweet potato salad with orange dressing, twice-baked sweet potatoes with sage, sorghum and black walnuts, and that curious sweet potato "guacamole." As for that last one, worst case, consider it fuel to light the Thanksgiving dinner table debate.

Sweet Potato Guacamole

From: Fred Thompson's Southern Sides

Serves 4 to 6

Per Thompson: "This very southern twist on guacamole came from my son-in-law, Kyle Wilkerson, a chef at Four Square Restaurant in Durham, North Carolina, and my biggest playmate with food. Daughter, you really did right with Kyle. You will be totally surprised how well this guacamole fits with standard Mexican fare."

Note: In the recipe header, Thompson says he also serves this dip with corn chips.

2 large cooked sweet potatoes

1 tomato, peeled and chopped

½ cup chopped onions

1 garlic clove, minced

2 poblano chilis, roasted, peeled, and chopped

Kosher salt

Fresh lime juice

1. Using a spoon, scrape the cooked sweet potato from the peel into a medium mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients except salt and lime juice. Mash with the back of a fork and stir together. Season with salt and lime juice. Serve the same day, with blue corn tortilla chips.


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