Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Potluck Challenge

Bonzo Kitchen
I celebrate Thanksgiving in what most people would consider a nontraditional way.  Family is back east, so it's just me and the husband.  No football, no driving over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house.  We hang out in our pajamas and drink coffee with Bailey's until the turkey is done.  After we eat, we slouch on the couch with one hand on our bellies, Al Bundy-style.  It's a beautiful day.

This year I have the opportunity to change things up a bit.  We're having a potluck at the office on Monday and I get to cook for new people.  However, after making the same dishes for the two of us for years, I was lacking inspiration.  The bare minimum required to make it "Thanksgiving" in my mind already includes far more food than we can eat, what with the turkey, gravy, potatoes, dressing, cranberry sauce...  As far as dessert is concerned, if I don't make pumpkin pie someone in my house pouts.  It just doesn't leave me much time, or room in the fridge, for experimenting with new recipes.

Lucky me, I thought to ask my "fans" (indulgent family members and friends) for some new ideas.  I am thankful for their kind participation in this little project, and really enjoyed reading their submissions.  I had planned on making only one recipe from the bunch, but once I got started I was having too much fun to stop. After all my efforts this weekend, I'm far more excited for the potluck than I had anticipated.

All recipes can be found in their entirety at the end of the post.
Sausage Balls in Cheddar Cheese Pastry
Suggested by: Charlotte
Recipe from: cooking class

Sausage Balls in Cheddar Cheese Pastry
I think Charlotte, aka my mom, originally picked up this recipe at a cooking class.  It's one of my favorites, and is very simple to make.  In fact, it's rather goof-proof, as I made a tiny mistake and portioned-out the pastry incorrectly.  As a result I had sausage left over at the end with no dough to wrap it in.  But seriously, a little too much cheese pastry wrapped around a ball of sausage, there are worse things that can happen.  I saved the leftover sausage balls to make an omelet.  Even when wrapped in a generous amount of pastry, as seen above, the snacks baked up beautifully.  With 3 hungry people in the house, they lasted less than 20 minutes.  Sorry work friends, these beauties aren't going to make it to the potluck.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Suggested by: Karlen
Recipe from:  Smitten Kitchen

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
The second recipe I picked for the potluck challenge just came out of the oven.  It is delicious, and very hot, and my tongue is scolding my brain for my lack of patience.  This bread pudding is warm, comforting and pumpkiny.  It is a perfect blend of custard-soaked bread with crunchy bits of crust on  top.  I think it's going to be a hit at the potluck, just as it was at Karlen's event.  My only concern is that I will have to reheat it in the microwave, and I hope the crusty edges don't get too soggy.  But straight out of the oven, it is absolutely delicious.

Next time I might increase the bourbon, or make a bourbon whipped cream for the top.  The pudding is excellent as-is, I just really like bourbon.

Post-Potluck Update:  the bread pudding was the clear winner.  =)

Mashed Winter Squash with Indian Spices
Suggested by: Susan
Recipe from: Food and Wine dot com, Marcia Kiesel

Mashed butternut squash with Indian spices
I chose this recipe for the potluck challenge because it is vegetarian and will reheat easily in the microwave.  I think the addition of spices like turmeric, coriander and black mustard seed might be an interesting change from the usual holiday fare we encounter. 

The preparation is very simple, and the smell of the spices, garlic and onions cooking is absolutely drool-worthy.  My only issue is the mustard seeds.  Maybe it's because I couldn't find the black ones, which I understand are a bit more pungent than yellow.  Upon tasting, the seeds are slightly nutty, but otherwise unimpressive.  I guess we shall see when the dish is complete whether or not they're necessary, and/or included in the final product that goes to work.

Post Potluck Update:  skipped the mustard seeds and people ate it up!

Yam and Apple Casserole
Suggested by: Charlotte
Recipe from:  Charlotte

Yam and Apple Casserole
I picked this recipe because I love yams, and thought they would be really delicious when combined with sliced granny smith apples, currants, butter and brown sugar.  I have a vague recollection of my mother making this dish, but it's not one that shows up at her Thanksgiving table every year.  The assembly was very simple and wasn't all that time consuming, even with the necessary peeling of the apples and yams.  I did need to cook it longer than mom's recipe called for.  Either my yams were really tough, or I sliced them a bit too thick.  I stole a taste and it is very good; yammy, appley and buttery.

Post Potluck Update: another crowd pleaser, full of yam and apple flavor!

I had a fabulous time trying these new recipes, and we had a ball at the potluck.  To those of you who made suggestions, THANK YOU for making The First Annual Bonzo Bean Thanksgiving Potluck Challenge so much fun.  I can't wait to do this again next year!


Sausage Balls in Cheddar Cheese Pastry:
1 lb pork sausage
3/4 c bread crumbs
1/3 c water
*combine all ingredients, form into small balls and fry slowly until done, but not crusty.  Cool on a paper towel.
1 1/2 c flour
1/4 t salt
1t + paprika
8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
4 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
*Combine dry ingredients, stir in cheese.  Cut in butter to make a firm dough.  Wrap dough smoothly around sausage balls.  Chill 1/2 hour.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Makes 4 dozen (if you portion-out your sausage and dough correctly)

Pumpkin Bread Pudding:
1 1/2 c whole milk
3/4 c canned pumpkin
1/2 c sugar
2 large eggs, plus 1 yolk
1/2 t salt
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Dash ground cloves
2 T bourbon
5 c cubed crusty bread (I dried mine out in the oven at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes)
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
*Whisk together the pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, salt, spices and bourbon.  Melt butter, and toss with bread cubes.  Pour pumpkin mixture over bread, and stir until thoroughly combined.  Pour into an ungreased 8x8 baking dish.  Bake until custard is set, approximately 25-30 minutes.

Mashed Butternut Squash with Indian Spices:
8 lbs butternut squash (I bought 2 and came in around 7.5 lbs), halved lengthwise and seeded
1/3 c + 1T vegetable oil, and more to drizzle
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 T black mustard seeds (I couldn't find these, so bought regular mustard seeds)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 t ground coriander
1 t turmeric
1/4 t crushed red pepper
1/4 c water
*Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Drizzle cut sides of squash with oil, salt and pepper.  Place cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast until tender, about 45 minutes.
*In a large pot, heat 1 T of the oil.  Add the mustard seed and cook over moderately high heat, shaking the pot, until the seeds pop (about 1 minute).  Remove the seeds to a bowl.  Add the remaining 1/3 c of oil to the pot with the garlic and onion.  Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened.  Add the coriander, turmeric and red pepper flake.  Stir and cook until fragrant, a minute or two.  Remove from heat.
*Using a large spoon, scrape the flesh from the squash and put in the pot.  Add the water and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and lightly mashing, until blended and heated through.  Season with salt, pepper, and sprinkle mustard seeds over the top.

Yam and Apple Casserole:
4 medium yams, peeled and sliced 1/2" thick
2 tart apples, peeled and sliced
1/4 c currants
1/2 t salt
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c unsalted butter, cut into little pieces
*Layer yams, apples and currants in a buttered 2 qt baking dish.  Sprinkle with salt and top with butter and sugar.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 50-75 minutes, or until tender, at 375 degrees. (original recipe calls for 50-60 minutes of cooking time, mine went a bit longer)

Topping:  I didn't make the topping because I worried it would just get soggy being reheated in the microwave.  If you don't have to reheat this way, I would try it.

1 c soft white bread crumbs, 2 T melted butter.  Mix and sprinkle over casserole, bake uncovered 10 minutes until brown.


  1. Yum! Pumpkin bread pudding, I have a Awesomesome Eggnog bread pudding with rum carmel sauce from Kathy Casey, if you need another one for Christmas! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Wine guy At The Q

  2. Lovely pictures! I'm glad it all turned out so well.