Monday, December 17, 2012

7 SEVEN 7 AMAZING Side Dishes for Special Occasions

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Read on, all of the recipes follow the introduction, no more links to follow...

Sure it's a tad early, but I would bet you have already started pondering what to make for Christmas Dinner.  Usually the meat is easy.  Turkey, Ham, even Crown Roasts are a matter of seasoning and getting the internal temperature right.  For me, I look forward to the side dishes of Christmas just as much (more?) than the meat.

I mean really, how often do you get served Dressing AND Mashed Potatoes at the same meal.  Salads, Macaroni and Cheese, Beans and Corn... Even toss in a more regional specialty like grits and you have a real Holiday Meal!

But with just a little extra effort you can turn Beans into Award Winning KC BBQ Beans!


Turn Corn into Elote, a Mexican dish usually served on the cob on street corners, made sweet and seasoned with lime and cheese!


Dressing gets a special "meal in itself" upgrade with Heat and Sweet tastes combined with a Chorizo Sausage and Apple Dressing!


Grits.  By themselves  generally grits do not have much flavor.  BUT they make an amazing canvas to paint flavors into.  Like this recipe for Peach Habonero - Sweet Potato Grits adapted from a recipe by Bobby Flay.


The fake Blue Box Macaroni and Cheese gets transformed with a fresh made Bechamel Sauce, loaded with fresh grated Cheddar and Swiss cheeses, flavored with poblano Peppers and zesty Lime  The blue box can become Tex-Mex Poblano Mac and Cheese!


Mashed Potatoes... Everyone has an opinion on mashed potatoes... Smooth or lumpy, Skins on or off, Butter or Cream (or Both)...

But I add Bacon and Fry some apples along with the bacon... Adds a special sweetness to the classic and is the BEST Smashed Potato Recipe EVER!


For a salad, I again like that meal in itself idea by  combining...
Mandarin Orange segments for sweet,
Water Chestnuts for a snappy crunch,
Green Onions, Honey Roasted Peanuts, red Peppers, Spinach and Bow Tie Pasta for about the prettiest tastiest Spinach Pasta Salad you can imagine!

So, sit back relaxe, read the recipes over and let me know what you like to do to dress up your "average" for a special occasion...

First up is indeed an adaptation of an award winning BBQ Beans recipe made famous at the Kansas City Royal, the largest most prestigious BBQ competition in the world (and we know our beans)!

KC Royal Award Winning BBQ Beans!

  • 1 Pound Pork tenderloin
  • Generous amount of BBQ Rub
  • 1 Medium Sweet Onion, Diced
  • 1 Medium Red onion, Diced
  • 6 Ounces Canned Tomato Paste
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Molasses
  • 1/3 Cup Sorghum Syrup
  • 2 TBS Dry Mustard Powder
  • 1/4 Cup White Vinegar
  • 1-27 ounce can BUSH'S brand Country Style BBQ Beans (Yes, the brand makes a difference)
  • 1-16 ounce can BUSH'S brand Pinto Beans
  • 1-16 ounce can BUSH'S brand Great Northern Beans
Cooking Directions
  1. This is a Crock Pot recipe, best when made in advance and allowed to rest overnight before serving...
  2. But first, I take 1/2 cup BBQ Dry Rub (several commercial brands are available) and rub a room temperature Pork Tenderloin. I slow roast this in the oven (or preferably in a dedicated smoker). 225 for about 2 hours until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees and the outside bark turns crispy. I immediately wrap this in aluminum foil and allow this to rest outside the oven for 2 hours to cool and even the temperature out.
  3. I cut this up into 1/2 inch size cubes to use as Pork in the pork and beans. the spice rub also seasons the beans. Use a HOT spice and you have spicy beans, use a milder BBQ flavored rub and you have milder spiced beans!
  4. Next, just mix everything else into your crock pot. Turn on low and relax for 8 hours.
  5. Mix again, taste, add additional seasonings if you like. Then allow to cool, and rest overnight in the refrigerator. This allows time for the seasonings to really blend well with everything.
  6. You may need to drain off a bit of the liquid, serve HOT and enjoy!

Next up, a Special Corn recipe Adapted from one I found on the ONE PERFECT BITE blog.  Mary is a wonderful blogger, specializing in authentic exotic cuisines as well as standards made with the special "perfect Bite" little extras.  Generally in Mexico you will find this served on a Cob, sold as street food.  I adapted for corn cut off the cob, or as in this case, I used frozen corn... worked GREAT!

Elote - Mexican Corn OFF the Cob...

  • 1 Bag Frozen Corn, Thawed and drained (I run hot water over the corn for a few minutes, it thaws fast and the corn is already fully cooked before frozen)
  • 3 TBS Butter, melted
  • 4 TBS Mayonnaise
  • Juice and Zest from 2 Limes (reseve 1 TBS Zest for Garnish
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese (reserve 1 TBS for garnish)
  • 1 tsp Paprika for garnish (feel free to make SPICY Corn by substituting Cayenne Pepper Spice)
Cooking Directions
  1. Heat the corn.  I find that under HOT water, the corn is sufficiently warm to make this dish.  No need to cook, just heat.
  2. While the corn is warm, I mixed in the remaining ingredients. I kept this in a warm oven until ready to serve the meal (no more than about 30 minutes). No problems at all with the corn drying out.
  3. When ready to serve, garnish with remaining paprika, cheese and Lime zest

Next up is dressing... Just would not be a Holiday Meal without dressing.  If you can break away from your Grandma's recipe, this is indeed special!  Spicy Tex-Mex Chorizo Sausage and balanced with sweet tangy Granny Smith Apples!

Chorizo Sausage and Apple Dressing (Never Stuffing)

  • VERY IMPORTANT This is a dressing, made outside the Bird. DO NOT make this as a stuffing inside the bord!
  • 1 Loaf Bread, cut into cubes
  • 8 TBS Butter
  • 1 Pound Chorizo Sausage
  • 1 Medium Onion, Chopped, but Large pieces
  • 2 Medium Granny Smith Apples, Cored, sliced and diced
  • Large Pinch Salt
  • Several turns of a Pepper Mill
  • 3 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Cup Buttermilk
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Chopped parsley
  • 1/'4 Cup Walnut Pieces (I like more, I use more!)
  • 6 Large Eggs, Beaten
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Break out the large heavy cast iron skillet. You will be cooking on the stove top as well as baking in the oven. Or, when it comes time to mix, you can transfer into a baking dish.
  3. Melt 4 TBS butter
  4. Brown the sausage in the butter. DO NOT over cook the sausage. You just want to take the chill out and slightly color the outside.
  5. Add the onion to the sausage and sautee for about 10 minutes
  6. Add the apple slices and sautee for another 5 minutes. If you like celery, add now as well.
  7. Add the broth and bring everything to a boil.
  8. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  9. Top with bread cubes, add 1/2 of the parsley and sprinkle with 1/2 the walnuts (do not mix yet)
  10. Drizzle the buttermilk and 4 beaten eggs over the bread, as evenly as possible
  11. And finally, fold the bread mixture into the sausage mixture and mix gently. You want an even mix, but you do not want to over mix the bread cubes into bread crumbs.
  12. Move the skillet to the oven, 325 degrees for 40 minutes. You will see the bread cubes just start to brown. Now, drizzle evenly the remaining 4 TBS of butter over the top and add the final bits of parsley and walnuts.
  13. Return to the oven and finish browning the bread, about 20 minutes more.

Oh BOY... GRITS!!!  Consider these as something new on your table... Properly prepared, these are WONDERFUL!  my favorite side dish!  These are adapted from a standard on the menu at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill restaurant just about every day!

PeachBANERO Sweet Potato Grits

  • 1 Cup Peach Jam
  • 1 Small Habanero Pepper, minced into small pieces, use JUST THE OUTSIDE, carefully remove seeds, and white inner membrane... those are the really HOT parts
  • 1 Large Sweet Potato, peeled, rough chopped, Steamed and cooked soft
  • 2 TBS Butter
  • 1 Small Shallot, diced
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 2-1/2 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 Cup Half and Half
  • Generous Pinch of Salt
  • Several turns of a Pepper grinder
  • 1-1/2 Cups quick cooking Grits
  • 1 TBS Butter, Melted to use as garnish
  • 1 TBS Honey for garnish
  • 1 Stalk Green onion, sliced for garnish
  • Lime Slice For garnish
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed small saute pan, over medium heat, mix the peach Jam and the minced habanero pepper. Stir and heat for 5 minutes. Keep warm
  3. Roast the sweet potato in the oven until tender when pierced with a knife (about 45 to 60 minutes)
  4. Peel the sweet potato and puree the flesh in a food processor (or mini chopper)
  5. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan, add the shallot and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.
  6. Add the stock, 1/2 and 1/2, PeachBONERO Jam and salt/pepper... bring to a boil.
  7. Slowly whisk in the grits. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes.
  8. Stir in the sweet potato puree, stirring frequently for 5 to 10 minutes, until smooth and thickened.
  9. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and honey to taste, reserving some as a garnish
  10. Garnish with green onions and even Lime slices just to make the dish look pretty!
  11. Cover and keep warm and ENJOY!

The blue box is NOT Mac and Cheese.  You need to melt real cheese (not powder) and make it creamy and delicious.  This recipe will set yours apart, with Tex Mes elements to spice up that soon to be forgotten blue box!

Poblano Tex-Mex Macaroni and Cheese

  • 4 Medium poblano chiles
  • 1 Box, 16 Ounces pasta Note: I used Fusilli Pasta (the corkscrew type). I liked that pasta as it soaks up teh cheese sauce so well, every gap has the cheese oozing into the nooks.
  • 4 TBS Butter
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 4 TBS Flour
  • 3 Cups 1/2 and 1/2
  • 2 tsp Mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp Carefuuly measured Cayenne Pepper Spice
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1/2 Cup Diced Cilantro
  • Zest of 1 medium Lime
  • Large Pinch Salt
  • Several turns of a Pepper Grinder to taste
  • 12 Ounces Cheddar Cheese, freshly grated
  • 12 Ounces Swiss Cheese, freshly grated
  • For garnish Lime Slices and Lime Zest
Cooking Directions
  1. Roast the poblanos under the broiler until blackened, ~5 minutes per side. Remove and cover them to let them steam, for ~20 minutes. I like to roast them right on top of a large sheet of foil, then just bring the foil up and around the chiles. Peel/rub off the skins and remove the stems and seeds, then dice into ~1" chunks.
  2. Bring a large salted pot of water to a boil and cook pasta until just al dente. Preheat your oven to 375° F. Grease a large baking dish or cast-iron skillet (personally, I'd choose an 8"-10") and set aside.
  3. In a pot set over low heat, melt the butter. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Whisk in the flour and cook until light brown and toasty smelling, ~1 minute more.
  5. Whisk in the 1/2 and 1/2 and stir until thickened, 1-2 minutes.
  6. Remove pot from heat and stir in mustard powder, cayenne, cumin, lime zest, cilantro, and prepared poblanos.
  7. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, as needed.
  8. Stir half of the cheese into the sauce until melted. Throw in the pasta and stir until coated. Pour into prepared dish. Top with remaining cheese and bake, uncovered, until cheese is bubbly and slightly golden.
  9. Garnish with Lime Zest and slices

Mashed Potatoes, always among the hardest dish to cook right... Smooth and creamy, lumpy, skins on, skins off, butter, cream, both, cream cheese or sour cream...So many ways to prepare.

Mine have sweet apples, fried in BACON!  Now that;s special!

BEST Mashed Potato Recipe Secret- Apples FRIED IN BACON FAT!

  • 5 Pounds Potatoes, Chopped, boiled, skin on
  • 1 Pound Bacon, cut into quarter size pieces
  • 2 Medium Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored, chopped
  • 1 Medium Sweet Onion, sliced and cut into dime size pieces
  • 1 Cup Cheddar Cheese, Grated
  • 1/4 Cup Whole Milk (may need more to get desired consistancy)
  • 1 Stick Butter
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Cooking Directions
  1. Boil your potatoes... meanwhile...
  2. Fry the bacon
  3. When just starting to crisp, add the Apple pieces
  4. Stir for 3 minutes, until the apples start to soften
  5. Add the Onions and again, stir for about 3 minutes
  6. By now, the potatoes should be cooked through (test to be sure)
  7. Drain the water, add the onion/bacon/apple mix to the potatoes
  8. add the butter, milk and grated cheese
  9. mix to desired consistency, I like them chunky and the cheese has melted.
  10. Serve HOT and enjoy!

And Finally... A favorite, made easy with the use of a Fully cooked, pre-seasoned store bought Rotisserie Chicken...

Teriyaki Pasta Salad Dressing

  • 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup White Wine Vinegar
  • Pinch Salt and Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup Teriyaki Sauce
  • 3 TBS Sugar
  • Meat from 2 Breast Quarters of a Rotisserie Chicken, meat removed from the bone and diced
  • 8 Ounces Fresh baby Spinach, washed and stemmed
  • 1 Pound Bow Tie Pasta, cooked according to the directions
  • 1 Large Can Mandarin Oranges, drained
  • 1 Small Can Sliced Water Chestnuts
  • 1 Bunch (about 5) Green onions, sliced, include the green parts
  • 1 Cup Honey Roasted Cashews
  • 1 Medium Red Pepper Sliced and cut Julian
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
Cooking Directions
  1. Whisk together the first 5 ingredients to make the Teriyaki Sauce
  2. Starting with the Chicken, mix all the remaining ingredients
  3. Mix in the dressing
  4. Garnish with a few remaining mandarin orange slices, cashews and green onions
  5. Serve COLD and enjoy!

Everyone enjoy your holidays... Make something special!!!

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