Sugar and spice, and everything nice, that’s what Thanksgiving is made of.
And that’s because the three-dimensional punch of brown sugar boosts other seasonal flavors such as cinnamon, clove, anise and allspice. And it does so with a vigor that white sugar just can’t match.
Brown sugar’s color, texture and subtle flavor come from molasses, which is either added to refined sugar or remains present after processing. Sugar enhances sweet tones the way salt emphasizes sugar, says Karen Page, co-author with Andrew Dornenberg of “The Flavor Bible” and “What to Drink with What You Eat.”
The “sugar” side of brown sugar brings out the inherent sweetness in vegetables, such as carrots, squash and sweet potato, says Page. Its molasses component unifies their unique flavors. “It’s a flavor emphasizer,” Page says.
Candied Bacon Stuffing
Yield: Serves 8
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound bacon
Brown sugar, to coat bacon, to taste
Black pepper, to coat bacon, to taste
1 (12-ounce) bag stuffing, prepared according to package
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, slowly onions in olive oil until well browned and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Arrange bacon on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle liberally with brown sugar and black pepper. Bake at 350 degrees until crispy, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool, then chop. Prepare a 12-ounce bag of stuffing according to package directions. Stir in the caramelized onions, candied bacon and 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 520 calories; 280 calories from fat (53 percent of total calories); 31 g fat (9 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 40 mg cholesterol; 48 g carbohydrate; 13 g protein; 3 g fiber; 930 mg sodium.
Smashed Harvest Veggies
Yield: Serves 12
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 pounds rainbow carrots, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 tablespoon dried mustard powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups heavy cream, divided between two dishes
Note: This recipe requires two caserole dishes.
In 2 large casserole dishes, toss together sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and rainbow carrots. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon dried sage, 1 tablespoon dried mustard powder, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. Sprinkle this mixture over the vegetables. Pour 1 cup of heavy cream over each dish, then bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 350 F. Gently smash the mixture with a potato masher.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 240 calories; 70 calories from fat (29 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 25 mg cholesterol; 41 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 6 g fiber; 270 mg sodium.
Midnight Pumpkin Pie
Start to finish: 1 hour (10 minutes active)
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate bits
15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground dry ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 prepared (raw) deep-dish pie crust
Heat the oven to 350 F.
In a small saucepan over medium-high, heat the cream until just bubbling. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate bits. Stir until completely melted and smooth.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, salt and the chocolate-cream mixture. Add the eggs, whisking until everything is thoroughly combined.
If it isn’t already, fit the pie crust into a 9-inch deep pie pan. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the crust. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the center is set and no longer jiggles.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 390 calories; 210 calories from fat (53 percent of total calories); 24 g fat (13 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 100 mg cholesterol; 43 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 3 g fiber; 240 mg sodium.
Brown Sugar and Oatmeal Rolls
Start to finish: 3 hours (30 minutes active)
Makes 24 rolls
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons old fashioned oats
In a small saucepan over medium, heat the milk and butter until just slightly warm. The butter does not have to be completely melted. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the milk mixture, brown sugar, oats, yeast, eggs, salt and 2 cups of the flour. Mix together on low speed.
Add another cup of flour, mixing until incorporated. Add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until you have a soft dough; you may not need all of the flour. Knead on medium-low speed for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the dough is soft, smooth and stretchy. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.
Lightly spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 24 pieces. Roll the dough pieces into balls and place on the prepared baking sheet. Use the 2 tablespoons of melted butter to brush the tops of the rolls. Sprinkle each with oats. Cover and let rise again until doubled in size and puffy, about 1 hour.
Toward the end of the rising time, heat the oven to 350 F. Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 160 calories; 50 calories from fat (33 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 30 mg cholesterol; 23 g carbohydrate; 4 g protein; 1 g fiber; 135 mg sodium.
Oven-Candied Green Beans Amandine
Start to finish: 40 minutes
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 pounds trimmed green beans
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds
Heat the oven to 350 F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with foil. You need to have enough space to spread out the green beans out.
In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss the oil with the green beans until they are lightly but thoroughly coated. Add the brown sugar mixture and toss to coat. Spread the green beans on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the beans are well wrinkled. Sprinkle the beans with the vinegar. Arrange in a serving bowl and top with the toasted almonds.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 140 calories; 35 calories from fat (21 percent of total calories); 4 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 27 g carbohydrate; 4 g protein; 6 g fiber; 370 mg sodium.
Start to finish: 2 1/2 to 3 hours
Makes a 12- to 14-pound turkey with gravy
2 large yellow onions, quartered
2 large carrots, cut into pieces
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
12- to 14-pound turkey
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Heat the oven to 350 F. Arrange a rack in a large roasting pan. Scatter the onion and carrot chunks beneath the rack.
Using a food processor, a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, grind together the brown sugar, smoked paprika, chili powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 2 teaspoons salt, and the dried thyme.
Rub the olive or vegetable oil all over the surface of the turkey, then rub the sugar-spice mixture all over the turkey. Be sure to rub some under the skin as well as inside the cavity.
Arrange the turkey on the rack in the roasting pan. Roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the breast reaches 160 F and the thickest part of the thigh reaches 170 F. If the turkey begins to darken too much, cover it with foil.
Transfer the turkey to a serving platter, wrap with a layer of foil, then a couple layers of kitchen towels to keep warm.
Remove the rack from the roasting pan. Discard the onions and carrots. Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium heat and bring the juices to a simmer. Add the white wine and scrape up any browned bits in the pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together the chicken broth and the flour. Pour into the pan, whisking continuously. Simmer for 5 minutes, while continuing to stir. Strain the gravy and season with salt and pepper. Serve with the turkey.
Nutrition information per serving (assumes 20 servings) (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 380 calories; 150 calories from fat (41 percent of total calories); 17 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 125 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrate; 43 g protein; 0 g fiber; 270 mg sodium.