Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Maple Cinnamon Butter. And Bacon.

by Shawnda on November 11, 2012

in Sides,Thanksgiving,Veggies & Starches

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Maple-Cinnamon Butter and Bacon

Because I regularly volunteer for sweet potato duty, that traditional dish has evolved to be the revolving the door at Thanksgiving every year. My mom always makes a small dish of Candied Sweet Potatoes – you know the kind, sweet potatoes, brown sugar, a stick of butter, all buried under a bag of jumbo marshmallows.

And then I make something else for the marshmallow haters.

Maybe it’s twice-baked sweet potatoes sprinkled with a cinnamon-brown sugar streusel, or mashed sweet potatoes served alongside cinnamon honey butter, or the recipe that still remains my family’s favorite to this day – sweet potato wedges with bacon vinaigrette.

This year, I took the flavors (maple syrup, butter, bacon) from that family favorite and worked them into a lower maintenance recipe. Because the last thing I want to do on a busy holiday is fuss with flipping two baking sheets-worth of sweet potato wedges. And standing over a sizzling pan hanging out of a hot oven is the last thing I should be doing on a day when the first bottle of wine is opened before 11am.

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Maple-Cinnamon Butter and Bacon

We started with a plain Hasselback Sweet Potato, the prettiest way to serve a sweet potato by the way, and slathered it with a simple maple-cinnamon butter and then crumbled crispy bacon over top. The preparation is simple (recruit an inlaw to help with hasselbacking duty), the butter can be made days ahead of time, and… there’s bacon!

Some tips for hasselback-ing your potatoes:
– Look for potatoes that are similar in size and shape to ensure even cooking.
– Find each potato’s “flat side” and use that as the bottom – nothing will roll around on the baking sheet while you’re cutting or transferring to/from the oven.
– Use a sharp knife.
– Be prepared to need a couple of potatoes to hit that hasselback-ing groove.
– Don’t panic if you cut too far, a toothpick can easily rejoin an accidentally unjoined hasselback potato.

And just a note: the green garnish (a random green leaf from a bag of lettuce) in the photo was simply added to help my camera out and I pulled them off later :oops: My camera is remarkably unkind to photos of orange food with brown skin, topped with brownish-orange food and yellowish-orange butter. If I had had any green onions, I would have used those – and them left them there.

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Maple-Cinnamon Butter

Hasselback sweet potatoes served with a sweetened maple-cinnamon butter and crispy bacon are an impressive twist to traditional holiday sweet potato dishes,


  • For the maple-cinnamon butter:
  • 1 stick butter, very soft
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (more to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the potatoes:
  • 8 medium sweet potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 4 slices of bacon, cooked to a crisp.


  1. To make the maple cinnamon butter, mash together very soft butter, cinnamon, maple syrup and a pinch of salt until uniform.
  2. Taste for cinnamonness and sweetness and add more to taste if desired.
  3. Lay a ~12-inch piece of plastic wrap on your work surface.
  4. Spoon the butter into a line about the length of a stick of butter, and wrap into cylinder.
  5. Pick up the butter and twist to seal the butter in the plastic wrap.
  6. Chill until firm (this can be done several days ahead).
  7. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/4-inch slits about 2/3 of the way through the potato.
  8. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  9. Bake for ~45 minutes, until tender all the way through (stick a fork near the bottom side, where there are no cuts to check for doneness).
  10. Serve warm, with slices of maple-cinnamon butter, and topped with crumbled bacon. Because there's so much food at the holidays, cutting them in half will probably still be a plenty big enough serving.


Yields: 8-16 servings

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 1 hour



Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

In my family, Thanksgiving has 3 rules. And they all involve cheese:

1) There must be broccoli & rice casserole. I can bring roasted broccoli for a healthier broccoli dish. But it has to be served alongside of – not instead of – the casserole.

2) I must make the broccoli & rice casserole. Me. Shawnda. We spend every other Thanksgiving day with Jason’s family and every other Thanksgiving day, my little brother complains about how the casserole just isn’t the same. Even though it totally is. Except that one time my sister messed it up. I won’t embarrass her to the world… but her “fix” might have involved stirring in uncooked non-instant rice to firm things up about 27 seconds before it was time to eat. Crunchy casserole = no bueno casserole. And a whiny little brother.

3) Don’t mess with the broccoli & rice casserole recipe. The temptation, it’s great with this one. It’s loaded with not-real cheese, more butter than it needs, one of the maligned cream-of soups, and scandalously white rice. It’s not fancy but it’s tradition and it’s delicious and it’s a family (especially little brother) favorite.

So this year, I’m totally messing with the broccoli & rice casserole. It’s hard to disown a family member when you’re actually eating dinner at her house, right? Right?

And I’m not doing it to be a jerk. For serious. I’ve always wanted to make the dish a little more healthful – a task that at Thanksgiving, always feels like shooting a BB gun at a freight train. But after eating a bowl of it for dinner the other night, I have very little doubt that my little brother will be more than “just” fine with a less-processed version.

The texture of the quinoa is similar to rice. There’s still plenty of cheese. The top of the dish still gets those little crisped brown bites that he sneaks into the kitchen and steals before the rest of dinner is ready. There’s still plenty of that one bowl, creamy comfort food factor going on.

And more importantly, there’s plenty of real food going on.

Or I could be completely wrong and my little brother will be holding auditions for the role of new big sister before the first football is in the air on Thanksgiving.

Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

Rich, cheesy, and comforting, this less-processed version of broccoli and rice casserole uses quinoa and real cheese and is made without cream of mushroom soup. Make it a one-dish meal and add leftover shredded chicken!


  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, uncooked
  • 2 crowns of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups milk (I use 2%)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard (I use Creole)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cup leftover shredded chicken (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, cook the quinoa in water with a generous pinch of salt, according to package, directions and then set aside.
  3. In a large pot, add the broccoli and a couple of inches of water.
  4. Cover the pot, bring to a boil for 1-2 minutes, and then drain and rinse with cold water.
  5. Return the drained broccoli to the large pot and add the quinoa.
  6. In a saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter.
  7. Whisk in the flour, onion, garlic, mustard, cayenne, a generous pinch of salt and black pepper.
  8. Let cook 1-2 minutes and then slowly add the milk, whisking until the sauce is smooth.
  9. Let the sauce simmer, reducing the heat if necessary, about 5 minutes until thickened and bubbling.
  10. Remove from heat, whisk in the cheddar a handful at a time until completely melted.
  11. Salt and pepper to taste.
  12. Pour sauce over broccoli-quinoa mixture and toss to coat, mixing well.
  13. Transfer mixture to a casserole dish and bake 35-30 minutes, until the top is nicely browned.
  14. Serve warm.


Yields: 10-12 servings

Slightly adapted from Annie's Eats

Estimated time: 1 hour 15 minutes



Salted Turkey with Citrus & Herbs

So remember how I declared the Sweet Tea Brine the greatest thing to happen to poultry since deep frying? Well, let’s talk about the pretty darn close runner-up: the “dry brined” turkey.

We got the idea for the salted turkey from Bridget’s blog. Her high praise for the technique last year is what put the recipe on our radar.

Taste is very much personal, but really, though. Had we not had the two chickens side by side and only given the salted turkey a test run, we’d very happily be serving the salted turkey at Thanksgiving this year. Instead, we’re going to serve it on Christmas Eve.

On top of that, you just can’t overlook how easy that turkey is to put together the day before, nor can you overlook how good it is. You mix salt, citrus zests, and a mound of fresh herbs in a bowl and then rub it all over the outside and inside of your turkey. Wrap it up, stick it in the fridge, and then… Yeah, that’s it. No “turkey bucket” or cooler required, you simply need a roasting pan and a meat thermometer.

We stuffed the bird with standard aromatics (citrus, herbs, and onion/garlic) that were leftover from the test, rubbed with olive oil and black pepper, and then stuck it in the oven. It doesn’t get a whole lot easier than that. So if you’re new to turkey duty, new to brining, weirded out by brining, or just not that into the logistics? The salted turkey could be your best friend.

And if you’re still looking to round out your Thanksgiving menu, which you probably are because you’re way more normal, check out our greatest hits from holidays past!

Salted Turkey with Citrus and Herbs

An alternative to brining a turkey (or chicken), rubbing it with salt, citrus zest, and fresh herbs.


  • For the salt rub:
  • 6 Tbsp kosher salt (or 4 Tbsp table salt)
  • Zest of a lemon
  • Zest of an orange
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh sage
  • 1 Tbsp thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 14-16lb turkey
  • For roasting:
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 2 whole, peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 small orange, quartered
  • Sprigs of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage)
  • 2 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • Olive oil or softened butter
  • Black pepper


  1. To make the salt rub, mix all ingredients in a bowl and rub half of the mixture over the outside of the turkey.
  2. Carefully work your fingers under the skin, beginning at the neck, to separate the breast meat and skin.
  3. Rub half of the remaining salt under the skin and sprinkle the reset inside the bird.
  4. Seal in a roasting bag and place in a pan. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 425.
  6. Rinse the turkey well (inside, out, and under skin) and pat dry.
  7. Stuff the turkey with the aromatics and tie the legs.
  8. Rub with softened butter or olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper.
  9. Place the turkey in a roasting pan with the broth.
  10. Roast for 45 minutes and then reduce heat to 325 and continue cooking until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165-170F, up to 2 hours longer.
  11. Let the turkey rest, loosely tented with foil, for 30-45 minutes before carving.


Yields: 12-14 servings

Adapted from Bon Appetit and Cook's Illustrated, via The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Estimated time: 28 hours



Brining vs Salting a Turkey or Chicken

Our Thanksgiving menu is mostly set and we’re testing out the few new items that made their way onto the menu over the next couple of weeks. We ended up not being able to completely agree on the turkey recipe so we thought we’d just make both, throwdown style.

The winner’s turkey recipe would be served on Thanksgiving. Loser had to clean the kitchen after a day of recipe testing. Regardless of the whichever side I ended up on, I’d still win – cook once on Sunday and have dinner taken care of through Thursday.

We narrowed our turkey choices down to two:
Sweet Tea & Citrus Brine - I spotted a tea-brined fried chicken on a local menu when browsing for places for dinner a while back. I was instantly taken with the idea of using a sweet tea brine on a turkey for Thanksgiving.
Salted (“Dry brine”) with citrus & herbs - Instead of putting the turkey in the bucket with brine, you rub a seasoned salt mixture over the bird and then the magic happens. Jason was sold on the fact that the flavors should be more concentrated and the procedure sounded more convenient than brining.

After comparing volumes for brining turkeys vs. chicken, we did a 1/4-scale turkey recipe and used a whole chicken.

Round 1 – Assembly

The sweet tea brine comes together easily… just slowly: you steep a few tea bags, add sugar, salt, and aromatics and then chill before submerging the chicken in a pot with ic-e and place the covered pot in the fridge. Easy enough… but with a turkey, storing it in the fridge overnight won’t be an option. I’ll have to use the “turkey bucket” (a food-safe bucket I purchased from our beer & wine supply store; a very small cooler also works great but I find the bucket is narrower and more of the turkey is submerged).

The salted chicken was much, much easier. Salt, citrus zests, fresh herbs stirred together and then rubbed over the bird. We’re talking mere minutes. I wrapped it up in a roasting bag, placed it in a pan, and put it in the fridge. A turkey in a pan will fit in my fridge overnight.

Winner: Salted Turkey

Sweet Tea Brined Turkey

Round 2 – Cooking

Both recipes require that the birds be rinsed inside and out and patted dry. I stuffed both birds with a couple of lemon and orange slices, a sprig of rosemary, and some onion slices that I reclaimed from the brine pot and rinsed prior to stuffing. I drizzled olive oil over both and cracked black pepper over top and then roasted (specifics are in the recipe below) them side-by-side in the same pan. I didn’t baste or broil the last minute or do anything else to promote extra browning.

The biggest difference here? Color. After sitting overnight in brine, the sweet tea chicken had turned brown. Completely brown, except for the parts that were pressed directly against the bottom/sides of the pot. The brined chicken went into the oven darker than the salted turkey would come out. The brined chicken came out a beautiful deep, dark brown.

Winner: Sweet Tea Brine

Round 3 – Pass me a Fork!
First up was the dry salted chicken. It was really good. Great even. The meat was juicy, it had good flavor, and comparatively, was just a bit saltier than the brined chicken. Not too salty, but definitely saltier. If you serve the salted turkey to your family on Thanksgiving, they will be happy. You will be loved. And you won’t have to own something called a “turkey bucket.” That recipe is coming later this week.

But the sweet tea brine… that chicken was excellent. The meat was juicier, had more flavor, and wasn’t as salty. The skin barely just had the faintest hint of tea. And while it didn’t really matter, it was the prettier chicken. We both agreed that it’s the turkey recipe that we’ll be serving at Thanksgiving.

Winner: Close… but Sweet Tea Brine

As mentioned, we used a 1/4-scale of the following recipe for a ~3.5lb chicken. If you’re new to brining, check out Alton Brown’s recipe for the perfect roast turkey. There’s a link to a video clip from the Good Eats episode about brining – good resource.

Sweet Tea and Citrus Brined Turkey

Thanksgiving turkey gets a Southern makeover with a sweet tea and citrus brine.


  • For the brine:
  • 1 gallon water
  • 8 family sized tea bags
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced
  • 2 navel oranges, thinly sliced
  • 1 heaping Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 12 cups of ice
  • 12-14 pound turkey, thawed and inner bag removed.
  • For baking:
  • Kitchen twine
  • Olive oil
  • Cracked black pepper


  1. Bring the water to boil in a large pot and add the tea bags.
  2. Turn off the heat and let steep 10 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and sugar, stirring until dissolved (turn the heat back on if necessary).
  4. Add onion, lemon and orange slices, peppercorns and garlic and let cool completely and then refrigerate until very cold.
  5. Add the brine to a clean bucket or very small cooler with ice and put the turkey breast side down.
  6. Leave the bucket in a cool place for 12 hours, flipping the turkey halfway through.
  7. Remove from the brine, rinse well, and pat dry.
  8. Use a slotted spoon to remove enough of the aromatics from the brine to fill the turkey cavity (rinse them well before stuffing).
  9. Preheat oven to 450.
  10. Tie the legs together, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with black pepper.
  11. Roast 30 minutes and then reduce the temp to 350, roasting for ~2 more hours, until a thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 160F.
  12. Let rest for 15 minutes before carving.


Yields: ~10 servings

Adapted from Hugh Acheson and Alton Brown

Estimated time: 15 hours