Step away from the fried onion rings. Put down the Campbell's can. This is an intervention.
We're your family, and we love you, so we're going to help you get this monkey off your back. We know, we know, it started out innocently. It always does, with a simple recipe for green-bean casserole. Come on, those so-called friends of yours said, all the other moms are doing it. Your family will love it.
And maybe we did love it, at first. But then things got out of control. Ever since you pulled that first seductive 9-by-13 Pyrex dish of bubbling cream and crisp onion threads from the oven, your holiday cuisine has escalated to dangerously high levels of cliché and kitsch. In a pattern we've seen over and over again, in so many well-intentioned holiday feast planners, you started out with the soft stuff: the cream of mushroom soup, the canned beans, the French's onions. Then you moved from G.B.C., the classic gateway casserole, to more hackneyed holiday hallmarks—butterscotch haystacks, divinity, anything baked under an orange sediment of Cheez-Its.
But that's what the holidays are all about, you say. It's about traditions like spiced tea and Chex Mix.
Listen to yourself, woman. Do you think the Pilgrims, upon plonking the first silver-buckled shoe on Plymouth Rock, looked up at a harvest moon and said, "Men of the New World, let's roll a ball of port-wine-flavored cheese-related product in some crushed nuts! Now gather those neighbors with the hatchets and the buckskins to toast our bounty with a hot cocktail of Nestea and Tang."
Hell, no, Mom. That never happened.
We know what you're thinking: I'm not hurting anyone with my holiday clichés. Everyone loves Cool Whip ambrosia and those jaw-breaking green wreaths made of corn flakes, marshmallows and Red Hots. Tradition is a victimless crime.
That's where you're wrong. Sodium, fat, sugar and cholesterol aside, you are smothering us with culinary kitsch. Guns don't kill people; dyed-green Post Toastie tannenbaums kill people.
Remember that night we found you face-down in a jiggly puddle of cranberry sauce with the expiration date, the serial number and the rings from the can still imprinted on the ruby gelatin? We knew you had a problem then, but we didn't want to ruin the holiday. After all, the cheese straws still had 20 minutes to go.
So we accept some blame for the ensuing years of recipes torn from the backs of women's magazines whose sole purpose was to transform chow mein noodles, corn flakes, crushed pineapple, Mandarin oranges and other taste-free fallout-shelter fare into staples of the holiday table. Just like clockwork every November, Big Cereal and the United Brotherhood of Canned Fruits and Vegetables would come around pimping their Doo Dads and Wheat Chex and canned water chestnuts. And just as surely, we'd succumb to their nostalgia-themed come-on of maternal guilt: It just wouldn't be the holidays without raisin-and-pineapple sweet potato casserole with brown sugar and mini marshmallows on top.
Stop right there, Mom. Drop the Mister Salty sticks. Yes, it would be the holidays! It just wouldn't be the swollen, diabetes-beckoning potluck where we all loosen our belts and think, Please, Dick Clark, go on and drop the freaking ball already so we can get on with failing our New Year's resolutions. What's the point of reforming our eating habits if it's just a matter of months until the nutritional assault of canned soup, dry cereal and marshmallows in deep-dish reindeer-themed cookware begins anew?
Take it easy. Don't cry. Change is always hard. Look at New Coke. But we're going to be here for you as you transform your seasonal saltine affliction into a culinary celebration of all that is fresh, local and wholesome. Here, try this. This will help. It's a recipe from Ombi restaurant chef Laura Wilson. She, too, was once the victim of one too many sweet potato casseroles with crushed corn flakes on top. See, you're not alone. Tossing out those crushed Chicken in a Biskits dated 2002 is just the first step to recovery.
Andouille and Fall Vegetable Dish
8 oz. andouille, medium dice
1/2 c. onion, medium dice
1/2 c. poblano peppers, medium dice
1 c. parsnip, peeled and medium dice
1 c. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and medium dice
1 c. sweet potato, peeled and medium dice
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 orange, zest and juice
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375°. Toss squash, sweet potato and parsnip in olive oil and bake on baking sheet for 20 minutes, or until slightly softened. (You may substitute turnips, potatoes and acorn squash.) In a large sauté pan on medium heat, sauté onions, andouille and peppers until brown and caramelized. Deglaze with orange juice. Add fall veggies, zest and herbs. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until vegetables are cooked through. If they start to stick, deglaze with chicken stock 1/4 cup at a time.
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