Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Casserole a Winner for Thanksgiving

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Casserole a Winner for Thanksgiving

Article excerpt

THE TURKEY MAY be the star of the Thanksgiving show, but the trimmings give the cook a chance to shine. When we asked readers last month to send in their favorite Thanksgiving side dishes - something on the light side and something other than the traditional cranberry sauce and candied sweet potatoes - we knew we'd come up with some real winners.

And we did. Thirty-seven of them, to be exact. A few were duplicates. Others were variations on favorite themes. And all were tempting.

Among the more popular picks were wild rice casseroles, mashed-potato casseroles, sweet potato souffles, corn puddings, cranberry molds and fluffy cranberry salads made with whipped cream or frozen whipped topping.

After that, the recipes ran the gamut from baked pineapple and hot cucumbers to sauerkraut and oyster stew. The mix was so good, one could easily make a feast out of the side dishes alone.

Sweet potatoes showed up more than any other vegetable, and it was in this category that we found our cookbook-winning recipe. It came from Teresa Mayhew Hess of Sunset Hills, and it had just about everything you could ask for in a fancy, special-occasion recipe - except a fancy, special-sounding name.

Sweet potato casserole. That's it. Simple and straightforward.

But wait until you taste it. It's flavored with orange rind, ginger and a nip of brandy. It's beaten with egg whites, so it puffs up light and fluffy. And it's topped with pecans and apples and cinnamon, so it even has a bit of a crunch.

Technically, it's not a make-ahead dish. But you can start it the day before, which means you don't have to spend a lot of time on it on the big day.

Hess, who's a native of south St. Louis, got the recipe from her sister-in-law. As she does with most recipes, she made it once according to the directions, then she started changing things.

The biggest change was in the preparation. "When my sister-in-law makes it, she dirties every dish in the house," said Hess with a laugh. "I don't have time for that."

What she does have is three red-haired, blue-eyed sons - Carl, 7, Mark, 4 1/2, and Paul, 2 1/2. And although the older two like to help do dishes (translation: play in soapy water), too much of their help isn't always practical for this "part-time attorney and full-time mom."

Hess works for the state attorney general in St. Louis. Her husband, Phil, is also a lawyer - and, says Hess, a wonderful cook.

"We each have our own areas of expertise," she said. He does the beef, pork and pasta ("He makes a fettuccine to die for," Hess said); she makes the chicken and seafood.

She also makes salads for luncheon get-togethers with friends, cakes for special occasions and, sometimes, cookies for her kids.

Pies she leaves to "the experts" - her mother and her mother-in-law. At Thanksgiving, when Hess invites both sides of the family for dinner, each mom contributes her own special pumpkin pie, as well as her own special cranberry concoction. …

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