November 7, 2018

Give Your Thanksgiving a Southern Twist

When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, there’s very little regional variation in the dishes. You’ll feast on cranberries, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy-smothered turkey, whether you’re in New Jersey or New Orleans. But occasionally, Thanksgiving suppers in the south feature a few twists on the typical fare. And why not? We know a thing or two about comfort food. Here are a few ways you can give your Thanksgiving a southern flare.

Side dish: sweet potato casserole with marshmallows

A traditional North Carolina dinner table isn’t complete without a sweet potato or two. Our state’s hot climate and rich soil allows us to produce more sweet potatoes than any other state in the nation. And at Thanksgiving, those beloved orange tubers can usually be found in the form of a gooey, decadent casserole.

If you’ve ever sampled the cuisine at the North Carolina State Fair, you know that our citizens have a weakness for two ingredients: Crisco and sugar. So, it should come as no surprise that our casserole recipe does not call for tempering the sweetness of the potatoes with a savory element. Rather, we blend the tubers with a few cups of brown sugar and top them with marshmallows. Would you expect anything less of the region that brought you Cheerwine soda, deep-fried cheesecake, and Krispy Kreme doughnuts?

Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it, though. Thirty minutes in the oven give the marshmallows a toasty crunch that complements the creaminess of the sweet potatoes. Is it sinfully indulgent for a side dish? Sure it is, but this is Thanksgiving, and you’ve got the rest of the year to practice moderation.

Deep fried turkey

Refer to our aforementioned statement about moderation. On Thanksgiving, it’s perfectly acceptable to serve a main dish that’s both fried and covered in gravy. Here in the south, there are few types of meat — or food, in general — we haven’t stuck in a vat of frying oil, and that includes a 20-pound Thanksgiving turkey.

Sadly, North Carolina can’t take responsibility for bringing the fried turkey trend to Thanksgiving tables. The practice of deep frying turkey originated in the Cajun country of Louisiana, where a few creative cooks discovered that their aluminum crawfish boilers could also fit a turkey. They used an apparatus to lower the seasoned turkey into the boiler, where the oil sizzled the bird. They found that this preparation method was not only tasty, but also quick; turkeys should cook in the oil about three and a half minutes for every pound, so a nine-pound bird is ready to eat in about a half-hour!

Just make sure you follow these tips to keep yourself, your guests, and your back porch safe from your turkey-frying escapades.

Chess pie

While the origins of the pie’s name are debated, the origins of the pie’s recipe are not. Chess pie was born in the south and it remains a southern staple. While many Thanksgiving meals end with a more seasonal dish like pecan pie or apple crumble, adding chess pie to the table gives the dessert course a true southern twist.

In southern families, chess pie recipes get passed down through generations like handmade quilts, pearl necklaces, and sepia photographs. Each recipe has its own variations, but the basic ingredients remain the same: sugar, butter, eggs and flour. It’s often called a pantry pie because you can create it using kitchen staples.

Though it’s made out of everyday ingredients, the end result is far from ordinary. Chess pie has a gooey, creamy consistency and a rich, sweet flavor that creates the perfect finale to your Thanksgiving feast.

So, whether you’re new to the area or just a fan of southern cuisine, you’ll love incorporating these dishes into your Thanksgiving feast. From all of us at The Preserve at Tidewater, we wish you a Thanksgiving holiday full of happiness, gratefulness, and tasty indulgence!