The traditional Thanksgiving feast is notoriously difficult to pair with wine. There are some great choices -- Lambrusco and off-dry Vouvray top my list -- but they tend towards the sweet end of the spectrum.
While turkey is pretty much a clean canvas when it comes to wine pairings, the yams and cranberries are the speed bumps in the road. They are both very sweet, and that’s why so many wine recommendations include wines with sweetness, to help balance out their sweetness.
So, let's do ourselves a favor, and take the sweet out of the potatoes and cranberries.
Blasphemy, I know. But it would make the meal easier to pair with dry wines. So, how would I do it you ask? Well, first off let me just say that I am not in favor of banning the sweet potatoes and cranberries. I do love them, but if you want to make wine pairing easier with your Thanksgiving dinner, why not move the sweet elements to where they belong? Dessert!
Now, before I go any further I just want to say that this is an academic exercise. I do not fetishize wine pairings, and sweetness be damned, I serve wines that I like with Thanksgiving dinner! But if I were to fetishize over the wine pairings, this is what I would do.
Move the cranberries and sweet potatoes to dessert by serving these two dishes: Garlic and Thyme Boniato Mash and Rhubarb Chutney.
Instead of the sweet potatoes, I’d serve... sweet potatoes! Say what? Well, instead of the watery yellow sweet potatoes we sometimes call yams, I would serve boniatos, the white-fleshed sweet potatoes that may look like their yellow-skinned cousins but cook up more like a regular baking potato.
Boniatos make a great mashed potatoes, and wickedly delicious French fries as well. Their flavor when cooked is gently sweet, like roasted chestnuts, so they will add a familiar element to the Thanksgiving meal. A simple way to prepare boniatos for Thanksgiving is to make a boniato pancake, but in order to keep things simple, here’s my recipe for Boniato Mash.
Garlic and Thyme Boniato Mash
2.5 lbs of boniatos (if small they can be left whole, if large it’s better to peel and large dice them to ensure even cooking)
4 tbsp unsalted butter
8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
a touch of freshly grated nutmeg
¾ cup or more of milk
salt and white pepper, to taste
1 – Fill a pot large enough to hold the boniatos with cold water and bring it to a boil. Add the boniatos and allow the water to return to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the boniatos until they are tender (about 20-25 minutes for the diced boniato, 30 minutes or more for the whole ones). If you’ve cooked your boniatos whole, peel them before proceeding.
2 – In a sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has stopped foaming, add the minced garlic and sauté until golden brown, being careful not to burn the garlic. When the garlic is cooked, remove the pan from heat and add the thyme, nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Mix to blend thoroughly.
3 – Using a ricer, or a hand masher, crush the cooked boniato along with the garlic/thyme/butter mixture and the milk. Continue working the mixture until you have nicely whipped mashed boniatos. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.
Rhubarb Chutney, on the next page