“Barbecue may not be the road to world peace but it’s a start.”- Anthony Bourdain

Greetings & Happy Thanksgiving!

Welcome back to Uncle Tom’s Corner. Just last weekend I did a fall cleaning on the smoker in anticipation of the marathon cooking coming up over the next six or seven weeks and made sure I had enough of and a variety of wood pellets to get me through the season.

I got a voice mail from my Dr.’s PA. Not knowing the purpose of the call I called her back. She informed me that the good Dr. would like to conduct some tests to determine how such things as cholesterol and sugar levels are holding? With the onset of the marathon gorge-fest beginning a mere week away I thought I exhibited a great deal of self-control by not laughing.

A note about Veteran’s Day. One of my former ship mates from my first ship came to town on the Sunday before Veteran’s Day. He was doing some teaching in Denver so we managed to meet up Veteran’s Day evening for dinner. Hadn’t seen the guy in 50 years. 50 years! 1969! Had I still been in the animal health business I would have had to throw my boots away…there was so much B.S. blowing around our table. After dinner I was driving home and called my old Engineering Officer and told him of the meet-up. He told me about a couple of other guys from the same ship. An ensuing phone call to one of ‘em went like this:

“Is this John?”

“This is Tom Sandquist from the Haverfield.”

“I remember you…tall guy with blond hair.”


“Your nickname was Sandy.”

“That’s me.”

“I still remember the time (vivid description of one of the less-stellar moments in my military career).”

“Yeah, well, that probably wasn’t one of my proudest moments.”

“Don’t sell yourself short…you were an inspiration to us all.”

To paraphrase William Shakespeare “The good that men do is oft interred with their bones; the evil lives after them.” Apparently by 50 years or more.

In the last issue of Inside Educated Minds I told you how I was going to prep and smoke a turkey…which has subsequently grown to four turkeys. Now let’s talk about side dishes.

Thanksgiving is about tradition. Being the good little German Lutheran western-Nebraska farm boy that I am Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without the lime Jello with shredded carrots. Just kidding…although that was a staple.

The first one is spicy mashed sweet potatoes that goes well with smoked turkey.

6 sweet potatoes-peeled and cubed

¾ cup whole milk

½ cup unsalted butter

¾ cup maple syrup

Chipotle pepper to taste

Boil the sweet potatoes until fork-tender. Mash ‘em. Add the milk. Add the butter. Add the syrup. Add the ground chipotle pepper. Serve warm.

Regular potatoes.

Mashed-follow the same recipe as above but don’t add the chipotle pepper.

Au gratin or scalloped? Au gratin has cheese and scalloped has onions, shallots or other aromatics. I kinda like the shallots because they add just a hint of garlic…but that’s just me. This recipe has both. You could even add some diced ham if you’d like.

6 large potatoes – Yukon or Russet-peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 large white onion-thinly sliced and quartered

4 Tbsp. butter, 6 Tbsp. flour, milk, salt & pepper

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Paprika – mostly use for color but adds a little flavor.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make the roux. In a small sauce pan melt butter, whisk in flour, whisk in the milk and season with salt and ground pepper

Cook sauce on low until smooth and boiling, stirring occasionally with a whisk.

Reduce heat and stir in 1 cup of the cheddar cheese.

Place a half of the sliced potatoes in a lightly greased 1.5 quart casserole dish (8×8 or 9×9 will work)

Add half of the onion

Pour half of cheese sauce over potatoes and onion.

Repeat with second layer of potatoes, onion and cheese sauce.

Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese on top.

Top with some paprika for color.

Bake uncovered for about 1 hour at 350°F.


Lastly, Corn. Being from Nebraska, if a recipe doesn’t include beef, corn or Dorothy Lynch Salad Dressing (and/or Jello with shredded carrots) it just isn’t the real thing. And its widely rumored that corn…or maize…was served at the first Thanksgiving.

Although definitely not a Nebraska recipe how about a Southwestern Black Bean & Corn Casserole?

2 Tbsp. oil (maybe sunflower or other non-flavored oil)

2 cup chopped yellow onion

2 cup cornmeal

4 tsp. chili powder

2 2/3 cup milk

2 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed & drained

2 pkg. (16 oz.) frozen corn (or several ears of grilled corn)

2 16 oz. can stewed tomatoes

2 4 oz. can diced green chilis (mild or hot)-drained

2/3 cup sharp cheddar or cotija cheese

Preheat the oven to 350⁰. Grease a large baking pan with butter. In a large bowl thoroughly mix all the ingredients except the cheese. Place in the baking pan. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake covered for 35-40 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes to allow the cheese and the rest of it to brown.

On that note I’m going to quit for now. Salads, desserts, wine selection (although I’ve been told that pinot noir was dubbed the ideal wine for a Thanksgiving feast)…that’s all up to you. I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving and hope to see you back at Uncle Tom’s Corner as we head for the home stretch and the New Year.