Instead of doing things the way they’ve always been done, here are recipes for Thanksgiving 2020 that throw tradition out the window — at least just this once — and show how the classics can be much easier — and more fun — when you focus on highlighting the qualities in each that really matter.
Roasting yams at a low temperature and for a long time gives them a cheesecake-like texture that’s soft and luscious. This German-inspired pesto-like herb sauce is a great complement to the yam’s sweet flavor. Typically, the ingredients are all blended together until smooth, but here I like to keep the herbs roughly chopped so you get more of their verdant bite. In the traditional German recipe, you must use seven types of herbs, but as long as you use mostly parsley and arugula with some chives, the sauce will taste great.
Similarly, three kinds of sour dairy — buttermilk, yogurt and sour cream — are used to flavor the sauce with their unique acidity, but if you don’t have each, you can use either all yogurt or sour cream. And while blending a whole boiled egg into the sauce might seem odd, it’s a traditional way to thicken a sauce, and the egg’s flavor plays off the acidic dairy and green herbs wonderfully.
Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Place the yams in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; they should all fit with a little room around them. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil, then rub the oil all over the yams and the bottom of the dish. Season the yams liberally with some salt and pepper, then cover the dish with foil and bake until their flesh is very tender, at least 3 hours.
Make the seven-herb sauce: Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, add the egg and cook for 10 minutes, until hard-boiled. Drain the water, cover the egg in cold water to stop cooking, then drain and peel. Place the egg in a small blender or food processor, then pour in the buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon juice and the 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Blend until the sauce is smooth, then taste and season with more salt and pepper. Pile all the herbs on a cutting board and run your knife through them three or four times until roughly chopped. Reserve a pinch of the herbs in a small bowl, then place the rest in a serving bowl. Add the egg sauce and stir to combine. Cover each bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
When the yams are ready, remove the dish from the oven and use a potato masher, metal spatula or large spoon to gently crush the yams so they spread out and fill in the gaps around them to create one thick layer (or mash and stir in the pan until smooth, then spread out in an even layer). Season the yams again with salt and pepper, focusing on the now-exposed insides. Spoon the sauce over the yams and garnish with the reserved herbs.
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