Thanksgiving is about smells. Of course, it has a lot to do with taste as well, but for the most part I find that the most striking elements of Turkey day arrive through the nose.
In terms of these smells, there are the classics: Spicy pumpkin pie aroma mixes with the scent of garlicky mashed potatoes interspersed with whiffs of toasted bread for stuffing. Then, there are the dishes special to one’s own Thanksgiving table: my Aunt Sharyn’s corn casserole, buttery and studded with corn kernels; the black pepper-scented roasted Brussels sprouts my mom so painstakingly slices that my sister and I always rebuff in favor of sweeter veggies. This year, a vibrant tzimmes will also grace my Thanksgiving table.
Traditionally served on Rosh Hashanah and Passover, tzimmes make a bright addition to any Thanksgiving spread. I tend to find colorful root vegetables in a shimmering glaze much more appealing than simpler vegetable dishes (read: aforementioned Brussels sprouts.) I’ve made stovetop tzimmes a few times, but I think the texture of roasted vegetables makes for a more complex vegetable experience, as they hold onto their individual flavors more intently after a journey in the oven than the stockpot.
It’s more common to find tzimmes made with orange juice, but I find that cider helps this dish to be extra autumnal– not to mention how fantastic it makes the kitchen smell. Cranberries add a tart bite to break up the sweetness coming from the potatoes, carrots, prunes, and additional liquid. If you’re not a fan of parsnips you can easily swap them out for more carrots. The best part of tzimmes is that it can easily be prepped in advance. Chop all the veggies and whisk up the liquid component the night before, then simply combine and toss in the oven on the big day.
3 sweet potatoes (you can use firm pale-flesh or soft orange-flesh potatoes)
2 large carrots
1 large white onion
½ cup prunes, diced
1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)
For the glaze:
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup apple cider
¼ cup honey
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp coriander
a few good pinches kosher salt
Sprigs of fresh thyme and sage (you can also use dried)
2 Tbsp butter or coconut oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut sweet potatoes, carrots, and parsnips into 1-inch chunks, making sure to discard the woody inner stem of the parsnips. Place in a 2 quart baking dish with prunes and cranberries.
Whisk remaining ingredients except (thyme sprigs and butter) together and pour over the vegetables. Place fresh thyme and sage on top.
Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes, then baste the juices over the vegetables. Re-cover with foil and bake for another 30 minutes, basting again after 15.
Baste again, uncover, and dot the top of the veggies with butter or coconut oil. Continue roasting until vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened, about 35-45 minutes, tossing mixture occasionally.
Note: If doubling or tripling the recipe, the final roasting time make take up to an hour.