Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Rub with olive oil and salt and wrap in foil:
4 medium sweet potatoes (no monstrously huge sweet potatoes need apply)
My family's Thanksgiving is less of a dinner than a potluck. We're a numerous clan, so no one bothers making the turkey the centerpiece of the table--one turkey wouldn't begin to be enough. So, while there is usually a turkey, there is also pot roast and chicken casserole and ham among other fine things to eat.
I prefer the Thanksgiving-as-collaborative-effort model. It means that one person doesn't have to bear excessive burden and that everyone brings something they feel comfortable making. One of my relatives always brings her feather-light dinner rolls, someone always provides collard greens, and more often than not there's a cheesecake floating around. People tend to know what they're good at and stick to it, meaning there are very few, if any, duds, and there's plenty of variety.
Another good thing about potluck Thanksgiving is that you pretty much bring what you want to eat. For years, I prepared a heap of roasted vegetables as my contribution, ensuring that there would at least be one item of healthy roughage on the table. Even in times of conviviality, I don't feel I've supped well unless I have a good serving of veggies. This is not born from a feeling that I "must" eat my vegetables, but rather because I happen to adore them. Veggies aren't just for everyday, ho-hum meals. They should be made a jubilant part of all our celebrations, if only because they're so delicious.
Now put aside your skepticism and talk to me about Brussels sprouts. I've tried to explain in years past that Brussels sprouts are fabulous in spite of all the mushy, sulfurous sprouts you probably ate as a child. Just like any food, if Brussels sprouts are well-prepared they will be tasty. I don't like to discriminate against cooking methods, but there are better and worse ways of cooking things, and boiling Brussels sprouts until they start to fall apart is just bad.
Brussels sprouts are really just tiny cabbages that grow on a stalk. Think of them this way if you're having trouble wrapping your brain around how to cook them. And so, in the spirit of cabbage, I prepared mine in such a way as to make a German proud. Or at least I think so. I shredded the sprouts much as you might shred cabbage, I rendered some bacon, and I made a makeshift dressing from the bacon drippings, shallot, vinegar, and mustard seeds. I added apple for sweetness and contrast. The best part? You can make this ahead of time, and it doesn't involve using precious oven space. Oh, and it has bacon.
I won't lie. Shredding the Brussels sprouts takes time, but feel free to do this a day in advance. You could probably use a mandoline, but I didn't for fear of losing my fingertips. If you're feeling daring, be my guest.
Cook in a large skillet over medium heat until most of the fat has been rendered and the bacon is crisp:
6 slices bacon
Meanwhile, shred as you would cabbage:
1 pound Brussels sprouts
Place the sprouts in a large bowl and toss with:
1 tart apple, finely diced
When the bacon is cooked, remove it to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain off all but about 3 tablespoons of the drippings. Add to the skillet:
2 large shallots or 1 medium onion, minced
Cook, stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add:
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
Stir to coat with oil. Add:
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar or brown sugar
Scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the skillet, and pour the vinegar over the sprouts in the bowl. Toss to combine. Crumble the bacon and add it to the bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.