Maple-Applejack Sweet Potato Pie with Marscapone Whipped Cream

Pumpkin pie is a classic, and few pies scream Thanksgiving more clearly and loudly.

But there is another orange-ish, mashable player in town that is perhaps just as classic – it just usually makes its appearance as a side dish drowned in butter, brown sugar and marshmallows.

Maple-Applejack Sweet Potato Pie with Marscapone Whipped Cream

Your standard candied sweet potatoes are so close to being a dessert already that this year we cut out the middleman and had our potatoes in pie form.

A little booze-spiked and covered in dabs of marscapone whipped cream (as an homage to the marshmallows), this stunningly smooth and creamy pie is just as rich and decadent as pumpkin, but with a deeper and more earthy flavor.

Also, my perfect pie crust formula!

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Mushrooms & Mustard

My mother taught me that you should have a green vegetable with every meal.

I’m totally down with that. I like pretty much all of the green vegetables. But even for those who are not the biggest fans, this particular recipe for brussels sprouts is undeniably crave-worthy. Perhaps it is all the shallots and bacon.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Mushrooms & Mustard

Roasty, browned and delicious and full of flavors strong enough to stand toe to toe with the sprouts themselves, this is a side that is just as at home on the Thanksgiving table as it is on your Monday night table (although you might want to cut the recipe in half for a Monday night).

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Butternut Squash & Apples with Bacon & Crispy Sage

As you may know, I am a bit of a Martha Stewart addict.

So when the November issue of Martha Stewart Living came out and it contained this insanely simple and delicious recipe for roasted squash and apples with slab bacon, I had to make it right away.

Butternut Squash & Apples with Bacon & Crispy Sage

Only problem is, it called for delicata squashes and lady apples, neither of which I could find anywhere. So I consulted the internet to find the next closest apple. On the sweet vs tart continuum, also taking into account color, as well as baking and cooking requirements (some apples keep their shape when baked, and some break down too much), the honeycrisp fit the bill.

The original recipe also called for fresh thyme, which is fantastic with this dish. But I wanted something a little fancier for this Thanksgiving version. Sage, specifically the fried variety. Crispy, fragrant, and losing it’s strong medicine-like quality when cooked, it’s a great foil to the mass of slab bacon and the meaty, earthy goodness of this hearty side.

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Rustic Apple, Pear & Quince Crostata with Ginger & Gruyere Crust

Thanksgiving calls for a serious pie.

Apple pie is always a favorite, but this seems to have been my most ambitious Thanksgiving ever. The usual favorites simply would not do this year. So I consulted my seasonal produce cards to find some suitable companions for my Granny Smiths.

Rustic Apple, Pear & Quince Crostata with Ginger & Gruyere Crust

Pears were a natural choice, with their similar cooking times and complementary flavors. So what goes with apples and pears? Cheese? Oh totally. So let’s throw some Applewood-smoked gruyere (regular will work just fine too, the older the better) in the crust dough. Ginger? Now we’re talking. A sprinkling of diced crystallized ginger inside the crust should spice things up a bit.

But I have also been crushing out on some quince pie recipes from the November 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living  for some time, and I had been dying to give quince a chance.

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Applejack-Spiked Cranberry Sauce

In my family, one of the most cherished items on the table for the holidays are the brandied cranberries.

It’s basically just from scratch cranberry sauce with a bunch of brandy tossed in when they’re cool so it doesn’t cook off. That means it needs to sit for a few days to let the flavors meld at for the stuff not to taste like straight up booze.

Applejack-Spiked Cranberry Sauce

I added my own little spin by adding a few spicy notes with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, and substituting my favorite holiday booze, applejack.

Get ready to give thanks to that most American of fruits, the apple (despite it getting its start where Borat is from – but hey, most of us are transplants here), and its magical ability to give us sweetness, sustenance, and intoxication. And to turn your Thanksgiving cranberry sauce up to 11.

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