It’s an annual dilemma.
Beginning with Thanksgiving, the holiday season is a time of overindulgence. As a host or hostess, do you want to partake in the festive fattening by serving the high-fat, high-calorie foods that we all associate with the holidays? Or do you feel it your duty — or perhaps your medical necessity — to cut back on the excess and serve dishes that are more healthful?
We can’t solve the dilemma for you. It is a matter for your conscience, your waistline and the health of your guests.
But what we can do is to offer two versions of some of the most popular Thanksgiving recipes. One is the full-fat, full-calorie version that calls to mind the fulfilling sense of holiday cheer we all crave. And the other is a lower-fat, lower-calorie version that is almost as good as the original.
Your guests may not know the difference, but their doctors and their bathroom scales will thank you.
Let’s start with scalloped potatoes, a dish that comes out at special events when mashed potatoes just seem a little too tame.
The high-fat version is a cheesy, creamy marvel. Tender slices of potato are simmered in a rich, thick and robust sauce of cream (blended with chicken stock) and flavored with the earthy tones of onions and thyme.
On the top is a brown and bubbling layer of melted cheddar cheese. It is so hearty and stick-to-your-ribs satisfying that it is the rarest of side dishes, one that commands as much attention as the entrée.
But the Healthier Scalloped Potatoes I made are also impressive. They use several clever tricks to replace the rich robustness of the original recipe while sacrificing surprisingly little of the taste or the velvety way it coats your mouth.
Instead of heavy cream mixed with broth, the lower-fat version uses 2% milk. Some of the richness of the original is re-created by the judicious use of low-fat cream cheese, and the sauce is thickened with a slurry of cornstarch and water instead of the much more fattening simmered cream.