CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Marinated Carrot Salad

Side dishes are just as important as the main course when it comes to holiday celebrations such as Thanksgiving Day dinner.

It’s always been that way in our family. From the time we used to go to my Grandma and Grandpa Menard’s in the 1950s and ’60s to our smaller get-togethers these days, side dishes have played a big role at mealtime.

Probably my favorite side for the holidays over the years has been baked oysters (recipe follows). It’s a recipe that Grandma fixed at every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Mom carried on the tradition and passed it on to me. Nowadays, several of my cousins make the dish for the holidays, which some might consider an acquired taste.

But you certainly can count salads among the tasty sides, too, that have caught my fancy. I have my favorites, some of which haven’t crossed my palate in years — such as a seven-layer salad with bacon bits, water chestnuts and peas — to those that make an appearance at every holiday meal.

One side salad that we’ve come to like over the years is made with carrots. My late Aunt Harriet Hendrickson always used to make it, and I’ve been fixing it the past couple of years after finding the instructions when going through my Mom’s orderly recipe boxes after she died.

This Thanksgiving is no different. I just put the finishing touches on a container of the salad and placed it in the refrigerator, so the carrots can soak up the tomato soup-vinegar-sugar-vegetable oil marinade.

If you’ve never tried this salad, it is definitely something I would recommend. It may not supplant the the turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy, but it will certainly be worth your while.

Marinated Carrot Salad
2 pounds carrots, sliced and steamed (not overcooked)
1 can tomato soup
¾ cup vinegar
½ cup salad oil
1 cup sugar
1 small onion, chopped, or 6 to 8 shallots, chopped
Combine vinegar, sugar, tomato soup and oil in saucepan. Barely bring to a boil. Pour over cooked carrots and onions. Store in refrigerator overnight and serve the next day.
Note: The longer the carrots marinate the better.

Baked Oysters
1 quart raw oysters
1 cup Holland rusk crackers
1 cup of butter, softened
2 cups of saltine cracker crumbs
¼ to ½ cup half and half
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crush crackers and Holland rusk. Add butter and mix thoroughly. Spray a 9-by-9-inch cake pan with Pam or other vegetable oil. Layer the bottom of the pan with half the cracker mixture and then top with oysters. Add remaining cracker mixture. Pour oyster juice and ¼ to ½ cup of half and half over ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 to 60 minutes.

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