The Sunday Food-Related Post: The Sweet Potato Super Bowl

downloadThis is it. You can stop looking. This is my mother’s sweet potato recipe, with a few tweaks of my own, and it is the best. Just as we expect the Steelers to give us their best on the football field, do you want to do any less than serve the best on your holiday table? I thought not. Let’s get to it:

The original recipe was called “Sue’s Sweet Potatoes.” I have no idea who Sue was or what she had to do with it. But since I’ve modified it anyhow, I’m going to rename it.

Super Sweet Potatoes

There are four steps to this recipe. The nice thing is that you can do them all at one go or break it up into one at a time within a few days. So I’ll give it as the steps. But first, the ingredient list:

  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Milk
  • Butter. Real butter. Don’t tell me the other stuff is good enough, because it isn’t. I prefer salted, but if you use unsalted add a bit of extra salt.
  • Sugar, both brown and non-brown
  • Eggs
  • Vanilla. Real vanilla. Don’t tell me the other stuff is good enough, because it isn’t.
  • Orange essential oil, food grade (which, oddly, is actually optional…)
  • Flour, either regular or gluten-free if that’s an issue for someone you love
  • Pecans

Step 1: Roast sweet potatoes

This doesn’t sound very complicated, and it isn’t. But since a great deal of the flavor of the finished product comes from the quality and preparation of the potatoes, it’s worth discussing the technique.

I’ve tried all sort of different ways of cooking them—boiling in the skins, microwaving, etc., but there is no substitute for roasting them. It’s dead easy as well. Here’s how:

If you want to avoid a messy clean-up, line a baking sheet sufficient to hold your sweet potatoes with foil. Lay them out in a single layer. If I have time I rub the skins of the potatoes with some coconut oil, but it isn’t critical. Roast them in a hot oven (400 degrees or more) for a while. You want them to get to the point where they aren’t just soft but the caramel-y juices are coming out and burning on the foil. This is why you want the foil  That stuff is impossible to clean off your pan.

Set them aside and let them cool down until they are comfortable enough to handle. At this point you can refrigerated them for a few days if that suits your schedule better.

How many potatoes? Around 2 1/2 pounds. The yield is going to be different depending on the size of the potatoes (there is more wastage with small ones) etc., but it doesn’t matter tremendously. If I end up with a bit more mashed potato than I need I just chuck it in anyhow. The recipe is pretty flexible.

What sort of sweet potatoes? The ones with the nicest skin, heavy for their size. Especially if you are making a single recipe, consider getting the organic ones from Whole Foods. But as long as they aren’t shriveled up, any of them are probably okay.

The very best roasted sweet potatoes ever were ones I did back in the day when we had a wood stove in the living room. I put the potatoes into a very large cast iron dutch oven, put the lid on the pot, and left them on the top of the stove for a couple of hours. They were unbelievable. But they come out just fine in a regular oven too…

Step 2: Make the casserole base

Cut off the fibrous ends of your sweet potatoes and peel them. This takes like 30 seconds. The peel should slip right off. If you have too much trouble getting the peel off, you didn’t roast them long enough or else you have defective sweet potatoes.

Cut them into chunks into a mixing bowl. This is easiest with a hand-held mixer, but do use a mixer if you can. They won’t be as good if you hand mash them or use a blender or food processor.

Once they are pretty well mashed, add 1/4 cup white (or raw, or pure cane, or whatever you like) and several grindings of hippie salt. You know, the pink Himalayan stuff, or grey sea salt. If you use iodized table salt don’t tell me. Beat this together and then add 1/2 cup of milk. Whole milk, please. This isn’t about saving a few grams of fat. This is about a mountaintop experience. Beat this in. Your potatoes should start looking fluffy by now.

Add a 1/3 cup of melted butter. (See note in ingredient list.) Beat this in. Add two eggs and beat them in as well. Finally, add 1 t. of vanilla, preferably Mexican if you can get it, and 3 drops of orange essential oil. (As noted, the latter is optional, but it does add a wonderful note.) Beat in once again and bung it into your baking pan. Smooth the top off a bit. It’s generally a good idea to grease the sides and bottom of the pan first. Makes it a bit easier to clean. But suit yourself.

At this point you can cover the pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate the mixture for up to a couple of days.

Step 3: Topping

Combine 1/2 c. chopped pecans, 3 T. melted butter, 3 T. flour, and 1/2 c. brown sugar. (Don’t bother to pack the sugar into the cup—just measure it.) If you are starting with pecan halves, especially if you are increasing the recipe, it’s easier to do this in a food processor, but be sure to pulse with discretion, as you don’t want the pecans to be too finely chopped.

Crumble this over the pan of sweet potato mixture. You can also do this right after Step 2 and then refrigerate it—it doesn’t matter.

Step 4: Baking and eating

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 35 minutes. It will take longer if you refrigerated it before baking. In that case, if the top doesn’t seem to be browning particularly, crank the oven up a bit for five minutes or so toward the end. The main thing is to make sure the eggs are properly cooked. But this will stay fairly soft.

Serve. Hot is traditional. But it is delicious cold as well. And tepid. Enjoy!

This recipe makes a three quart casserole worth.  If you have a small family and my daughter isn’t coming, you can probably get away with making a single recipe.. But it isn’t that much more trouble to make a doubled recipe, in which case you can put it in a 9 x 13 pan. Or quadruple it and put it in two large pans or four smaller ones. It freezes very well, probably slightly better if it is already cooked. It makes a wonderful post-holiday breakfast, or lunch, or dinner. I’ve occasionally eaten it at all three meals.

The big bag of sweet potatoes they sell at Costco is just about right for a quadrupled recipe. And no, they aren’t as good as the ones from Whole Foods—sorry, Costco. But no one ever complains…

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