The Best Possible Thing to Happen to a Sweet Potato, and Other Thanksgiving Advice

From 2005 — time flies…
First, the other advice.
~Remember, it’s just a meal: Probably nobody but you wants multiple courses, This is an American holiday, and most Americans throw everything except dessert on the table and eat it all at once. Skip the fig and goat cheese crostini appetizers and the cream of chestnut soup.
~Remember, it’s just a meal: For most people, Tday is about tradition, so give them what they want. Make the old favorites, sans twists. If your heart’s desire is to change things up, make one new dish and notice the reaction. Maybe it will become a new tradition, or if it isn’t well received, that’s more leftovers for you.
~Remember, it’s just a meal: Don’t spend it preaching about nutrition. Face it, this is one dinner that is really a starchfest, at least it is for my family — southern cornbread dressing, northern bread stuffing/filling, southern dumplings, sweet potato casserole — embrace the starch and the fat, and don’t even get me started on the desserts. It’s just ONE meal. You can go back to whatever floats your healthy lifestyle boat tomorrow.
~Remember, it’s more than a meal: Don’t get so caught up in food prep that you forget to really look at your loved ones. Be with them. Work together in the kitchen and on other jobs. Enjoy the process. Let the kids handle decorations, and no, it won’t look anything like a magazine cover, not even Family Fun. Don’t worry about mismatched dishes (so what) or that you bought the pies (smart delegation of resources) or that you can’t afford flowers (cut a branch from a shrub or tree and stand it in something — voila — creative and free!) Look at what you have, who you have, and Who gave it to you. These are the good old days. Thank you, God.
Thanksgiving Dinner at my parents’ house — family, friends, strays all welcome. Mom and I share the main menu prep, and friends and strays are invited,  if they wish, to “bring any dish without which it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving for you.”

Now, the sweet potato part. This recipe is pedigreed on both sides of my southern family and has been fully embraced by the northern in-laws who used to get their sweet potatoes in chunks out of a can. Roasting instead of boiling the potatoes in the first step is my lazy, I-hate-to-peel-potatoes-especially-sweet-potatoes innovation. I like the finished product much better for the change, too — a bit sturdier texture, I think.

Roast, don’t boil, those sweet potatoes — and don’t forget to line the pan with foil!

Sweet Potato Casserole – the best possible thing to happen to a sweet potato

This is Lori’s tweaked version of a dish made by her mom, her Aunt Peggy (Dad’s side of the family) and Great-Aunt Jolene (Mom’s side of the family). People often moan when they eat the first bite, which I always take as a positive affirmation.

Serves 6 (I always double it to serve 12 easily. It makes many more servings than that if part of a holiday dinner with several other sides.)

3 lb. sweet potatoes
¼ c. butter, cut in pieces
2 eggs
pinch salt

Topping:
1 c. chopped pecans
1 c. light brown sugar
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
¼ c. butter

1. Line a sheet pan with foil. (Please do this. You will be so happy not to have to scour a pan covered with toasted-on sweet potato juices later. For some reason, they are especially hard to remove.) Scrub sweet potatoes and prick them all over with a fork. Arrange on the sheet pan. Put them in the oven and turn it to 350 degrees. Roast for 60-90 minutes or until they are very tender. They should be almost collapsing and a fork inserted into the largest potato should meet no resistance at all after it pierces the skin. Remove them from the oven and let them cool just until you can handle them.
2. Meanwhile, make the topping: Cut the butter into the brown sugar, pecans, and flour until all is crumbly. Or you can blitz it in a food processor. Or you can blend the butter, brown sugar, and flour with a mixer and stir in the pecans at the end. Set aside.
3. Slit the cooked potatoes and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. If still very hot, let them cool a little more. Beat in the pieces of butter, the eggs, and the salt until smooth. Turn the mixture into a 1 ½ — 2 qt. shallow casserole. (Use a 3 qt or larger if doubling the recipe.)
4. Cover potato mixture with the topping. You may cover and chill the dish for up to three days at this point.
5. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until the topping is browned and the potatoes are bubbly. Freezes well.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Share a tradition here.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted November 21, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I like this post! I so agree with all you say! And sweet potatoes are my absolute FAVE!!!

  2. Posted November 21, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the kind words, Leila. I really admire your blog, but I especially admire the wisdom behind posts.

  • Your comment is the best part of this blog! Share what’s on your mind here.

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