Friday, November 27, 2009

The best of the feast - perfect sweet potato casserole

Click here to read about my Thanksgiving dinner, including a few minor disasters, and links to recipes that I used. Lest you all think that I'm some amazing cook that never makes mistakes, I'd like to make it very clear right now that it is rare that I get through a big meal prep without a spill, boil over or some other mess. I freely admit that I'm a sloppy cook that rarely follows recipes exactly, which usually works out and sometimes doesn't. I just usually manage to pull things together in the end and put a happy face on it.
We had a wonderful dinner yesterday. The absolute star of the show was the sweet potato casserole I made. I have had many versions over the years. Kinds with corn syrup and marshmallows crusted on top. Bland ones with just a dab of butter and cinnamon. Greasy ones floating in so much butter that you can literally feel your arteries hardening as you swallow (but boy does it taste good...!) I think a lot of them do a disservice to yams. They're a naturally sweet and flavorful treat all by themselves and really don't need a ton of adornment to make them excellent. I browsed the internet for recipes and wound up modifying a few of them to reduce the amount of sugar and butter added to come up with the finished product. My 8 year old son deemed it perfect, as did everyone else at the table.
The Perfect Sweet Potato Casserole
4 large red yams, baked until soft*
1/4 - 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 T. vanilla
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. milk
4 T. butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
4 T. butter, room temperature
1 cup chopped pecans
*My recommendation is to bake the yams the day before. Simply wrap them in foil, poke a knife in to allow them to vent, and bake at 375 for an hour. Refrigerate over night, then they'll be ready to use in the morning. To prepare the casserole, slice each yam in half lengthwise and pop the good stuff right out of the skin right into a 2 quart casserole dish. It'll literally just fall out, no need to peel.
Mash the yams with a potato masher until no big lumps remain, then mash in the remaining filling ingredients. Smooth out the surface. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, and soft butter and work it with your fingers until well combined and clumps form. Work in most of the pecans, then sprinkle evenly over the filling. Sprinkle the remaining nuts on top. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden.

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