Thursday, November 25, 2010

Not Your Grandmother's Sweet Potatoes

Unless your grandmother is Ina Garten, (and since she has no children, I am guessing she isn't), the sweet potatoes you grew up with on Thanksgiving might have looked a lot like this:

Okay, well, those are the components.  It actually might have looked more like this:

There are sweet potatoes under that blanket of marshmallow, right?  We ate our potatoes like that for a long time, and when I was a kid, I did love those marshmallows.  But now that I'm a big kid, I like my sweet potatoes well-seasoned (because I don't remember those marshmallowed ones actually tasting like anything other than marshmallows), and covered in buttery, brown sugary apples.  Like this:


I know I'm a little late sharing this recipe; by now I'm sure everyone is well on their way to preparing their potatoes, but keep this recipe in your back pocket, because it's good all winter long.  Orange juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg add great depth of flavor, while brown sugar amps up the sweetness ever so slightly.  Because it's Ina, there's plenty of cream and butter as well, although I often omit one or the other (usually the cream, and scale back on the butter), because sweet potatoes have such a velvety texture on their own, I don't think they need the extra richness.  But do whatever floats your boat--everything can be increased or decreased to make it suit your palate. 

Smashed Sweet Potatoes With Apples (Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties!)
Serves 8-10

* 4 pounds of sweet potatoes (about 6 large)
* 1/2 cup of orange juice
* 1/2 cup of heavy cream
* 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) of unsalted butter, melted
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
* 3 to 4 McIntosh apples
* 3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
* 3 Tablespoons of brown sugar

1. Cook your sweet potatoes.  You can do this by either:

A) Scrubbing them, pricking them several times with a fork or knife, and baking them for about an hour (until very soft) in a 375 degree F oven.

B) Boiling them whole for about 40 minutes until very soft.

C) Peeling them, cutting them into 2 inch cubes, and boiling them for about 20 minutes or until very soft, then draining.

I prefer a or b myself.  

2. Either way, when the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them and scoop out the meat (cooking method A) or peel off the skins, (cooking method B).  Place the sweet potato meat into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl (if you're using a hand mixer).  Add the orange juice, cream, butter, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Mix together until combined and have reached the desired level of smoothness (Ina likes hers kind of chunky, I prefer very smooth myself).  Adjust seasoning if necessary, then transfer to a baking dish.

3. Peel and core your apples, and cut them into 8 or 12 wedges.  In a large saute pan, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter and the brown sugar together over medium heat.  Add the apples and cook them, tossing often, until they begin to soften, but are still holding their shape, about 5-7 minutes.  Arrange the apples on top of the sweet potatoes, and bake at 375 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes, until heated through. 

Prepare ahead:  I think this whole casserole can be prepared a day ahead, covered and refrigerated.  Just remember to add additional time for the whole thing to heat through.  If you prepare it earlier in the day, I think (and this is just me, I'm no food safety guru or anything), that you can leave it out, covered, and reheat when you're ready to serve.   This also freezes well--Last winter I made a large batch, and we froze it in 4 serving portions, and defrosted them as needed.  Delish!

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