Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sweet Potato Casserole

I would love to call this something more like Candied Pecan Sweet Potato Puree, and I could if I wanted.
But I didn't.

I wish there was a word that was more appropriate than "casserole."
The word has the power to conjure up ideas of grey grade school lunches, or perhaps a mash-up of whatever can be found at a particular moment and thrown together. But actually, "casserole" really refers to the dish that the food amalgam is cooked in, not said jumble.  It's too bad though, because that's probably not what comes to mind for many of us.
Like the word "surprise" in the title of a dish, "casserole" may fill certain people with dread.

The thing is, I don't think I can come up with a word other than "casserole"... too bad.
And technically... this is a casserole.

With Thanksgiving coming up, this type of a dish is slightly ubiquitous. However, it also makes a nice addition to a big Sunday afternoon meal with a roast of some sort and a few guests included.

Moving on, the version here is not so syrupy sweet and sticky as what one may imagine when he or she thinks of sweet potato casserole.
It's another one of those recipes that's parts of at least two versions put together, or my ideas of them, adjustments made, and with a dose of executive decision making thrown in for good measure.

As far as sweet potato casseroles go, this one is not too sticky-sweet and syrupy, and it has a nice toasty-nutty crunch with the candied pecans on top.

It's actually more like a crustless pie. The egg and cream help to make the sweet potatoes custardy, like a pumpkin pie. So, really, it could technically be dessert. A vegetable with a dessert personality.

And perhaps it'll never win any beauty competitions, but it tastes good no matter what.
If you would like it to look a little prettier, you could spoon the sweet potatoes into individually buttered dishes (like ramekins) before baking 10-15 minutes or so.  In this case, instead of topping with the pecans before baking, it may be better if the pecans were baked separately on a pan so that they had the time to get toasty and the topping crunchy. Just prior to serving the pecans could be sprinkled over the tops of the individual portions.
If it something you plan to use as a dessert, this might be the best option since things would stay together better than in the large dish.

Mostly adapted from a recipe by Leslie Porcelli in Saveur issue 142, November 2011.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Candied Pecans
serves 6-8

4 lb. (1.8 kg) sweet potatoes
1/2 c (100 g) packed brown sugar
6 T (81 g) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 c (80 ml) heavy cream
1 t (4 g) vanilla extract
1 1/2 t  (5 g) cinnamon
1/2 t (2 g) freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 t (2 g) kosher salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1, 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1/2 t (2 g) freshly ground black pepper

1/3 c (74 g) packed brown sugar
2/3 c (90 g) chopped pecans
1/2 t (4 g) kosher salt (if you only have a finer, more bitter salt such as iodized table salt, use less)
3 T (42 g) butter, softened

Preheat oven to 425 F/ 220 C.  Place the whole, unpeeled sweet potatoes on a parchment lined sheet and bake until soft, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool about 30 minutes. 
Reduce the oven heat to 350 F/ 175 C. 
Remove the skin from the potatoes and discard. Pass the sweet potatoes through a food mill or potato ricer into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar, butter, cream, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, eggs, ginger, and black pepper. 
Spoon the sweet potato mixture into a 2-3 qt. or L baking dish and smooth the top.  
In a medium bowl mix together the brown sugar, pecans, salt and butter with your fingers until crumbly. Sprinkle the pecan crumble over the sweet potatoes. 
Bake about 30 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are hot, and the pecans are browned and toasty. Let cool 15 minutes before serving. 


  1. This was delicious Thanksgiving fare.
    Everyone wanted MORE!
    Thanks for the recipe post.

  2. We tried this recipe for our Thanksgiving dinner----there were lots of food and leftovers.
    All my child wanted next 2 days was MORE SWEET Potatoes!

  3. Me too (so I'm making more today).