But I didn't.
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.
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.
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.
Sweet Potato Casserole with Candied Pecans
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.