When I was a kid, I filled my plate almost exclusively with stuffing and sweet potatoes. The turkey was a mere cursory, compulsory nod to expectations. Not that anyone was really noticing mind you, so busy were they contemplating their own plates from the Thanksgiving groaning board.
At Grandmother’s house, the potatoes were smothered in a caramelized goo of butter and brown sugar, enough to send a small person into shock.
Lord, they were good.
I’ve tamed my sweet tooth since then. We were never a marshmallow family, so luckily I did not graduate from that school. But I decided to tone them down. I know. Thanksgiving is all about excess. But as a wiser grown-up, I understand that I have to pace myself if I want to make it to the most important part of the meal: the pie.
Here is a recipe for gently sweetened potatoes. Are they yams, or are they sweet potatoes? Do we know which is which? Do we care? Do we have time? In this photo, the “yams” are on the left and the “sweet potatoes” are on the right. I think.
The main thing is you can eat the leftovers with almost no guilt, or sub them in when the pie is all gone.
Maple candied sweet potatoes: hold the marshmallows
Serves 12 or more as part of Thanksgiving dinner
1/4 cup melted, unsalted butter (1/2 stick) plus more for the pan
4 large sweet potatoes (3 to 4 pounds) cut in half crosswise
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Zest of 1/2 orange
1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Generously butter a large baking dish.
2. Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover them with cool water. Add 1 teaspoon salt, cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Decrease heat to a steady simmer and cook potatoes, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes, until tender BUT STILL FIRM. The potatoes should be slightly underdone since they will be baked again. Drain and cool. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut each half in two lengthwise pieces.
3. Place the potatoes in the buttered baking dish in one layer with the flat sides up. Combine the melted butter, maple syrup, brown sugar and orange zest in a small bowl (or nuke them in the microwave for 30 seconds until the butter melts.) Use a pastry brush to coat the potatoes with the syrup; if you have extra, drizzle it over them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. (Potatoes can be prepared to this point up to one day ahead of time.) Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden. Baste occasionally if time permits.
I feel that I have finally fulfilled my obligation to my family by posting almost all of our traditional recipes. For everyone else, please chime in with your favorites. Here is a roundup
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!
Roasted acorn squash with sage and pine nuts (from White on Rice Couple)