Sweet Potatoes–Traditional Casserole and New Roasted

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell

Sweet potatoes are for Thanksgiving and way beyond. Try them with a traditional streusel topping or roasted in the oven and topped with toasted almonds and Parmesan curls.

We cheered after reading “Sweet Potatoes Step Out from Under Marshmallows,” a story reported by Kim Severson in the New York Times last November.  Seems the sweet potato industry is booming and the humble tuber is no longer a once a year Thanksgiving indulgence, even outside the South.  They have become the go-to nutritious gut-stuffer for the health and weight conscious consumer.  Turned into fries, they’re grabbing a sliver of the limelight from the all-mighty French fry.

Our friend Linda Carman, known around the South as the Martha White baking expert, is a native of Cullman, Alabama and longtime sweet potato aficionado.  It’s been about 20 years since she gently schooled Mindy, fresh from Chicago, on the intricacies of traditional sweet potato casserole, a recipe served often during the cold weather months.  Your pork tenderloin is begging for it. Linda’s philosophy is let the flavor of the sweet potato shine.  Don’t dilute the recipe with too many eggs or milk and don’t cover up the flavor with lots of heavy seasonings.  The addition of one egg is plenty for a recipe calling for 5 or 6 sweet potatoes.  Any more makes the casserole look pretty and puffed, but weakens the sweet potato flavor.  Leave the cinnamon in the cupboard.  Other than a little vanilla, a light sprinkling of nutmeg is all you need to enhance sweet potato flavor.  Serve as is or gild the top with Linda’s sister Mary Glenn Guthery’s, excellent pecan streusel. The contrast between creamy potato and crisp topping is perfect.

If not mashed in a casserole, you’ll likely find the new sweet potato roasted or oven-fried.  Here, instead of traditional enhancements, the sweets are charred in the oven with savory rosemary and topped with toasted almonds and Parmesan curls.  Just like sugar, savory ingredients also boost the sweet potato’s sweetness.  Either way, we’ll be eating them all winter long.

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