Mountains of mini marshmallows and tons of brown sugar will surface once again this Thanksgiving via the sweet potato.
Candied sweet potatoes calls for almost a half-pound of brown sugar and a full bag of mini marshmallows blankets the average sweet potato casserole. While many consider either of these two iconic recipes mandatory on the Thanksgiving menu, there are alternatives. For inspiration, check out your favorite farm-to-table restaurants where local chefs are busy creating recipes for fall’s most versatile vegetable. You'll find it in soups, biscuits, cakes and roasted veggie medleys.
With such an assortment of recipes, you'll need to stock up. Thankfully, the new sweet potato crop is now on the market.
When selecting sweet potatoes, choose those that are firm and uniform in size, which aids in even cooking. Once home, store sweet potatoes in a cool, dry, ventilated container or basket. Never store them in the refrigerator. Refrigeration will produce a hard center and unpleasant taste.
The easiest way to prepare sweet potatoes is to bake them. It’s a nice alternative to the traditional baked potato. To bake the perfect sweet potato pierce the skin several times with a fork and bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes or until fork tender. A twist on baking: Slice or cut sweet potatoes into chunks and place around a roasting chicken or pork roast. Or, for a fast side dish, sauté sliced or diced sweet potatoes in a tablespoon or two of oil for about 10 minutes.
Other cooking techniques include steaming and microwaving, which is my favorite method to obtain sweet potato puree. Simply steam whole or chunked sweet potatoes until tender or microwave whole for 5 to 8 minutes, rotating them halfway through cooking time to promote even cooking. Then, peel and puree the pulp for use in pies, breads and soups recipes. Remember, the slower sweet potatoes cook, the sweeter they’ll be.
According to Cristy Alvarado, spokesperson for the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, there are hundreds of different varieties of sweet potatoes. The most popular are the orange flesh Covington and the copper colored O’Henry. Don’t confuse these varieties with yams; even if they are sold in markets as yams. Yams aren’t sweet potatoes. Yams are usually imported from the Caribbean and differ in taste, texture and color.
“When working with sweet potatoes think outside the Thanksgiving box and play with seasonings,” said Alvarado. “Sweet potatoes pair wonderfully with curry, cumin and chipotle. Also, since sweet potatoes are fat free and low in calories, a dish of roasted sweet potatoes wedges is a healthy addition to the Thanksgiving table.”
In anticipation to the holidays, sweet potatoes will remain a seasonal feature at markets across the area. Beyond the marshmallow sweet potato casserole, consider including one of this week's recipes to your Thanksgiving menu, compliments of The North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission.
Sweet Potato Cornbread Stuffing
- 2 1/2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup sliced celery
- 2 tablepoons butter or margarine
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 (16-ounce) package cornbread stuffing (about 5 cups)
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 (124.5) ounce can) chicken broth
Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a skillet, sauté sweet potatoes, onions and celery in butter for 7-10 minutes, or until onions and celery are tender. Spoon mixture into large mixing bowl; stir in parsley and ginger. Add cornbread and pecans and toss to mix. Slowly add chicken broth and toss to moisten. Place stuffing in a lightly oiled casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes, covered. Remove cover and bake for 15 more minutes to thoroughly heat through and brown top of stuffing. Makes 8 servings or 6 cups.
Sweet Potato Biscuits
- 1 1/4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons shortening
- 1 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup milk
Into large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Using pastry blender or two knives, cut shortening into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Blend in sweet potatoes and spices. Add milk all at once and stir with fork until mixture comes together. On lightly floured board, knead 10 times.
Roll out on lightly floured surface to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with biscuit cutter dipped in flour. Arrange on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes or until golden and puffed. Makes 18 biscuits
Curried Sweet Potato Apple Soup
- 2 large (1 pound) North Carolina sweet potatoes
- 1 large (8 ounces) tart apple (such as fuji, honeycrisp or gala)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped (2 cups)
- 2 to 3 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 can (14 to 14-1/2 ounces) vegetable broth (about 1-3/4 cups)
- 1-3/4 cups unsweetened apple juice
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 container (6 ounces) plain low-fat yogurt
- 3/4 cup croutons, optional
Pierce sweet potatoes and apples with fork tines. Microwave sweet potatoes and apple on high until apple is very tender, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove apple; set aside until cool enough to handle. Continue microwaving sweet potatoes on high until tender, about 4 to 5 minutes longer; set aside until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, in large saucepan over medium heat, heat oil; add onion and curry powder; cook and stir until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add broth; bring to a boil, reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes. Transfer broth mixture to bowl of food processor; reserve saucepan. Halve sweet potatoes and apple; remove apple core; scoop potato and apple pulp from skin; add to processor. Add salt; whirl until very smooth, gradually adding apple juice through processor feed tube. Transfer mixture to reserved saucepan; bring to boil over medium heat. Whisk in yogurt; reheat just until hot; do not boil. Serve topped with croutons, if desired. Makes 4 servings (about 5-1/4 cups)
Island Spice Upside Down Sweet Potato Cake
- 1(20 oz.) can sliced pineapple (packed in natural juice)
- 1tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1(18.25 oz.) package spice cake mix
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup apple sauce
- 1 1/2 cups peeled and grated sweet potatoes
- Whipped cream (optional)
Drain pineapple, reserving 3 tablespoons and 1/2 cup juice. Set aside 1 whole pineapple slice; cut 6 slices in half. (Save remainder of pineapple and juice for another use.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put butter in a 9 x 2-inch springform cake pan and place in the oven until butter has melted; set aside. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, ginger and 3 tablespoons pineapple juice. Pour mixture into pan with melted butter and tilt to evenly distribute. Place whole pineapple ring in the center of the pan; arrange half slices in crescents around the center. Fill in spaces with dried cranberries.
In a bowl, combine cake mix (dry), eggs applesauce, sweet potato and 1/2 cup pineapple juice. Using a fork, stir vigorously about 2 minutes, scraping sides until well mixed. Spread over pineapple in pan. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cook 5 minutes. Invert onto platter, replacing any fruit that remains in the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with a dollop of whipped cream. Makes 12 servings.
Baker’s Tip: If using a 13 x 9-inch pan, leave pineapple slices whole and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cake tests done.