Monday, November 06, 2006

Sweet potatoes, hold the marshmallows


Growing up, not a holiday dinner or church potluck supper was complete without a casserole dish filled with baked sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows. If you’ve never seen this dish, let me tell you—it looks disgusting. Perhaps it’s because I don’t like marshmallows (I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. To wit: when we’d go to Luby’s, while my family dug into slices of chess pie for dessert, I’d be eating jalapeno cornbread) and seeing this large baking dish filled with a brown and orange oozing substance covered with white dots just never seemed appealing. It looked like really bad 1970’s interior design. It wasn’t dessert, either--it was considered a savory side. So I grew up thinking that sweet potatoes had to be served with marshmallows, and I never tried them.

But now that I’ve acquired a more adventurous palate, I’ve learned that sans marshmallows, sweet potatoes are actually quite versatile and delicious, not to mention extremely healthy: they are packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, iron and calcium. A lot of places market them as yams, but the two are not the same. While sweet potatoes are a native American vegetable, yams hail from Africa and Asia. Even more interesting is that while the sweet potato is a distant relative of regular potatoes, its relation to yams is even more removed. So why do people confuse the two? I reckon because they’re both orange on the inside.

I saw a ton of sweet potatoes at the market today, and I was thrilled to see some of the varieties on hand—there was one bigger than my head! And there are so many ways you can cook them: you can fry them like French fries, you can bake them in a pie, you can make soup, you can stuff them in dumplings or pasta, you can make sweet potato hash,you can bake bread—basically, anything you can do with a potato you can do with a sweet potato. One of my favorite things to do with them is make a sweet-potato mash flavored with chipotle peppers. It’s been a holiday hit with my family for years, so much, in fact, they stopped making the horrible sweet potatoes with marshmallows. Now that’s progress! But even better is how healthy this dish is: because sweet potatoes are so naturally moist, you don’t need to add any dairy to make the dish creamy—it’s just the sweet potatoes and the peppers. Here’s the recipe:

Mashed sweet potatoes with chipotle
Ingredients:
4 to 6 sweet potatoes
1 can of chipotle peppers in adobo
Salt to taste

Method:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork, and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.
Bake in oven for one and a half hour.
After sweet potatoes have cooled a bit, slice in half, and scoop out orange flesh into a bowl.
Mash with a potato masher (you can even use a fork they’ll be so soft)
Open can of chipotles, slice the peppers
Mix cut peppers and adobo sauce with sweet potatoes until smooth and fluffy
Salt to taste

I’m curious: is anyone a fan of the sweet potato-marshmallow casserole? (I’m thinking it must still be a big hit as Whole Foods has its gourmet, artisan marshmallows displayed next to its sweet potatoes. Marshmallows in the produce section? The horror!) What do you make with sweet potatoes?

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30 comments:

The County Clerk said...

I may be southern, but yams freak me out... though I've had them on the family table many, many times... just exactly like you.

I always put some on plate and rarely eat it. The nice thing about growing older is that I don't have to shine my plate, unless I want to.

They are nice to grow though. Good vine. Purple. I might grow some this winter.

melissa mcgee said...

thanksgiving just isn't thanksgiving in our family unless there's a dish of sweet potatoes with sticky, bubbly marshmallows browned on the top. it's always a kid's job to put the marshmallows on top - this year, it'll be my nephew dylan again who gets the honor of topping the potatoes. i don't love them as much as i did when i was a kid, and i usually scrape most of the marshmallows off now, but i have to have at least one bite, as it always ushers me off, right to my childhood.
we also have at least 2 pumpkin pies (at LEAST) and 2 sweet potato pies - which may look the same, or similar enough to be confused for each other, but are two very different pies with different flavors, and completely different textures. don't make me choose...

christine (myplateoryours) said...

Now the real way to do the marshamllow thing is to get the little multicolored ones -- pink, blue, etc. They look so gourmet against the orange sweet potatoes, don't you know?

My mom always candied sweets with brown sugar, cinnamon and butter and it wouldn't be the holidays with out them.

I am also very partial to a sweet potato fry, hot and crispy and drizzled with shagbark hickory syrup. Yummm.

WhiteTrashBBQ said...

mmmmm - Sweet potato french fries!

Yvo said...

Mm... growing up, my family didn't really do the sweet potato thing. I think we had mostly Asian sides to our giant turkey- I was maybe 12 or 13 before my mom figured out to buy stuffing in a box to make. Don't ask. But I've tried sweet potatoes with the marshmallows over it in various incarnations, hating them, until now, when I go to my boyfriend's aunt's for Christmas... and he insisted the first year that I try the sweet potatoes. Hers are really good, with a bit of marshmallow (I let him take most of it since he likes it more than I do) on top, but other people's are gross. Hers aren't stringy... and not too sweet, just right. But I do like sweet potato fries... and oh! Do you watch the Food Network? Alton Brown JUST did a show on (or it was a repeat) sweet potatoes, explained the difference between sweet potatoes and yams, and he made waffles with sweet potatoes. Then he made mashed sweet potatoes and added chiles, just like you did, though I'm not sure what kind. :) I can't wait for Thanksgiving now =D

Homesick Texan said...

County Clerk: If you don't eat them, what do you do with the ones you grow?

Melissa: I love sweet potato pie, too, and there's no reason why anyone should have to choose between that or pumpkin (or any other pie). Give me a big slice of each!

Christine: You drove me to Google! I'd never heard of Shagbark Hickory Syrup but it sounds right up my alley. Do you know the producers?

White Trash: Mmmmm, indeed!

Yvo: The only thing I watch on TV is Dexter (which has some of the best food cinematography ever in its opening sequence). I'm not a big fan of Alton Brown or the Food Network, unfortunately--I find cooking shows boring, I don't know why. But, sweet potato waffles sound yummy!

Stephanie said...

I'm with you, Lisa. No marshmallows!! Boycott them! I like my sweet potatoes made savory, a little nutmeg, cinammon, ricotta cream and sage... I did a post recently with this concept (although it was yams but I intended sweet potatotes) and it was well...scrumptious.

Danielle said...

Okay, I'll confess. I like sweet potatoes with or without marshmallows.

vlb5757 said...

I have never met a potato I haven't like in any way it's fixed. Candied Yams (or Sweet Potatoes as they are called at home)is one of my youngest son's favorite things about the holiday dinners. I fix it four times a year, New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have to do 10 pounds of potatoes. One dish for the table and one for later so he can just eat that. Cracks me up!

bea at La Tartine Gourmande said...

So weird, within a week, this is the second time I hear about this association. I had never before. Would have a hard time getting into it though I think as I do not like marshmallows, but who knows!

The County Clerk said...

Ha! I don't eat ANYTHING I grow. I do not prepare food, I order it.

This is sad I know. But this is the way it is.
In my kitchen there are all kinds of kitchen things but I've only taken 1 plate (for sandwiches), 1 bowl (for cereal) and 1 spoon (again) out of the china boxes. Turns out, I used the plate and bowl for sorting fall bulbs. I use the spoon as a screwdriver sometimes. I am ashamed to tell you where I take my meals... every day. I sit at a counter while some very peculiar people treat me with WAY TOO MUCH familiarity. This is life.

I gave away HUNDREDS of heirloom tomatoes and SCORES of heirloom corn earns this summer. The horses ate the pumpkins. The herbs? I just like to touch them and then smell my hands. Broccoli? That's just for watchin'

I DID put a few strawberries and apples in my mouth (and brought some corn to a neighbor's grill so I had some of that).

Also... I seem to READ ABOUT food a good deal. :)

Chicken Fried Gourmet said...

I love sweet potatoes and one of things I recently started making is sweet potato grits. Go here to check it out http://chickenfriedgourmet.typepad.com/chickenfriedgourmet/2006/10/this_weekend_we.html

I have another post with some more in depth preperation coming up.

Homesick Texan said...

Stephanie--Sage is one of my favorite herbs but I've never tried it with sweet potatoes. Hmmmmm!

Danielle--for such a self-professed picky eater, you always surprise me!

Vlb5757--How cute you make an extra dish just for your son!

Bea--If you don't like marshmallows, you definitely won't like them with sweet potatoes. This dish is American to the core--like peanut butter and jelly--and I seriously doubt it's ever been seen in France.

County Clerk--Too bad you're not my neighbor.

Chicken Fried Gourmet--Wow! Grits and sweet potatoes, very Southern! Thanks for sharing.

suburban housefrau said...

I converted my family from the sweet potato casserole to spicy oven fries a few years ago. They are way better and healthier too. EVOO, salt, pepper, chili powder, some other spices...yum! (from a Martha recipe)

Ivonne said...

I've never understood adding marshmallows to sweet potatoes. Great post!

Anne said...

Are you kidding me.... Marshmallows on Sweet Potatoes are awesome. Maybe you are using the wrong kind of marshmallow. Try one of these they are outstanding: www.mannamallows.com

Homesick Houstonian said...

Wow, You love whole foods. I've worked there so long, I forgot orange mashed "yams" isn't everyone's normal recipe. My first Thanksgiving working at Whole Foods, I tried the Orange Mashed Yams and loved them so much I've made them at my house every Thanksgiving. (the recipe is in the whole foods market cookbook, nothing left out). My sister's husband even wanted to plop them into a pie shell and put whipped cream on top.

I also love to bake off a sweet potato, cut it in medallions and use it to make a quesadilla with green chiles and jack cheese. Yum!

Anonymous said...

I recently purchased some undipped vanilla artisan marshmallows from a company named Tuccelli. I used the mallows in my sweet potato casarole for Thanksgiving. Everyone loved it.
www.marshmallowtemptations.com

Splendid said...

i make sweet potatoes for thanksgiving with pineapples and marshmallows. My secret ingredient is 3 or 4 shots of B&B. It is the most requested food on the table.
try it you'll like it.

Anonymous said...

It is sweet potato time, indeed. As a kid my mom did carmalized brown suger. I loved it! Now I buy them when on sale and eat them as much as possible; but I only bake until soft. Then the skin comes off very easily. Maybe a bit of butter, or not and a touch of salt and pepper. I agree that marshmellows never seemed right on them.

Zachary Horwitz said...

I made this tonight for my girlfriend and I - wow, I did like it a lot. It was my first experience working with canned chipotle peppers. I liked the taste for sure, as I like spicy foods but it was pretty hot, surprisingly so. My girlfriend had difficulty with it and I used half a can so I cant imagine using an entire can but I liked the recipe a lot. This is also the first of your recipes that I have cooked so I am excited to try more. Thanks a lot

Big R said...

Wow, glad to see I'm not the only candied, marshmallowed yam/sweet potato avoider!
Sweet potatoes and chipotle together are sublime, I been making this for Thanksgiving for years and always get comments. In Malaysia we have a dish called Lhaksa which is a coconut milk based curry soup which is spicy and good...(although they put cockles in it) and I have been thinking coconut milk and chipotles would meld well too!

Agata said...

Whole wheat empanadas stuffed with baked sweet potatoes (sauteed with spinach, onions and mushrooms, with goat cheese) YUM!!! http://i163.photobucket.com/albums/t310/irrevocabilis/Food/IMG_2315.jpg

Anonymous said...

Most delicious way to enjoy sweet potatoes:

Sweet potato bread.

MMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmm..........

CrisNeum said...

HAHA I thought i was the only Southerner that hates sweet potatoes with marshmallows. Luckily my mom made mashies with them often enough i knew how amazing they were sans sugar cloud puffs.
I would also like to say that i recently discovered your blog and I love it! I am not however homesick for Texas for I am still here :) Looking forward to trying your recipes though, your tortilla recipe is next on my list.

Sun2Dance said...

My southern grandmother used to make a mashed sweet potato mixture. Mix 2 eggs, tsp vanilla, 1/2 stick butter, 1 c. coconut, some raisins and chopped pecans. Blend, bake in a casserole dish w/topping: brown sugar, pecans, and butter. Yummmm

rw said...

No marshmallows on my sweet potatoes and I was born in Texas. I'm more of a purist. I bake the potatoes, skin them, but them up and put them in a casserole dish. I make a syrup of brown sugar, butter and water and poor of the top and bake in the oven. They are wonderful. Marshmallows just take away from the wonderful taste of the sweet potato!

Anonymous said...

I'm a sweet potato purist... Keep those nasty marshmallows far from them! I love them just baked with a little butter on them, or fried and sprinkled with a bit of salt. Sweet potato pie is one of God's perfect foods, and I have converted many a Yankee to sweet potato lovers after one taste of my grandmothers pie recipe.

Barbara said...

Thank goodness you are helping to stamp out that nasty habit of putting marshmallows on otherwise perfectly good sweet potatoes. I'm partial to the sweet potato casserole with the crunchy topping of pecans and more sugar. I also like them sliced and baked with just butter and sugar. Leftovers are crazy good just lightly fried in a little more butter. There's no such thing as too much butter, but marshmallows are a travesty. My dad liked them, so one time only, I made them by cooking the sweet potatoes, pureeing them while hot with marshmallows and butter, allowing them to chill, them making croquettes of them, coating with crushed corn flakes and deep frying them. Not bad at all, actually. My dad thought I was a genius. I was pleased, as that was part of his last Christmas meal.

Josie said...

So, I know this is a really old post, but I have to comment anyway. I remember the marshmallow topped casserole showing up at some potlucks at one church I went to, but my family hated that one. The most common sweet potato casserole I ever saw at all the other potlucks and at my own family's holiday meals was topped with a crumbly pecan and brown sugar mixture. It was more like dessert than a side for turkey, but tasted amazing with cranberry sauce and gravy. How is the marshmallow thing at all popular?

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