2-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 medium)
1/2 gallon apple cider
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, room temperature
Zest and juice of one navel orange
1 cup light brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into medium chunks of roughly the same size. Place into a large pan and pour over the apple cider. Bring to a boil and cook until very tender, about 20 minutes. A knife inserted into a potato chunk should slide out easily – remember that these are going to be mashed. Drain the potatoes and discard the liquid. Return the potatoes to the pan and add the butter.
Begin to mash the potatoes and butter together with a potato masher or a large wooden spoon. Grate over the orange zest, then squeeze in the juice. Mash a little more. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Mash well. Add the maple syrup and continue mashing until you have a relatively smooth puree, with a few lumps is fine. Spread the sweet potatoes into an 8 by 8 inch square casserole, smoothing the top, and arrange the glazed pecans over the sweet potatoes (see recipe below).
This dish will keep tightly wrapped and refrigerated for one day.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Uncover the casserole and bake in the oven until warmed through, about 30 minutes.
2 cups pecan halves
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
Line a cookie sheet with non-stick foil or parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray. Toast the pecans in a large skillet over medium heat until they smell nutty. Remove from the skillet to a plate immediately. Wipe out the skillet to remove any bits of pecan. Place the brown sugar and water in the skillet and cook over medium heat until thickened. Stir in the cinnamon, salt and cayenne, then add the pecan halves and stir to coat. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the pecans are completely coated and there is very little glaze remaining in the skillet.
Turn the pecans out onto the prepared sheet. Use two forks to carefully separate the pecan halves and lay them out flat on the sheet. Leave to cool and for the glaze to harden.
The pecans can be prepared up to 4 days in advance and kept tightly wrapped in an airtight container.