Sweet potato casserole, Southern style
Southern candied sweet potato casserole with pecan streusel will be a sweet spot on your Thanksgiving menu.
Sweet potatoes are a foregone conclusion on the Southern Thanksgiving table. I would never consider serving mashed white potatoes at the big meal. For most of my life, I only had sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, though a pie may have snuck in at some other time during the year. I have now discovered the joy of sweet potatoes, though, and eat them year-round in all sorts of ways, sweet and savory. But on Thanksgiving, there is just no question.
I grew up with the marshmallow topped version, which never really did much for me. I think that may be the reason I never explored sweet potatoes much further. When it came my turn to contribute to the Thanksgiving feast though, I worked out a dish of Sweet Potatoes with Cider, Maple and Orange that has been the standard on our table for many years. But every once in a while, change is good.
There is however, a strange feeling that comes up. I’ve made that same sweet potato dish for a decade at least, and everyone always tells me how much they enjoy it. And when I presented this new version, it got raves. “Best sweet potatoes I’ve ever had.” I love it when the family enjoys what you cook and take great pleasure that I have done right by them. But then there is that niggling sense in the back of my mind, "What was so bad about the ones I’ve been cooking you for all these years?"
Southern Candied Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel
Serves 8 – 12, depending on how much food is on the table!
Yes, these potatoes are rich. I don’t want to hear it. It’s Thanksgiving, live a little!
For the Sweet Potatoes:
8 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup bourbon [editor's note: if seeking a substitution, try 1 cup apple cider]
1/4 cup cane syrup or sorghum
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup cream
For the Streusel:
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
2/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
For the Sweet Potatoes:
Peel the potatoes and slice them 1/4-inch thick ( a mandoline or food processor makes quick work of this). Melt the butter with the brown sugar, bourbon, cane syrup and salt in a large skillet that will hold the potatoes, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, drop in the potato slices and stir to coat. Layer one half of the potato slices in a well-greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Pour over half of the syrup from the skillet. Layer the remaining potatoes in the dish and pour over the rest of the syrup.
The potatoes can be cooled, covered tightly and refrigerated overnight at this point. When ready to bake, remove form the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
For the Streusel:
In a food processor, process the sugars, the cinnamon, salt and flour for about 1 minute. Add butter; pulse 10 to 15 times, until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the pecans. Refrigerate the topping, covered, in a medium bowl until ready to use. It can be made up to a day ahead.
When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pour the 1/2 cup cream over the potatoes, drizzling it into all the nooks and crannies. Spread the streusel evenly over the top of the potatoes. Bake the casserole for one hour, until the potatoes are soft and you can slide a knife easily through the center, the sides are bubbling and the streusel is golden brown. You can cover the dish loosely with foil if you feel the top is getting too brown too early.
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