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Thanksgiving: Those sweet potatoes. November 25, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. One of the more bizarre Thanksgiving traditions in my view is the sweet potato casserole. Like so many of the foods served at Thanksgiving—turkey, pumpkins, green beans, cranberries, and corn leap to mind—sweet potatoes are a New World food (they’re native to South America), so putting them on the table is completely appropriate. Besides, our friend Ben and I love sweet potatoes. So what’s my problem?

We’re getting to that. First, a little history: In my family (and in OFB’s), you baked sweet potatoes until they were so well done that the flesh literally separated from the skin with no help from you once you split them open. You added liberal amounts of butter, salt, and (if you liked it) black or white pepper, plunged in your fork, and sent your tastebuds soaring to sweet potato heaven.

If you’ve never had a good baked sweet potato, here’s the foolproof method: Choose orange-fleshed sweet potatoes that are long and comparatively thin versus short and stout. Wash but don’t dry the sweet potatoes, place them on a foil-lined cookie sheet to prevent drippings from ruining your oven, and puncture the top of each sweet potato with a fork every inch or so to let the steam escape so the sweet potatoes won’t explode while they’re cooking. (A very bad idea.) Bake at 375 degrees F for an hour or at 350 for an hour and a half, or until you can see dark brown caramelized goo oozing out of the puncture holes and the potatoes are completely soft to the touch. (If you’ve ever eaten—or tried to eat—an underdone sweet potato, you’ll understand the importance of letting them cook as long as it takes. Trust me on this.) Remove the well-done sweet potatoes from the oven, split them with a knife, and you’re good to go. Note: Dogs, parrots, and chickens love the cooled skins, escpecially if there are traces of sweet potato, butter, and salt left on them.

Sweet potatoes cooked like this are so incredibly delicious that it’s hard to imagine improving on them. OFB and I love them with rice, broccoli, and a huge tossed salad, or with creamy pasta, green beans (or mixed green and yellow wax beans in season), and salad. They’re a natural with chicken, or, of course, turkey, and they go oh so well with cranberry sauce. But there is one sweet potato dish that we love as much, and maybe more. It’s a specialty of a local country inn, the Landis Store Hotel, and they were generous enough to post the recipe on their website so fans like us could enjoy it even when it’s not on the menu. Check this out:

      Landis Store’s Sweet Potato Souffle

2 lbs. sweet potatoes

1 tsp. salt

1 1/2 sticks butter

1/2 cup cream

1 egg

Peel and boil sweet potatoes until they’re soft. Drain sweet potatoes and put in a food processor, adding salt, butter, cream, and egg. Add salt and pepper to taste and bake in six individual buttered ramekins or souffle dishes at 350 degrees F until the tops are light brown. Serve piping hot. [Note: Because Landis Store is a restaurant, they always make their sweet potato souffle in individual serving dishes. If I were making it, I’d put it all into one big souffle dish instead.—Silence]

Let’s get back to why I have a problem with sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. If someone served up well baked and buttered sweet potatoes, or sweet potato souffle, I certainly wouldn’t have a problem. In fact, I’d be the first in line. It’s the idea of turning sweet potatoes (often from a can) into a substrate for marshmallows that floors me. Eeeeewww!!!! Who ever thought of this?! How could anyone eat it, and why would they want to? Aren’t sweet potatoes sweet enough without globbing a bunch of marshmallows on top?!!

Some people have accused this casserole of being a white trash concoction. So while I was researching it, I headed straight for the source of all things trailer-park trashy, the totally hilarious Ruby Ann’s Down Home Trailer Park Holiday Cookbook by one of our heroes, the immortal Ruby Ann Boxcar. Now, you know when a book’s back cover begins with “Decorate the panelin’ and pile on the hair spray… It’s time to celebrate the holidays—trailer park style!” that we’re not talking about your ordinary cookbook. (“Don’t let Elvis’s birthday blow past you like a Baptist in a Revival bus.”) And sure enough, Ruby Ann didn’t let me down when it came to Thanksgiving sweet potatoes. If you have to have ’em sweet, leave the marshmallows on the store shelf and try this casserole from Ruby Ann’s mama-in-law, Momma Ballzak:

        Momma Ballzak’s Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup milk

1/2 cup margarine

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup margarine

2 cups Kahlua liqueur

1 cup chopped pecans

Combine the sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk, and 1/2 cup margarine. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Put into a greased shallow casserole. In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, 1/3 cup margarine, 1 cup of the Kahlua, and pecans. Sprinkle over the top of the casserole, and bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 minutes.Pour the remainin’ Kahlua over the casserole and cook for 5 more minutes. Serves 6.

As Ruby Ann notes, “I dare you to have two servin’s of this and then walk a straight line.” I’m quite intrigued by this recipe, I’ll admit, but if I ever decide to try it I’d substitute salted butter for that margarine, and might add a half-teaspoon of additional salt to offset the sweetness.

There are other sweet potato treats that I contemplate for the Thanksgiving season, including sweet potato cornbread and sweet potato biscuits. Try them, they’re yummy! (I’ll give you the recipes in Friday’s Frugal Living Tip, which will be about great frugal uses for Thanksgiving leftovers.) But one thing you’ll never see me making or tasting is that marshmallow-topped gunk.

One more thing while we’re on the subject of potatoes: My family always served mashed Irish potatoes rather than sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. I love mashed potatoes, so I can never resist making some for the occasion. I like to boil Yukon Gold potatoes until they’re thoroughly cooked, then drain them, return the pot to the fire, turn the heat to low, and mash them skins and all, adding lots of butter, light cream or half-and-half, salt (we like RealSalt) or Trocomare, and white or fresh-ground black pepper. I have a very heavy potato masher I inherited from my grandmother and it’s a real treasure.

Believe it or not, one of Ruby Ann’s friends at the High Chaparral Trailer Park apparently goes for mashed Yukon Golds at Thanksgiving, too. He adds butter, heavy cream, chives, salt and pepper, chopped parsley, and cream cheese to his. Hmmm. That actually sounds really good…

             ‘Til next time,




1. Daphne Gould - November 25, 2009

Oh wow a casserole that has almost as much Kahlua as it does sweet potatoes. I shudder but I’m strangely curious too. Part of me wants to make it just to see what it is like.

I felt the same way, Daphne! I can’t help but think that the crunchy, crusty, sugary-buttery pecan topping would make a nice contrast to the smooth, creamy sweet potatoes. And I’ll bet Kahlua would go well with sweet potatoes! Of course, you could start to imagine what a dish like that would taste like if you substituted, say, Grand Marnier or Pernod, too… hmmm…

2. Helen at Toronto Gardens - November 25, 2009

I’m with you on the pure bliss of baked sweet potatoes. I have even been known to eat the skins. And everyone else’s skins besides. Does that mean I have canine (or parrot) blood in me?

Ha!!! I’ve never tried to eat sweet potato skins, Helen, though I love baked potato skins (I have to make myself save some for our puppy Shiloh and Plutarch the Parrot!). I’m not sure they’d forgive me if I started eating the sweet potato skins, too!

3. nancybond - November 25, 2009

3 cups of sugar…for 3 cups of SWEET potato?! Oy, my teeth are aching at the thought of it. 😉 It sounds even worse than the marshmallows, but maybe I’m just a purist. I love them baked, as you described, or mashed and eaten like squash, another fave. If you make it, let us know how it was! And Happy Thanksgiving, whatever your table holds — happiness to those around it.

I see your point, Nancy! And that looks like quite a lot of Kahlua as well. (I only use 1/4-1/3 cup of Sambuca for my whole big pot of Curried Pumpkin Soup and you can certainly taste it just fine!) I suggest that you try the Landis Store sweet potato souffle instead, especially since you love mashed sweet potatoes. It is SO delicious! And a blessed harvest season to you and yours as well (Canadian Thanksgiving has already come and gone, yes?). I find the wonderful French table blessing, “For this good food and joy renewed, we give you thanks, oh Lord,” especially appropriate at this time of year.

4. inadvertentfarmer - November 25, 2009

Not a marshmallow in sight…phewww!

Now the Kahlua sounds interesting, the pecans sound divine! Thanks for the new recipes to try!

BTW, thanks for the comment this morning, yes we do need to remember that muddy footprints can indeed be a good thing! Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving, Kim

You too, Kim!!!<

5. Lzyjo - November 25, 2009

WOW, amazing sweet potato recipes! I do love a plain baked sweet potato, (or is it a yam?) with butter and S&P. Moosewood has a fantabulous twice baked sweet potato recipe recipe with Indian spices and peas. MMMM!!! The only problem is sweet potatoes are loaded with those gaseous complex carbohydrates! LOL!

Gulp. Never noticed that effect, Lzyjo! Gasp. OFB has noted little Shiloh’s tendency towards the occasional gas outbreak, and points out that “She’s having a gas leak.” We’ve never had a dog who did that before, and I can’t say I appreciate it, but I have to laugh over the gas leak thing…

6. gail - November 26, 2009

I am with you all the way! I’ve never been a marshmallow fan so they can stay on the shelf and out of the sweet potatoes. I have eaten the skins and they aren’t bad! Have a delicious holiday with all your favorites~~just the way you like them. gail

Thanks, Gail!!! Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday as well!!!

7. Sweet Potato Souffle Recipe - Wirro - November 26, 2009

[…] But there is one sweet potato dish that we love as much, and maybe more. It’s a specialty of a local country inn, the Landis Store Hotel, and they were generous enough to post the recipe on their website so fans like us could enjoy it Let’s get back to why I have a problem with sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. If someone served up well baked and buttered sweet potatoes, or sweet potato souffle, I certainly wouldn’t have a problem. In fact, I’d be the first in line. .. read more […]

8. Daphne Gould - November 27, 2009

Sadly our Thanksgiving did have a showing of that green bean casserole (though she did make some really nice roasted brussels sprouts too). However the sweet potatoes were simple and delicious. I got to bring a lot home for leftovers.

It turned up on the table here, too, Daphne (along with some lovely sauteed green beans and plump, beautiful Brussels sprouts). I was really intending to eat some, just to see, but there was SO much good food I gave up after a few bites of stuffing, corn pudding, the sauteed beans, cranberry sauce, and potatoes, and couldn’t eat another bite! But we’re going back for leftovers today, so maybe I’ll finally taste them. Btw, if I ever manage to finish writing today’s post, it will have recipes for sweet potato biscuits and sweet potato cornbread, so save some of those leftover sweet potatoes!

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