November 8, 2022
There are two camps of sweet potato connoisseurs. Sweet and not sweet. I’ve done sweet and I’ve done not too sweet. Seems the classic American route is to top with marshmallows. Those who like the dessert level tuber will dip from the casserole top. The savory coalition will dig deeper in the dish.
The very best sweet potatoes are local and pulled right from the ground, dusty with dirt and often lumpen in appearance. This year I plan to hoard as many local sweets as I can fit in the cellar. Sadly, my luck with grocery store offerings has been disappointing. Cleaned with water, sweet potatoes are then more likely to harbor mold. Moreover, with storage on refrigerated shelves in the supermarket, mold can proliferate and a musty taste predominates.
Fresh sweet potatoes are more dense, less airy, and may need more fat or liquid to stay creamy. This is why I offer suggestions to add either a bit of cooking water or plant based milk for this vegan side dish. If you opt for a non-vegan version, feel free to use butter plus dairy.
The lightest and fluffiest sweets for this dish come from mashing with the immersion blender. If you lack a handheld stick bender, the old fashioned potato masher will work well. The balsamic pecan topping may be made up to several days in advance. Apply this to the heated sweet potatoes, which will be fine if cooked the day before your Thanksgiving celebration or home dinner.
Holiday dinner inspiration abounds in new and old editions of Food and Wine Magazine. Here is a nice summary of sweet potato side dishes published in their pages.
May you all have a peaceful and bountiful Thanksgiving celebration this year, and always.
Balsamic Pecan Sweet Potatoes
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes six servings
one cup toasted pecans, chopped *
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
fine sea salt
finely ground white pepper
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large equal size chunks
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
if needed : plant based milk
* cook’s note : toast whole pecan halves at 350 degrees for 10 minutes; then chop, as tiny pieces are more likely to burn
- Combine pecans, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and capers with pinches of fine sea salt and white pepper; set aside; may be made a couple days ahead and chilled.
- In heavy two quart saucepan, cover sweet potatoes with water, add a generous pinch of kosher salt and bring to boil.
- Decrease heat to simmer and cook until tender, easily pierced with knife, about 15-20 minutes.
- Drain sweet potatoes, saving about half cup of cooking water, and mash with immersion stick blender or potato masher.
- Add olive oil and add either reserved cooking water and/or plant milk, a tablespoon at a time, until desired texture is achieved; adjust seasoning with fine sea salt and white pepper.
- Can be made 1-2 days ahead and reheated in oven; spoon room temperature pecan mixture over hot sweet mashed sweet potatoes and serve immediately.
Sounds sharply sweet—yum!
Just a tiny hint of sweet from maple syrup but definitely not marshmallow sweet !