Sunday, November 29, 2009

Split Personality Sweet Potato Casserole

In any large group of people gathered to share Thanksgiving dinner there are those who like their sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows and those who prefer nuts and brown sugar. Last November I found a recipe that provides the perfect solution to the sweet potato divide: a casserole with a half-and-half topping, one side marshmallow, the other nuts. I prepared a different sweet potato dish last year for our very small Thanksgiving meal, but this year our Thanksgiving dinner included people from three different families, so I gave the recipe a test drive and everyone was happy with one side or the other of this side dish.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe on Saveur's site, by clicking here.

- This is a great make-ahead dish - the sweet potato mixture can be prepared a few days in advance. The nut topping can also be made early and refrigerated until time to assemble and bake the casserole.

- I used mostly fresh sweet potatoes which I braised in a covered pan with a bit of water and butter on the stove top until tender. I didn't have quite enough sweet potatoes so I supplemented with a can of mashed sweet potatoes (the most convenient thing ever!)

- After I mixed the sweet potatoes with the other ingredients, I gave a little taste. The filling was not very sweet at all, so, very unusual for me, I actually added sugar (3 T brown sugar)

- I've never seen cashews as a sweet potato topping - pecans are much more common in these parts - but I decided to give them a try.

- At first the amount of marshmallows seemed meager compared to piled-up nut topping on the other side of the baking dish, so I added more. I later realized that the marshmallows puff up in the oven. My brother's family doesn't eat red meat, so I used the natural fish-gelatin marshmallows from Whole Foods. They got a little dry and hard in the oven, but softened up once I covered the casserole with foil to keep it warm.

the verdict:

This casserole was absolutely adorable on the Thanksgiving buffet, and proved to be quite a hit. I can report that the marshmallow side disappeared faster than the nut one (all of the children present opted for the marshmallow part, in fact some of them opted for only the marshmallows and no sweet potatoes at all!)

I loved that this recipe is far less rich than others I've made - the relatively low amounts of butter and sugar in the sweet potatoes was balance nicely by the sweetness of both toppings. In fact, I really didn't need to have added the extra bit of brown sugar.

I'm sure that this split personality sweet potato dish will become a regular offering on my Thanksgiving table.


Di said...

I love that you did both toppings. We don't usually eat sweet potatoes; wonder if the girls would eat this or not. They'd certainly eat the marshmallows. =)

Sarah said...

Your casserole looks great! How nice to have the choice of topping! I've never actually made a sweet potato casserole, I may have to try this one out!

TeaLady said...

What a great idea. My dad asked where the marshmellows were as that is what he likes. But since the MIL made the SP souffle, it was up to her. 1/2 and 1/2 sounds great.

mike said...

Leave it to your scientific curiosity regarding the sweet potato eating habits of your guests! How wonderful! I would lean toward the nut side! I have had this dish with coconut, pecans and brown sugar (or something sweet) - I must admit, it was more of a dessert, but phenomenal. The marshmallows are tradition and I'm sure all your guests were "thankful" you didn't forget!

Unknown said...

The best of both worlds - I love it! I would have opted for the marshmallow side too :) I don't know if it's just not popular in the Northeast, but I've never had a sweet potato casserole. I think I need to make one next Thanksgiving!

I love the dish the casserole is in - mind sharing where you got it?

Kathy Walker said...

A choice of toppings? I never thought of that!

margot said...

This looks wonderful, what a fun thing for a Thanksgiving table. Sweet potatoes are so flavorful that a recipe low in butter and sugar is a good idea, especially if it has lots of yummy topping. And that is a lovely casserole dish!

NKP said...

What a great idea!
I have never had marshmallows on sweet potatoes before. Maybe it is an American tradition? I would like to try it though. Sounds decadent!

natalia said...

Ciao Nancy I had no idea that this was how you ate sweet potatoes ! We had an american Thanksgiving in Rome (only the real americans cooked) and they made them with an orange glaze ! I love the look of your dish !!

Kayte said...

This is the perfect way to satisfy everyone! And so pretty, too! Now, if I was coming, you would need to do a Neopolitan version...mine would be the part in the middle with no topping...LOL. Just the lovely, lovely sweet potatoes! You are so creative and fun.

Chats the Comfy Cook said...

I love the split personality thinking. That would probably work in most families.

I use Marshmallow Fluff or Marshmallow Creme instead of marshmallows because kosher marshmallows have different properties than regular ones and they don't seem to change from the original form, no matter what you do to them.

Some of the famiily likes their sweet potatoes plain and I am sure the nuts would be fine with them. I make a streusel sometimes and that goes. I must try this. Thanks for a clever idea.

Jackie said...

Hi Nancy

Did you use a food mill for the sweet potatoes.

Jackie said...


When you braised the sweet potatoes in water and butter and finished making according to the recipe, did you use the whole 6 TBLS. of butter for the recipe or did you use some of it to braise the sweet potatoes and used the rest to finish the recipe.

Nancy/n.o.e said...

to belatedly answer a few questions: I bought the baking dish at Marshall's (my favorite source), I used a bit of extra butter for braising, but just a small amount. I used a potato masher for the potatoes.