Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A side

And so, we are all planning for Thursday’s feed by either stuffing a bag that will fit in the overhead compartment, in order to avoid an inane fee, or perhaps it is that hostess gift you must secure. For me, it is preparing my segment of the meal. I am traveling, though luckily by car, happily I can pack as many bags as I will need. I am responsible for the sides and desserts. Now, I have about a 5-hour road trip ahead of me so I need to plan and make sure that everything I put into that igloo will survive. The beet and fennel salad will journey with no issue though I am crossing my fingers that the chocolate pie does not soften up too much while enroute before I can get it back under refrigeration. I will do my roasted Brussels sprouts the day of for they only take 15 minutes. The sweet potatoes, I am sure, will endure the three state trek.

I grew up, like many, always having that sweet potato mash placed on the holiday table golden and gooey on top. I was never a fan of marshmallows; be impaled on a twig to be charred or scattered as a cover for sweet potatoes. Ironically, I was a fluff kind-of-kid in lieu of peanut butter with my jelly. I cannot image what that little kid found so endearing about that sugary froth for the idea of trying it today sends me into diabetic shock. I have not thrown out the complete idea of a sweetened potato dish it just needed a change in direction. So, worked into my mash is a generous crumble of a spicy pecan caramel that when warmed up creates a swirl throughout the sweet potato. It is sweet, it is a bit chewy but is not singularly clawing, which is a tad more interesting for this Thanksgiving table. 

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Pecans – yields 6 to 8

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup pecans
3-pounds sweet potatoes – peeled and diced
3/4-cup coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Lightly oil a baking tray and hold to the side.  In a 1 quart sauce pan dissolve the sugar in the water taking care not to allow any sugar to stick to the walls of the pan. This could cause the re-crystallization of the sugar. Over a medium heat cook the sugar until to starts to brown lightly. Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the spices and pecans to thoroughly coat. Pour the nuts out onto the oiled baking tray, and allow them to completely cool. Then break into pieces.

Cook the sweet potatoes in boiling water until fork tender, and then drain. By hand mash the potatoes along with the coconut milk, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the pecans mixture, and place the sweet potatoes into a 4-quart casserole dish. Place the casserole dish into a 325-degree, and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.

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