Patsy R. Brumfield
Some years ago, Mississippi’s Jill Conner Browne wrote a series of hilarious books based on her “Sweet Potato Queen” stories and philosophies of Southern culture. Fortunately, she also offered a recipe for said-named casserole, which I’ve expropriated and adapted through the years because my daughter likes it so much.
It’s now a staple of our Thanksgiving feast and equally delicious leftovers. That’s why I usually make two casseroles – one for the midday meal and another for the ever-important leftovers enjoyed by a crowd of relatives.
You will love it, and it couldn’t be much easier. It’s a nice, fluffy, modern “company” side dish that I think is far superior to grandma’s marshmallow-topped version. You will appreciate it even more, if you read Jill’s books.
SWEET POTATO QUEEN CASSEROLE
(With thanks to author Jill Conner Browne, the real Sweet Potato Queen)
- Mixer (stand type is better unless you have an eager assistant)
- chopping board and knife
- paring knife
- rubber spatula
- measuring equipment
- baking sheet
- parchment paper
- 9×13” casserole dish
- aluminum foil
- cooking spray
- cereal bowl
- mixing spoon
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 4-5 large sweet potatoes (I highly recommend storing sweet potatoes in refrigerator 1-2 weeks, which brings out their sweetness.)
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ stick butter or margarine
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
LET’S GET STARTED
Preheat oven to 400. Rinse sweet potatoes and remove exterior strings. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and place potatoes evenly onto sheet.
Poke 4-5 holes in the tops of each. Bake 1 hour. (To be sure they are done, poke a fork into the center. If it hits solid, it needs to cook another 10-15 minutes. If the center is soft, you’re done.)
Remove done potatoes from the oven, Put a sheet of foil over them to create some steam, which will make them easier to peel. Allow them to rest 10-15 minutes or longer until they are cool enough to handle. Cut ends off each potato, slide your paring knife under the skin and peel it back. If you still have a “paper-like” skin underside, dark cooked places, remaining potato eyes or “stringy” exterior flesh (especially near the ends), use your paring knife to remove lightly.
Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch rounds, begin putting them into your mixing bowl. About half way filled, add a stick of butter. Then top with the rest of your cooked potatoes. On slow speed, start your mixer using the beater blade. When it’s broken up the potatoes, add cinnamon and continue to mix for smoother mixture.
In a glass measuring cup, add syrup, salt, milk, eggs and vanilla. Beat with a fork or whisk to incorporate. Pour into potato mixture and slowly increase mixing speed to whip into a lighter, smoother mixture, scraping once with rubber spatula. Mixing may take 4-5 minutes.
When sufficiently smooth texture is accomplished (don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly smooth), pour into the casserole dish and spread evenly with rubber spatula.
For topping, add flour and brown sugar into a cereal bowl. Combine. Then pour in melted butter and pecans. Mix thoroughly until chopped nuts are incorporated.
With a tablespoon, drop dollops of sugar-nut mixture onto the casserole top. I start in the middle, go to the corners and then add more dollops onto the open areas. Don’t worry that your topping doesn’t cover everything. When baked, it’s going to melt all over the place.
If your casserole dish doesn’t have a lid, tear off a foil sheet to cover and spray foil underside lightly with cooking spray so foil won’t stick to topping. Attach foil over the casserole and secure tightly. (At this stage, you can freeze this and thaw a day or so before you want to bake it.) Bake 350 for 30-45 minutes, remove foil or lid for another 15 minutes. Cooking time depends on how cold the casserole is when you put it into the oven.
LEFTOVER NOTE: No, this isn’t crazy. I like to spread a thin layer of this leftover casserole onto bread for my turkey sandwich, which also features homemade mayonnaise and leftover cranberry salad. Yum.
Sure, I love that Sweet Potato Queen Casserole, but maybe I want something a little “healthier” this Thanksgiving as an option. That’s when I turn to roasted vegetables. Of all the ways to cook veggies, I like this one is the best. No more soggy, boiled anything!
So, get a friend to help you prep them and get ready to receive the praise. I am.
EQUIPMENT: Large baking sheets, aluminum foil, spatula, mixing bowl, mixing spoon, cutting board, chef’s knife, vegetable peeler.
2 large sweet potatoes
half head cauliflower florets
3 medium yellow onions
2 large red beets
2 green bell peppers (you can do red or orange, too)
olive oil, salt, pepper
(I also like to roast whole mushrooms and asparagus together because they take the same roasting time, which is about 15 minutes in a 425 oven.)
LET’S GET STARTED
Pre-heat oven to 425. Line baking sheets with foil.
Wash and peel potatoes, beets. Wash and snap off cauliflower florets. Wash and remove seeds and veins from peppers.
Chop potatoes and beets into similar size pieces (about 1-1/1/2 inch dices) for even cooking. Separately, in a mixing bowl, drizzle olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper over diced potatoes. Stir to thoroughly coat. Pour potatoes onto one end of baking sheet.
Do the same with the beets.
Chop peppers and quarter onions.
Then, repeat the bowl oil/seasoning separately for your second baking sheet: peppers, onions and cauliflower.
Roast each sheet until veggies are fork tender. Potatoes/beets probably 40 minutes. Onions, peppers, cauliflower closer to 25 minutes.
Serve them lined up by vegetable in your favorite large serving dish. Enjoy.
SERVES: 6-8 people
Also: Check these links to see previous Thanksgiving recipes (Cornbread Dressing & How to Brine a Turkey) from Patsy.