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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mom's Sweet Potatoes

Isn't funny how your favorite family recipes are always the ones with very inexact measurements?  The other night our good friend was hosting her annual pre-Thanksgiving dinner party.  Since I won't be able to spend Thanksgiving with my family, I decided to make one of our family recipes to share with friends.  So, the day of the party, I eagerly opened up an email from my mom with the subject header "sweet potatoes"...and gasp...the recipe was in paragraph format with no measurements.  At first, I wasn't sure what to do with "boil potatoes until they seem like they're getting soft" and "add enough brown sugar to the butter until you have a thick syrup".  But after seeing my mom and dad work together in the kitchen making sweet potatoes all these years, I felt I could conquer this recipe of intuition.  The truth is, sometimes cooking is more about feeling than precision.  The results were very enthusiastically received at the dinner party, and I have to say, they were pretty close (but not as perfect) as my mom's.  The recipe below has rough measurements but it's probably better to trust your gut feeling when making these sweeties.
 Mom's Sweet Potatoes
4 sweet potatoes
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
dash of cinnemon
dash of nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped pecans
Lightly scrub potatoes.  Do not peel potatoes or cut out eyes.  Place in pot of water and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, lower stovetop to more of a simmer and let potatoes cook for 20-30 minutes.  At about 20 minutes, do the poke test.  If the knife goes in, but the potatoes still seem very firm, remove pot from stovetop, drain out the water, and place potatoes in a bowl to cool.  While potatoes are cooling, set oven to 375 degrees and lightly coat the casserole dish with butter.  Once cool enough to touch, remove skins from potatoes and cut out any eyes.  Slice potatoes (about 1/4 inch thick).  In medium size bowl, melt butter in microwave.  Then add approximately 3/4 cup brown sugar and microwave for another 15 seconds.  Stir mixture and add more sugar if needed to make a thick syrup.  You're looking for a texture with the same viscosity (thickness) as honey at room temperature.  Then stir in cinnemon and nutmeg.  In casserole dish, arrange sweet potatoes in single layer.  Continue alternating until last layer of sweet potatoes has been placed in the dish.  Sprinkle pecans over top (Hint: I saved just enough of the brown sugar syrup so that I could mix the pecans into it and then spread them over the top.  Glazed pecans...delish!)  Bake for approximately 50 minutes, taking the lid off for the last 10 minute to brown the top. 
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