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Sweet Potatoes, Where Have You Been All My Life???

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sweet Potatoes, Where Have You Been All My Life???

With Thanksgiving on our horizons -- despite the retail industry jumping straight into Christmas shopping -- I thought I'd share a Thanksgiving anecdote with you.



Like many other things in my culinary world, it's Alton Brown's fault. For those who don't know, or hadn't noticed from many of the other recipes I've shared, I'm a HUGE fan of Alton Brown and Good Eats on The Food Network.

I always had difficulty enjoying sweet potatoes. The only way I seemed to like them was in "pie" form, and only when it tasted JUST LIKE a pumpkin pie.

In 2003, during a time I put watching new "Good Eats" episodes on par with watching new episodes of "Friends" or "NYPD Blue", I happened across an episode about Sweet Potatoes, entitled "Potato, My Sweet". Usually, in November AB airs episodes relevant to Thanksgiving and other holiday cooking, such as green bean casseroles, frying turkeys, etc. I was mesmerized by how he set up this episode, emphasizing how sweet potatoes are underrated, not enough people like them in any form except as pie form, and demonstrated some outside-the-box ways to prepare them, such as with waffles and mashed with a chipotle seasoning. He also showed how steaming them instead of boiling helped preserve nutrients and flavor.

Am I really such a geek that I remembered all that? (No, I looked at the Food Network episode summary first). BUT, the steaming-of-the-sweet-potatoes definitely stuck in my mind and I decided to give sweet potato casserole a chance when we got to North Carolina.

I was the only one who ate any of it, but it was VERY good. Yum yum! I won't give up, though, I'll probably make a small casserole this year and see if my boys will give it a go again. Jacob's been exploring all sorts of new flavors this past year and perhaps he'll end up liking it.

We're keeping it small this year. Our parents avoid flying here from the east coast in the cold weather months (and I don't blame them -- flying at Thanksgiving is nuts enough, if the weather causes delays or cancellations, forget it!) so we'll stay here, and my cousin who lives in the area will join us. Last year Dave's cousin joined us and it was equally cozy. I know many people who seem flabbergasted by such a small Thanksgiving gathering, but for me, it keeps it VERY low-stress and relaxing. When we spend Thanksgiving at home, we also use the day to bring out the Christmas tree and start on Christmas decorations.

That being said, I now reserve my big-classic-sweet potato cooking for pot lucks, when able. Sometimes I'm assigned another dish based on my last name, or what office I work in, but I enjoy making it at least once every holiday season. Today I'm making it for Timmy's preschool Thanksgiving feast and I'm exploring variations on the traditional mashed-with-nutmeg-and-cinnamon-and-topped-with-marshmallows casserole. But with no nuts, of course :-)

I think this is the recipe that's going to win this year, and although it seems rather bland, I have to remember that this is for a preschool and if I want the kids to enjoy it at all, I'd better stick to a classic.

And for leftovers, this sounds like a good way to quickly use up leftover mashed sweet potatoes: Alton Brown's Sweet Potato Waffles.

Happy Thanksgiving Friends!

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