Well, here we are. Already at the start of Thanksgiving week (Is that a thing? Probably not, I just made it up). I have to say that for the past couple of years, my family hasn’t really celebrated Thanksgiving – American or Canadian. Sure we enjoy the time off and even do some black Friday shopping, but it seems silly to make a huge meal for just us. But this year is different. We will be having a house guest! Hubby’s best childhood friend is coming for a visit. So even though it’s only one more person, I’ll at least make an effort this year and do a bit of delicious holiday cooking. Plus, I will take just about any opportunity I have to make my favorite holiday dish – Sweet Potato Casserole.
Sweet potato casserole is totally “my” dish. The first time I ever went to a holiday dinner with my husband’s family, I brought sweet potato casserole. And everyone loved it so much, that it has been the expectation ever since that I bring it every time. And I love it so much that I don’t even feel the need to experiment with other dishes. Not that there hasn’t been any experimenting going on – my sweet potato casserole has had many renditions over the years. It started out very differently from this one. But since I’ve settled on this recipe, I don’t think any further changes are needed. It’s just pure perfection.
The first thing I love about it is that it’s not loaded with cream, butter and sugar. Okay, yes – it does have some butter and it does have some sugar and it’s by no means low calorie, but it’s not nearly as bad as some other recipes out there. And it’s not topped with marshmallows! I never really got that – this is a side dish, not dessert! I also love the make-ahead aspect of this dish. When I have a house full of people for the holidays, I do NOT want to spend my entire day in the kitchen. I want to spend my time visiting and playing. So I always make ahead as much of my dinner as possible. And that’s easy to do with this dish.
Since it’s a two step cooking process, you just prepare everything to the end of the first step (braising the cubed sweet potatoes with butter and sugar), then put them into your casserole dish and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook. Then you quickly mix up the pecan topping and put the whole thing in the oven until hot and the topping is browned. Just keep an eye on them, you don’t want any burnt pecans! I hope this recipe becomes your new go to holiday recipe.
- 4 Tbsp butter cut into chunks
- 2.5 lbs sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 1" cubes, about 2 large or 4 small
- 1/3 cup plus 1/4 brown sugar divided
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 1 egg white lightly beaten
- pinch cayenne
- pinch cumin
Melt butter in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Add sweet potatoes, 1/2 cup of the brown sugar, water, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper.
Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook, stirring regularly for 45 minutes, until sweet potatoes are soft but not broken down.
Increase heat to medium-high and boil until liquid thickens to a glaze, about 5 minutes.Transfer sweet potatoes to a 9x9" baking pan or casserole dish of a similar size.
While sweet potatoes are cooking, mix pecans, 1/4 cup brown sugar, egg white, a pinch of salt, cayenne and cumin together in a small bowl. Spread evenly over sweet potatoes.
Heat oven to 450°F and move oven rack to the middle position. Bake casserole until pecans are golden brown and crisp, 10-15 minutes. Watch carefully so they don't burn.
*Note: Recipe adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook