This recipe was introduced to my family years and years ago. It was the year we got the Food Network at my parents’ house and my Dad took to watching the programs. He also was watching Julia Child on PBS. This combination inspired him to cook the entire Thanksgiving dinner on his own. Mind you, he had never cooked an entire holiday meal in my life so this was a big deal. He approached it with the thoughtfulness and attention-to-detail and quality he brings to everything. Index cards with the timeline of cooking and each recipe decked the cabinet fronts in the kitchen. The menu he chose was Julia Child’s Caneton à l’Orange (Roast Duck with Orange Sauce from the essential two-volume set of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, £30.00 from Amazon.co.uk or $51.48 from Amazon.com), roast Brussels sprouts in Dijon sauce, this sweet potato dish, and a fresh loaf of bread from the local bakery. A dinner guest brought a home-baked blueberry pie. When he returned from the market with a duck, he scoffed at the package of warm-and-serve orange sauce the butcher had slipped in and threw it in the trash. He was doing this meal from scratch. I volunteered to be his sous chef and was assigned the sweet potato side dish, which I have since made and enjoyed many times.
For loyal readers of this blog, you’ll notice that I’ve posted this recipe before, but always in compiled posts with several recipes. I was recently asked if there was a post with just this recipe featured, so here you go. There is a photo of the final dish as well as a downloadable/printable recipe card included for your happiness and convenience.
Bill’s Sweet Potato Bake
6 to 8 fresh sweet potatoes
2 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
1/2 cup salted butter
1 pound fresh pecans
2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Puncture each potato with a fork several times before placing all on a baking sheet or directly on the oven rack. Bake for 1 hour, or until tender. Let the potatoes rest and cool slightly before peeling them. Change the oven temperature to 300 degrees to preheat for the final baking.
3. One-by-one, place the peeled sweet potatoes in a food processor. Mix using the pulse feature until all the potatoes have been added. Stop mixing while the potatoes are still chunky.
4. Pour the maple syrup into the food processor and add the unsalted butter. Mix until smooth then add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla sugar. Mix using the pulse feature for another minute before transferring the potato blend to a shallow baking dish. Using a spatula, smooth the top of the mixture. Set aside while preparing the top layer.
5. Warm a skillet over low heat to melt the salted butter. Stir in the pecans and sauté (while stirring regularly) until the nuts are coated with the butter. This should take about 5 minutes. Once the pecans are butter coated, transfer them to a plate layered with paper towels to allow the excess butter to drain off.
6. Arrange the pecans on top of potato mixture. This can be done simply or in a decorative pattern. It will taste delicious either way. Sprinkle the top with the brown sugar.
7. Bake the dish for 20 to 25 minutes, or until heated thoroughly.
This recipe was originally shared in 2005 in my weekly column in The New Mountain Tribune. The full text of that is here.