Pictured above: sweet and starchy perfection (photo by Meal Makeover Moms)
A couple of years ago, a family friend sent my mom a bowl of her homemade sweet potato casserole for us to enjoy at Thanksgiving dinner. Up to that point my family’s only experience with sweet potatoes was in french fry form. To us, those fries where only ever alright; not enough to dethrone the regular potato as King of Fries. So you can excuse our lack of excitement when my mom placed the hefty glass bowl of nut topped orange goop among the smorgasbord of our traditional tasty Thanksgiving treats.
Pumpkin color means pumpkin taste, right? (photo by sousvideguy)
But when we took that first bite? Mmm mm mm! It was love at first taste. We had all been expecting some kind of starchy mashed potato flavor but more bland and with hint of sweetness more distant than that one cousin you've never met but always sends you holiday cards. No, this sweetness hits harder than Muhammed Ali hit Sonny Liston that May in 1965. This was dessert you could eat with the main course, and my family couldn't stop raving about it.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I’ve been invited to a Friendsgiving potluck with a group a friends, and I committed to bringing a bowl of sweet potato casserole. It’s surprisingly easy to make, even for someone like me who was not blessed with the baking gene. First you peel, chop, and boil some sweet potatoes. Then you mash it up and mix together with the melted butter, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and eggs. Last year, my sister used a blender for the mash and her Kitchenaid mixer to put it all together, but a fork and spoon worked perfectly fine for me. Then you drop the topping on it -- a mixture of pecans, brown sugar, melted butter, and flour -- and stick it in the oven for about 30 minutes.
Imagine a spread like this, but with way more carbs (Photo by Tim Cooper)
This being our group’s first Friendsgiving together, we all brought way too much delicious food. But even on a table covered edge to edge with delicious delicacies, the sweet potato casserole stood out above the rest. My friends had never tried sweet potato casserole before, and the unexpected sweetness was a pleasant contrast to the rest of the savory spread. It was up against a bowl of regular (but delicious) mashed potatoes, but the flavors and eating experiences are so different that the two didn't clash. The casserole was such a hit I had to secretly sequester a small serving for my roommates who watched me bake the dish.
If you’d like to make a sweet splash at your next Thanksgiving themed meal, how about trying this Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe from Food Network. For me, the best part is that even if my friends didn’t like it, it would mean I'd get to keep more leftovers for myself. And trust me, I would’ve worked the casserole into every meal. It’s that good.