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Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Yam What I Yam

I have to be honest.  I cannot come up with anything particularly pithy to say about yams.  I mean, it's a yam. This is not to say that I don't love yams and sweet potatoes because I do.  They are delicious and can be really decadent.  They have the added bonus of having some real nutritional value, although I do question how healthy they can really be once you've added a couple of sticks of butter and a pound of brown sugar.  And marshmallows.

Here's the thing about yams and sweet potatoes.  They are really just a vehicle for all the yummy goo that we put on top of them. This is not a bad thing.  In fact, if you think about it, they're perfect.   Tasty on their own, a la "I'm being healthy today," and a dessert for dinner at a holiday.  And, they're Paula Deen's favorite vegetable.  That is, when she adds a couple of sticks of butter and a pound of brown sugar.  And marshmallows.  And maple syrup. Paula is only woman in American who can actually remove the nutritional value from a food.  It's a gift.

So, here we are, looking forward to Thanksgiving and the ever famous yam (or sweet potato -- is there a difference?) and marshmallow casserole.  That's one approach.  But I say, if you're going to have dessert with dinner, go all the way.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

Garnet Yams with Blis Maple Syrup and Maple Sugar Streusel
(Bon Appetit,  November, 2008


3 1/2 pounds slender garnet yams or other yams
1/4 cup Blis maple syrup or other maple syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup maple sugar (scant 3 ounces)
1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For yams:

Butter 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish.  Preheat oven to 375.

Peel yams; cut 1 inch off ends and grate to make 1/2 cup.  Discard ends.  Cut remaining whole yams into 1/3 inch thick rounds.  Arrange yam rounds in 4 overlapping lengthwise rows in prepared baking dish.

Bring 1/2 cup water, maple syrup, butter, and cider vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan.  Stir in 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper.  Pour maple syrup mixture over yams,  Cover baking dish tightly with foil.  Bake yams covered until almost tender, about 40 minutes.  Increase oven temperature to 400.

For streusel:

Mix first 4 ingredients in a small bowl.  Mix in reserved 1/2 cup of grated yam.  Add melted butter and mix in to form moist clumps.

Sprinkle streusel over the yams and bake uncovered until yams are very tender and streusel is golden and slightly crisp, about 35 minutes longer.  Serve warm.

Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Apples
(Barefoot Contessa Parties, 2001)


4 pounds sweet potatoes (about 6 large)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

For the topping:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 McIntosh or Macoun apples, peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
3 tablespoons light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 375.

Scrub the potatoes, prick them several times with a knife or fork, and bake them for 1 hour, or until very soft when pierced with a knife.  Remove from the oven and scoop out the insides as soon as they are cool enough to handle.  Place the sweet potato meat into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and add the orange juice, cream, butter, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.  Mix together until combined but not smooth, and pour into a baking dish.

For the topping, melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the apple wedges and brown sugar and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned on both sides.  Place on top of the sweet potatoes.

Bake the potatoes and apples for 20-30 minutes, until heated through.

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