Mountains of mini-marshmallows and tons of brown sugar will surface once again this Thanksgiving via the sweet potato.
Candied sweet potatoes calls for almost a half-pound of brown sugar, and a full bag of mini-marshmallows blankets the average sweet potato casserole. While many consider either of these two iconic recipes mandatory on the Thanksgiving menu, there are alternatives. For inspiration, check out your favorite farm-to-table restaurants where local chefs are busy creating recipes for fall’s most versatile vegetable. You'll find it in soups, biscuits, cakes and roasted veggie medleys.
With such an assortment of recipes, you'll need to stock up. Thankfully, the new sweet potato crop is now on the market. , in Fenton, has a particularly good crop this month.
When selecting sweet potatoes, choose those firm and uniform in size, which aids in even cooking. Once home, store sweet potatoes in a cool, dry, ventilated container or basket. Never store them in the refrigerator. Refrigeration will produce a hard center and unpleasant taste.
The easiest way to prepare sweet potatoes is to bake them. It’s a nice alternative to the traditional baked potato. To bake the perfect sweet potato, pierce the skin several times with a fork and bake at 400˚F for 40 to 50 minutes or until fork tender. A twist on baking: Slice or cut sweet potatoes into chunks and place around a roasting chicken or pork roast. Or, for a fast side dish, sauté sliced or diced sweet potatoes in a tablespoon or two of oil for about 10 minutes.
Other cooking techniques include steaming and microwaving, which is my favorite method to obtain sweet potato puree. Simply steam whole or chunked sweet potatoes until tender or microwave whole for 5 to 8 minutes, rotating them halfway through cooking time to promote even cooking. Then peel and puree the pulp for use in pies, breads and soups recipes. Remember, the slower sweet potatoes cook, the sweeter they’ll be.
According to Cristy Alvarado, spokesperson for the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, there are hundreds of different varieties of sweet potatoes. The most popular are the orange flesh Covington and the copper colored O’Henry. Don’t confuse these varieties with yams, even if they are sold in markets as yams. Yams aren’t sweet potatoes. Yams are usually imported from the Caribbean and differ in taste, texture and color.
“When working with sweet potatoes, think outside the Thanksgiving box and play with seasonings,” Alvarado said.
“Sweet potatoes pair wonderfully with curry, cumin and chipotle. Also, since sweet potatoes are fat free and low in calories, a dish of roasted sweet potatoes wedges is a healthy addition to the Thanksgiving table.”