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ISO Sweet Potato Casserole recipe: not to savory, not too sweet

Once again I am honored with the task finding a sweet potato recipe for Thanksgiving. I normally enjoy planning and preparing meals for family gatherings, especially major holiday get-togethers. But the sweet potato thing has become more of a hardship than a pleasure- caught between two camps, the sweet marshmallow lovers and the wine-drinking naysayers who refuse to throw off their palates with too much sugar- I am inevitably risking the disappointment and/or ridicule of my loved ones (!).
I usually go with a fairly sweet preparation (out of tradition and also to contrast with the savory mashed white potatoes that are invariably served) in the tradition of casserole with marshmallow, but without the marshmallow. I've tried pecan streusel topping (but some won't eat nuts), and I've done a whipped layered casserole thing... and I am out of ideas. I was thinking of making a gratin this year, but then realized that the addition of parmigiano or gruyere or goat cheese would mean a savory dish, and I don't really have the heart to deprive the sweet-eaters of their favorite side dish.
Does anyone have any siggestions for a middlle-of-the-road casserole or gratin-style dish featuring sweet potatoes? I would also consider a seecondary ingredient, such as turnip or onion, as long as its nothing too "exotic" (not my word) that will take away from the overall sweet flavor.
I apologize for this rambling plea- but I really would like to find a way to make all 16 people smile :)
Thanks in advance to anyone who can help.

oh- I should add that I am not summarily against cheese or streusel or sugar- I am just looking for a recipe that is both salty and sweet, if possible. Thanks again!

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  1. I've parcooked them and then roasted them with a bit of butter and a pinch of salt. Simple but good.

    1 Reply
    1. re: foodslut

      Yup- I usually put them in tin foil and bake, then add butter, S/p and use my stick blender to mix. Looks like baby food, but so good. Had them with with a rack of lamb on Sunday. To me, the sweet potatoes are sweet enough with adding any sugar or sweetner. Have never had them with marshmellows.

    2. I find myself in the position every year, wanting a sweet potato but not wanting the cloyingly sweet version of my mother's generation. Last year I cubed sweet potatoes and tossed them in olive oil with salt, pepper, cinnamon and cloves. Throw them into a roasting pan and add maple syrup or brown sugar. Cover tightly with foil and bake @400 degrees until soft,about 30 minutes. Uncover and stir and put back in the oven to caramelize, about 15 more minutes. Everyone liked this version, which was both sweet and savory, at the same time. Another year I made Sweet potatoes and greens with honey mustard glaze, which I believe I found at Epicurious. It was very good as well.

      i cubed sweet potatos

      1. This is just off the top of my head, so I haven't tried it: Sweet potatoes are sweet by nature, so the bigger issue is the savory part. How about braising peeled, sliced spuds in a true ginger ale, like Reed's (sold at Trader Joe's; the apple-ginger one would be fine, too), then mashing with cream or cream cheese (or chive/onion flavored) and baking in a gratin dish? The Reed's, if you aren't familiar, is very spicy, loaded with ginger. I find it unpleasant as a beverage, but keep it on hand because it is outstanding for settling a queasy stomach.

        1. Thank you for taking the time to help me out- greygarious, that is one intriguing food imagination you've got!

          1 Reply
          1. re: vvvindaloo

            My brother in law every Thanksgiving makes a sweet potato casserole that I believe he got from the Jimmy Carter Family Cookbook; it is absolutely delicious, may be a little too sweet for you but it is great.

          2. The Cook's Illustrated Holiday Guide has a recipe for Mashed Sweet Potatoes that sounds quite good and which I will be trying this Thanksgiving. It involves braising/roasting the sweet potatoes on the stovetop with a touch of butter and cream so that the natural sweetness shines through. The magazine also gives a couple of variations: one involving maple syrup and another with an Eastern Indian taste.

            1. The sweet potato casserole in this article, originally published in Cooks Illustrated, should fit the bill. It is less sweet and the slightly bitter molasses and spicy sharpness of the fresh ginger and cayenne really enhance the sweet potatoes without drowning them in sugar.

              I especially like the streusel-topped variation, which is a bit sweeter (you can omit the nuts), but, either way, this is a good recipe.

              1 Reply
              1. I never thought I liked sweet potatoes because at Thanksgiving, I was always served the ones from the can overly sweetened with brown sugar and topped with marshmellows YUCK. Both the texture of the canned potatoes and the taste was disgusting.

                When my Mom retired, she moved to the mountains east of San Diego. They are known for their apple orchards and she used to get fresh pressed apple cider. She discovered this recipe and when she made it, voila! a sweet potato dish that I really really liked. I don't get up to the mountains for fresh apple cider, so when I make it I use Trader Joes spicy apple cider. The spices in the cider create a really nice yet subtle flavor.

                1. Peel and cube fresh sweet potatoes
                2. Place in a heavy sauce pan and just cover with Trader Joes Spicy Apple Cider.
                3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until the sweet potatoes are very soft - don't be tempted to add to much cider.
                4. When potatoes are soft, mash with a potato masher incorporating the remaining cider.
                5. (Here's the Holiday Part) - Add a generous portion of real sweet cream butter - depending on how much potatoes, up to a whole stick.
                6. Whip the butter into the potatoes and adjust consistency with more apple cider. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt & pepper to taste.
                7. Pour into a greased baking dish, dot top with butter and bake until top is lightly browned.

                Really delicious!

                1. We like very plain sweet potatoes.
                  For this, I don't use measurements. I roast, skin on in the oven until tender. At the same time, I steep garlic in milk. Scoop out the insides. Throw in some of the warm milk and butter. Whip on high (stand mixer). Add one egg. Put in a casserole dish. Bake at 375 until bubbly; we like the crusty top.
                  Pretty plain, but great sweet potato flavour.

                  1. Wow, thank you so much to everyone who replied. I have an idea about what I might do to make the whole clan happy, and also incorporate a bunch of suggestions from here.... it's not exactly traditional, but it is a creative compromise: I was searching through recipes on epicurious when I came across an interesting one called "Sweet-Potato Gratins". It's a mostly-savory recipe that calls for making individual stacks of sweet potato gratin (with gruyere, nutmeg, black pepper and cream) in a muffin tin. So I figured, why can't I make two different kinds of potato stacks-one savory, one sweet- in tins? It's not quite as "homey" as everyone scooping the casserole out of the same big pyrex dish and fighting over the crusty top... but adding a new element to the meal might not be a bad idea... and then I can make half of them with maple syrup and streusel, and the other half with cheese... I also really like the cream cheese idea, the apple cider idea... thanks everyone. I will report back.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: vvvindaloo

                      Like your idea but would suggest a dry run before Turkey Day, just in case they stick or burn in the muffin tin. You probably want to bake at a cooler temp than a big dish, unless you've par-cooked your sliced potatoes first. You are having 16 people, but maybe you should still consider getting 6-oz ramekins/custard cups. They are not expensive (you might find a deal on eBay or by using a Bed,Bath,&Beyond coupon). The fluted white ones are pretty, but the clear pyrex ones stack for compact storage. They are useful in general - nice for cobblers/crisps and the like, pudding, jello, and for mis-en-place preparation of ingredients.

                      1. re: vvvindaloo

                        I just thought I'd throw this recipe into the mix, Vvvindaloo. It's from a small Native American recipe pamphlet I picked up years ago at an Indian PowWow here in MA. The recipes were compiled by Frances L. Whisler.

                        The recipe is for Fried Sweet Potatoes and is simple and delicious.. and not too sweet. Peel and slice sweet potatoes.... any amount you want. Add fat in a skillet, I use rendered goose fat, and heat till the fat melts. Sautee the potatoes and turn them as you need to. When they're almost done 3 teaspoons, more or less, of brown sugar are added to the skillet plus 3/4 cup whole milk. Turn the heat to low and simmer till the potatoes are done.

                        I've been trying to purge my collection of cookbooks and rediscovered this much loved book, just in time for Thanksgiving 2008. This one's a keeper.

                        1. re: Gio

                          I love the idea of goose fat, gio. i know there will already be butter on the turkey (gotta get that skin crispy!) and in the mashed potatoes... maybe gose fat is the answer for a whole new flavor at the Turkey table :)

                      2. Ingredients

                        7 medium sweet potatoes
                        2 sticks butter
                        2 eggs
                        1 tsp. baking powder
                        1 tsp. vanilla
                        2 tsp. cinnamon
                        1 C. sugar
                        3/4 C. buttermilk
                        1 1/2 C. pecans, chopped


                        Cook potatoes, peel and put in mixer bowl. Add all of the ingredients except marshmallows and mix well. Put mixture into casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Top with miniature marshmallows. Bake 10 minutes more.

                        Serves 12 people.

                        1. I can't find the exact recipe online that we use, but there are endless variations of 'Yams/Sweet potatoes with Orange Glaze'. You don't have to use a ton of sugar, possibly substituting some honey.

                          - Peel and slice about four pounds of potatoes into 1/2 inch Thick slices (to preserve texture) and place in a buttered casserole dish.
                          - Make a sauce with 2 c. orange juice, 1 c. sugar, 2 Tbsp cornstarch, 1 tsp salt. Simmer until thickened, about one minute. Remove from heat, add 4 Tbsp butter, 1-2 tsp orange zest and stir until melted.
                          - Pour sauce over potatoes, cover with foil and heat in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Uncover, baste potatoes periodically and cook until sauce is thickened and potatoes have a nice glaze and are just tender.

                          Definitely NO marshmallows.

                          1. Hi VVV This may be a bit late but just saw the post today. I have been making a Rum Glazed Sweet Potato Side dish from a recipe culled from Gourmet over twenty years ago!! Besides the Sweet potatoes it also has chestnuts and apples. This recipe has never failed to wow anyone who has tried it and its with much confidence that i offer it here. To save time, i do as the recipe suggests and use jarred roasted chestnuts which are really good. The combination of ingredients is unbeatable and sure to please the "sweet" lovers as well as the more "sophisticated" savory loving types. Follow the ingredient amounts carefully and you will have made a side that everyone will be asking the recipe for through the next year If this recipe hadnt been the hit it always has been all these years i wouldnt have thrown my two cents in here to offer it. You wont go wrong with this one. :)

                            RUM GLAZED SWEET POTATOES (Serves 6)
                            3 lbs Sweet Potatoes (pricked in a few places with a skewer)
                            3 Golden Delicious Apples, (Cored, peeled, and cut lengthwise into eighths)
                            1 Cup Vacuum-packed Roasted Chestnuts, (halved or quartered)
                            ½ cup (1 stick) Unsalted butter
                            ½ cup Light Brown sugar, (firmly packed)
                            ½ cup Honey
                            2 Tbsp. Dark Rum
                            ½ tsp cinnamon
                            ½ tsp. Ground Ginger
                            ¼ tsp. Ground Mace
                            ¼ cup fresh Lemon juice
                            After peeling apples toss them in the lemon juice and set aside. Preheat oven to 400* and bake the sweet potatoes for 45 min- 1 hr, or until they are tender. When cool enough, peel them and cut diagonally into ¼ in slices. Arrange the apple slices and sweet potato slices in a buttered 14 inch gratin dish and sprinkle the mixture with the chestnuts.
                            In a stainless steel saucepan combine the butter, the brown sugar, honey, rum cinnamon, ginger, and the mace. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Spoon the syrup over the apple and sweet potato mixture and bake in a preheated 400* oven, basting occasionally with the pan juices for 30 min, or until the sweet potatoes are heated through and the apples are just tender. Run the dish under a hot broiler for a min or two, until the edges of sweet potatoes and apples are lightly browned and serve.

                            1. I made this a few nights ago and it was very good. The chiles gave it a bit of a kick and I followed a suggestion and kept the potatoes a bit lumpy. Happy Holidays!


                              1. I love a recipe in Food and Wine a few years ago..it was from a chef friend of Michael Mina:
                                Bake sweet potatoes. Heat heavy cream with the seeds and pod of a vanilla bean. Puree sweet potato with the cream, unsalted butter, sea salt and pepper. Yummy!

                                1. I have used this combination of roasted sweet potatoes, roasted poblano chiles, and a little cheese to make casseroles at Thanksgiving:


                                  1. I know this ain't particularly helpful, but if you want to make all 16 people smile, you'll need to make 16 different casseroles!

                                    My wife makes it with the sweet potatoes mashed up mixed with sweetened condensed milk, spices, and a dash of orange juice topped off with the brown/sugar/butter/pecan streusel followed by marshmallows, b/c it's what her mother or grandmother or aunt used to make.

                                    It was a nice change of pace the first time I tried it (b/c growing up my family always had plain cut up ones baked w/ butter), but that was almost 15 years ago. Now it's what we have every year. Ugh. I suggested doing some simple baked ones the other day, and she said, "well, that's healthier, but everyone loves it and it's Thanksgiving"

                                    you gotta pick your battles....but I don't think this one is worth it.

                                    In regards to gettin it salty AND sweet...I wonder if a pretzel topping would work?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: wabbitslayer

                                      I usually make a casserole made of whipped sweep potatoes and a Walnut, Brown Sugar, Coconut, and Oatmeal topping. I use this topping for fruit crisps also. But most don't like the sweet Topping on the Casserole and I have just decided to make a mashed sweet potatoes. With a bit of brown sugar and maybe orange juice or milk, and butter. Basic and easy. I may buy some more sweet potatoes just to make my casserole when I cook up a second turkey the next week for my grandma and me and half for my mom for leftovers.

                                    2. My family has recently loved the Bobby Flay recipe mentioned Nov 21 by Chaz, but it also has a little creme fraiche (actually, 3/4 cup, but I add to taste) and maple syrup (1/3 cup, but again I add to taste.) Also, I don't add all the chipotles at once as sometimes it is too spicy.

                                      1. Oops, sorry, the Bobby Flay recipe was posted by Chas. Anyway, it is both a tiny bit sweet and savory as well. It's really delicious.

                                        1. I know this is too late for Thanksgiving but by far the best sweet potato casserole for me is this Scalloped Sweet Potato with a lemon-ginger cream sauce. I made it last night for a gourmet potluck that went over reallly reallly well and its easy, can be made in advance and heated up later - this sauce is to die for:

                                          Went nicely with beautiful rib eyes with a mush reduction sauce, blue cheese crumbled on top and a side of asparagus wrapped in proscutto (roasted)