In our house, sweet potatoes appear on the menu just about every week year round. When you have a picky eater, you serve the vegetables he will eat as often as you can. I also like sweet potatoes a lot, and since I cook and plan most of the meals, sweet potatoes play a starring role around here.
My favorite way to make them is to bake them until they are very soft and slightly caramelized on the bottom. And I discovered that I really like peeling them and mashing them before we sit down at the table, instead of slicing open, mashing and doctoring on our plates.
To take it a step further, I started making spiced sweet potatoes, based on a recipe from the Bahama Breeze restaurant. I have no idea if they still exist, but I do know the one location in St. Louis closed several years ago. We found the recipe for their sweet potatoes online, but it included an entire stick of butter. While I love butter, I would rather not consume all of my weekly allowance in one formerly healthy side dish. And they boiled their sweet potatoes, which to me leaves out a whole taste dimension from the caramelized potatoes. Not to mention, you have to peel and cut up the raw sweet potatoes. Why do all that when it is so much easier to peel them after they have already baked? And you can work on the rest of dinner while they quietly bake in the oven.
We backed off on the butter (and sometimes leave it out totally) and doubled the cinnamon – if you are making spiced sweet potatoes, make them spiced. I don’t know when I thought of adding the cayenne, but it really makes the dish. It boosts the bite of the cinnamon without make the dish too spicy. I added the vanilla to give the whole thing a little more warmth and another layer of flavor.
Be sure to post how you change the recipe to suit you and your family’s tastes, or if you make it just as written.
Spiced Mashed Sweet Potatoes
from The Cook’s Life
All of the measurements are approximate, but make sure you use more cinnamon than you think you need. And don’t leave out the cayenne – it gives that “something” that makes the dish.
3-4 medium sweet potatoes
1-2 tablespoons butter (optional)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
Brown sugar for serving
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil, or use a non-stick pan (save yourself the scrubbing from the leaking sweet potatoes). Scrub the sweet potatoes, prick them with a fork or sharp knife and bake on prepared pan for 60-90 minutes, or until they are leaking from the pricks and are soft to the touch. All the better if the liquid that leaks out and the bottoms of the sweet potatoes are caramelized (burned).
Let the potatoes cool for 10 minutes, so you can handle them more easily. Split each sweet potato’s skin, which will be easy because skin usually puffs above the flesh a bit. Scoop the flesh out with a spoon or, if the potato is cool enough, pick it up and squeeze it out into a bowl. Add the butter, if using, the vanilla, the cinnamon, a couple of dashes (or three or four) of cayenne, several grinds of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Mash and mix with a fork or potato masher and serve while hot. Pass the brown sugar at the table. These also reheat beautifully.