When it comes to Thanksgiving traditions, sweet potatoes have been a recent addition to our table. It’s funny how something so stereotypically Thanksgiving never made it’s way into our menu, but I suppose isn’t that part of what makes the holiday unique to everyone? We had plenty of traditional side dishes on the table, including more than a few made with cans of cream of mushroom soup, but I can’t recall ever having sweet potatoes.
I realize many health nuts will claim certain fruits and vegetables as “nature’s candy”, but in the case of sweet potatoes, it really rings true. They have a wonderful sweet flavor and creamy texture that I can’t bear to mask with sticky marshmallows. So I was drawn to a more adult and less candy-sweet dish for this Thanksgiving.
I played around with adding more flavors (parmesan! sage! rosemary!), but simplicity won out in the end, with just enough butter, bourbon and brown sugar. I noticed the brown sugar was caramelizing in the oven, and found bringing out the blow torch added a fun touch. Note that brown sugar can be tricky to caramelize with a torch – it wants to catch fire and burn – so torch gently or switch to turbinado sugar.
- 6 lbs sweet potatoes (about 6 large), washed and scrubbed
- 3 tablespoons bourbon
- 1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
- 2 cups pecan halves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or turbinado/course sugar)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- Prick sweet potatoes all over with a fork.
- Bake until soft, about 1 hour. Alternatively, microwave, turning once or twice, about 8 minutes.
- When cool enough to handle, peel and discard skins.
- Puree in a food processor with bourbon, 6 tablespoons of butter (3/4 stick), and heavy cream (if using).
- Toast pecans on a baking sheet until fragrant, 10-15 minutes. While nuts are still hot, toss with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.
- Transfer puree to baking dish and smooth the top as much as possible. Sprinkle brown sugar in an even layer over the top.
- Use a kitchen torch to gently melt the sugar, keeping the flame low enough not to burn the sugar.
- Place pecans on top of the sugar in a single layer.
- Bake until thoroughly heated, about 30 minutes.