Thursday, November 28, 2013

From The Oven: The Great Sweet Potato Calamity (and my Sweet Potato Soufflé (Super Southern Style))

I feel delinquent... I meant to get this posted around Canadian Thanksgiving for my friend K, who asked for it after I posted about it on Facebook, and then it just got away from me.
Well, now it's American Thanksgiving, and I've got my writing-groove going, so here we go.

First, a little background about why this Canadian girl loves a Southern dish like Sweet Potato Soufflé, and the great Calamity story.
I lived in Atlanta for four very formative years (grades 7-10) and while some of that time was not ideal (namely, 7th grade, most of which I have literally blocked out and do not remember at all), some of it was supremely excellent.  I have some wonderful friends to this day from high school, and I also experienced some idyllic teenage American life.  Friday night football games, sleep overs, hanging around at the mall, charity car washes.  It was awesome.

I also had a step-grandmother, Louise, who was (since I have 0 contact with anyone from my ex-step-father's family... but if you're out there, I'd love to hear from you!) a wonderful Southern cook.  She doted on me, and I loved it.
She would *literally* bake a cake because she knew I was coming over!

One Thanksgiving (could've been a Christmas, but this feels like a Thanksgiving story), she had the sweet potato soufflé, covered in marshmallows of course, baking in the oven.
My step-father, who was a bit accident prone, was the one to take it out.

I don't know what happened next exactly, but all I saw was a slo-mo of the casserole dish falling to the floor.... the orange and white contents flowing UP in a GIANT wave.... and then splashing down against the floor next to the wood paneled wall, causing a ricochet effect and further traveling of the wave... ooooohhhhhh....

It was GLORIOUS in its disastrousness. It was historic. The Calamity lives on in the annual telling of the story (between me and my mother), who witnessed it as well.
There is laughter until there are tears, usually. 

The only orange wave I could find. Ah...the days before cell phone cams! It was just like this, but with more wood paneling and less sunny beach

Ok, so, with that in mind (!) let me tell you how I now make my sweet potatoes for holidays.  This is sort of a ratio thing, and I don't think you can get it wrong.  Just don't over-bake the marshmallows, or they disappear, and I become sad.

4-6 sweet potatoes (nothing fancy, not purple or anything, just the regular ones)
2-3 eggs
1 stick of butter, softened (or margarine, or leave it out if you don't like delicious things)
1/2c heavy cream (depends on how many potatoes you are using, what texture you like, etc), or 1/2 and 1/2, or evaporated milk, or regular milk. But really, cream.
1/2c. brown sugar, and white sugar (or splenda) to taste
pinch of salt
1-2tsp of combined cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger-- or use pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice, but then it will taste a lot like your pie, no?
1 bag of mini marshmallows (which are traditional, but big ones cut in half work fine too)
BIG casserole dish (1.5 to 2qts?) and butter or non-stick spray

Heat oven to 350
While that is happening, wash the potatoes well, and poke them all over with a fork, and then you can microwave them until they are very soft.  I'd say at least 20 minutes.
You can boil them and peel them if you like, or you can peel them and boil them (which is harder), but you'll lose nutrients to the water.

Once they are soft and cool enough to handle but still warm, peel the sweet potatoes and dump them in a big bowl. Don't leave too much behind on the skins, scrape if need be.
Mash them up with a potato masher.

Now you can keep going with the masher, or switch to a handheld mixer, or a whisk.
Mix in the soft butter, and the eggs, and mix well.
Should be thick. Now mix in your dairy of choice, a little at a time, until you get to the texture you like.  You are going for a loose mash, but NOT a pie filling.  Get it to where you like it.
Add the pinch of salt, and the brown sugar, and give it a taste for sweetness. Add more brown or white sugar (or splenda, of course) to your taste.
Add the spices-- start with 1tsp of cinnamon and shake in the others if you like them, and taste.

Ok, now the mash is where you like it, yes? Don't eat it all yet. It's better baked.

Grease (with butter, or non-stick spray) your casserole dish, and pour in the mash. Smooth it out. There should be room between the top of the mash and the top of the casserole, to help hold the marshmallows on.
Cover with aluminum, and bake the casserole for about 30-40 minutes at 350 (could be 375 if your oven is set higher for something else).  At this point, you can remove them and wait until closer to dinner, or keep going.

Now, remove the aluminum (did I really need to say that? You're probably stressed out with family coming and everything, so, yes, I did. You're welcome).
Top with mini marshmallows. Don't be shy. We're not talking 1 layer here. Dump them on there and spread them out.  They should sit somewhat above the top of the rim of the casserole dish.
Bake about 10 more minutes, until the marshmallows are puffy and golden, but not over cooked because then they disappear and become a sticky glaze. Not what you want.

I used big marshmallows, and I'm ok with that.

Put out on the table to ooohs and aaaaahs, and enjoy.  I like it warm, and then I really like it cold all the rest of the week!


  1. You are SUCH a delightful writer. Who knew? ;-)

  2. LOL, thanks FKC! I try to tell the story that needs to be told...