Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sweet Potato Casserole with Crunchy Nut Topping

I get calls this time every year for this fabulous recipe!  I tweaked it from a recipe I got years ago in catering school, and it makes a great take-along dish.

Just for the sake of being more "technically correct," I changed the name to Sweet Potato Casserole instead of Sweet Potato Souffle, as it was originally called.  It must be a "Southern thing":  the term "souffle" was often loosely used in school. 

                                                So Here We Are...
                                     Just In Time For Thanksgiving!

Freezes well - Thaw before adding the topping and cooking.

Serves 6-8

The Filling: 
  • 2 c. mashed, cooked sweet potatoes*
  • 3/4 stick (6 TB) salted butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. canned evaporated milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. mace
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Butter-flavored non-stick cooking spray (for the pan)
*Use about 1 and 3/4 lbs. sweet potatoes: wash and boil or bake whole, with the skin on, until fork tender; place in a bowl of cold water for about a minute, peel and mash - or use a 40 oz. can of yams in syrup (drain well).  I've used either, but my daughter and I have found the canned yams work equally as well as the fresh sweet potatoes.


In a heavy-duty mixer, combine the potatoes with the butter.  Add all the other ingredients and mix well.  Spray a shallow, approximate 9 x 1 1/2 (nine by one and one-half) inches round oven-to-table cookware dish with a butter- flavored cooking spray.  Spoon the mixture into the dish.

The Topping:

You can make a day or two ahead and keep in a container in the pantry, if you like.
  • 3/4  c. crushed*  frosted corn flakes - about 1 1/2  (one and one-half ) cups whole flakes 
  • 1/2 c. light brown sugar (firmly packed)
  • 1/2 stick (4 TB) salted butter, melted
  • 1/2 c. coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts 
*Tip:  Crush the corn flakes (not too fine) in the blender, or between two sheets of wax paper with a rolling pin.


Preheat the oven to 350º.
Combine with a fork the corn flakes, sugar and melted butter. Add the nuts and mix well. (My daughter and I traditionally sneak a couple of tablespoons to nibble - the cook's reward - yummy!)  Sprinkle the corn flake topping over the sweet potato mixture and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. Gobble Gobble!


What's That Got to do with This?

A sign of the times, or time?
While getting dressed one morning recently, I was "half" watching a rerun of an old "Lassie" TV show from the 1954 series.  "Gramps," played marvelously by George Cleveland, was sitting at the dining room table with his hand to his head, pondering (another) Lassie/Jeff dilemma. I thought he was on his cell phone, until I saw him get up to use the old wall crank phone!  That made me wake up!  




I hope you and yours enjoy a "Norman Rockwell" Thanksgiving like one you know "Gramps," Jeff and his mother, Ellen, would have had!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rich, Rustic Mashed Potatoes...Thanksgiving and Family

Finally sharing what I used to refer to as my heart attack mashed potatoes...just in time for Thanksgiving!  They are the epitome of classic, rich mashed potatoes.  While yummy and creamy (but not soupy), they have a real potato taste!  I insist on using Idaho potatoes for this recipe; but my secret for these decadent, rustic mashed potatoes is the type of milk I use.

I call this milk the poor man's rich cream...it's so inexpensive.  As I've told my daughter, this milk should always be on hand...it keeps in your pantry until you open it.  It's a great substitute in any baking recipe that calls for whole milk...just mix half water to half of this milk to achieve the equivalent amount of whole milk you need.  If you like, you can use it as a cream in your coffee.  It has so many options...you'll find it in many of my recipes.  You can even make ice cream with it!  So what is it already...it's evaporated milk!

If you haven't kept evaporated milk as a staple in your pantry before, have I convinced you that you should...it's great in emergencies!  By the way, don't bother buying the light evaporated milk...it's just watered down, and you can do that yourself!  Good grief, I didn't mean to make this post a tribute to evaporated milk!

Back to the mashed potatoes...even with our beloved and traditional Sweet Potato Casserole with Crunchy Nut Topping, our crowd would miss these...

                       Gotta-Have Mashed Potatoes on Thanksgiving...
                                               A Time To Indulge!
                                              

Approximately 6/ea. 2/3 c. servings

Ingredients
  • 3 large Idaho potatoes (a little over 2 lbs.)
  • approx. 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. table salt (or to taste), plus about 3/4 tsp. for water to boil the potatoes
  • approx. 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/4 c. (1/2 stick) salted butter (cut into about tablespoon-size cubes)
  • about 2 TB evaporated milk (or as needed to achieve desired consistency) Don't use any other milk or cream...this makes the recipe! (But, I think I explained that.)

Garnishes
  • 1 TB butter
  • sprinkle of paprika
  • fresh parsley sprig

Directions
  1. Scrub and peel the potatoes completely or partially, or don't peel at all.  (My daughter prefers a little peel left on the potatoes, as I used in the potatoes pictured above.)  Remove any bad spots and cut the potatoes into eighths, or 2" cubes...as uniformly as possible so the potatoes will cook evenly.  (Avoid cutting the pieces too small, or the potatoes may absorb too much water while cooking...I believe I learned that from my brother-in-law many years ago.)
  2. Place the potatoes into a sauce pot and cover them with cold (about 6 c.) water.  Sprinkle about 3/4 tsp. salt into the pot.
  3. Bring the potatoes to a boil over medium-high heat and cover with a lid.   Boil the potatoes approximately 20 minutes (check after 15 minutes), or until a fork inserted into a couple of potatoes goes in and out easily and the potatoes are tender without being soupy or mushy...don't overcook!  Stir frequently with a wooden spoon to keep the potatoes from settling onto the bottom of the pan.
  4. Drain the potatoes immediately...you don't want water-logged potatoes!
  5. Place the potatoes back into the sauce pot and immediately sprinkle with the salt and pepper (the seasoning is better absorbed at this point).  Mash* the cut-up butter into the potatoes. 
  6. Mash in the evaporated milk, adding a teeny bit more at a time if necessary to achieve a good consistency without being, here again, soupy or mushy.
  7. Pile the potatoes high into a bowl and garnish as suggested above:  Make a slight indentation in the center and add about a tablespoon of butter...let the butter melt and drizzle down the potatoes.  For color, sprinkle lightly with paprika and add a parsley sprig on the side of the potatoes.  Serve immediately while warm.*  
*Tips

Potato Mashers:  *I prefer a smooth potato masher similar to OXO's #34581...not trying to sell this particular masher...I just couldn't find a consistent description of the type of masher I use.  Also, I prefer using a masher to using a mixer; and some people even like a little surprise lump here or there in their mashed potatoes.  These potatoes should have body, but shouldn't be stiff either...definitely not soupy or mushy (did I say that already?).

If it's not possible to serve the potatoes immediately:  Before you dish the potatoes into a bowl, you can use a double boiler to keep them warm on low heat for a little while on the stove top.  Just keep the potatoes in the sauce pot before you garnish them.  Then create a double boiler by bringing a little water to simmer in a large sauce pan with high sides and wider than the pot with the potatoes.  Place the sauce pot with the potatoes into the simmering water.  Cover the potatoes and stir them frequently, adding a little more evaporated milk if necessary.

Leftovers:  Stir some chopped green onion (stems and all) into the mashed potatoes and refrigerate until cold.  Form the mixture into about 2" patties and fry in a little (equal amount of) butter and olive oil.  You'll find these easy potato patties delicious and worthy of making extra mashed potatoes for leftovers!

Suggested Thanksgiving Theme:  Have each person bring a favorite old family photo, not more than 5" x 6", and share why they love it so much.  Place each photo at their place settings!

Never thought I'd have so much to say about mashed potatoes!  Oh, the older girl in the photo is my mother with her dad and her two half sisters (circa early 1930's, in southern California).

Hope your Thanksgiving is as satisfying as these mashed potatoes...they'll be eating them with their eyes before they even sit down!  Enjoy!

Printable Recipe

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fall Harvest Apple Cake with Butter Pecan Glaze

We're just thrilled! My son proposed to his girlfriend a little more than a week ago while on a trip to Ireland!  In honor of their engagement, I'm sharing this marvelous apple cake.  I served it for dessert the first time she joined the family for dinner...three years ago this fall.

The cake was a big hit at that dinner; however, I wanted more of an obvious apple taste.  The original recipe called for grated apples...this time, I used sliced apples.  I was delighted with the results!  The sliced apples offer more of the apple taste that I desired and form a beautiful circle (of love?) in the middle.  The rich butter pecan glaze complements the apple cake perfectly.
                       
                                                 A Warm Welcome...
                                                  To Our Table!

As adapted from White Lily Flour's recipe for Fresh Apple Cake with Butter Pecan Glaze

Approximately 12 servings

Ingredients

The Cake
  • Non-stick baking spray (for pan)
  • 3 c. sifted all-purpose plain flour (I use White Lily...obviously!)
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. firmly packed, light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. vegetable or canola oil (I use canola oil)
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 4 c. cleaned, cored, quartered & thinly sliced apples--about 4/ea., 2 5/8" in diameter (I use Gala apples)*
  • 1 c. chopped pecans*
The Glaze
  • 1/4 c. salted butter
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans*
  • 3/4 c. firmly packed, light brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream (I use evaporated milk)
  • 1/4 c. light corn syrup
  • 1/8 tsp. orange extract (I use...but this extract is optional)
*Tip
This is a good recipe for your food processor:  Using the chopping blade, chop the pecans on pulse.  Switch to the slicing blade and place the apple quarters horizontally into the chute to slice.

Opening Our Hearts...
And Sharing The Bounty!

Directions

The Cake
  1. Thoroughly spray a 10" Bundt pan, including the tube, with the baking spray.
  2. Whisk well the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350º.
  4. Beat the brown sugar, oil and eggs on medium speed, just until well combined.  Gradually add the flour mixture on low speed, about a cup at a time, and blend just until well combined.  Scrape the bowl.   Give a quick little extra beat on medium low.  Stir in the vanilla, then fold in the apples and pecans.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, filling no more than 3/4 full.
  6. Bake about 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly touched.  (My cake takes 60 minutes.)
  7. Place on a wire rack, cover with a clean dish towel and cool overnight.
  8. To release:  Gently run a very thin-bladed knife around the edges and tube of the pan.  Carefully invert the cake onto a serving platter and leave the fluted side up.
The Glaze
  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Toast the pecans in the butter over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  2. Whisk in the brown sugar, cream and corn syrup, then bring to a rolling boil.
  3. Cook about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat and blend in the orange extract.
  4. Cool the glaze until thickened.  Drizzle over the cake, reserving some to spoon over individual slices.
When ready to serve, slice the cake carefully with a serrated knife.  (Sorry, my photo of the sliced cake didn't really show the circle of apple slices in the center.)  Because of the apples, refrigerate any leftover cake after a couple of days.

Enjoy autumn's bounty with this moist and satisfying, delicious apple cake...it would be perfect for Thanksgiving!
Printable Recipe 

                                    The Bachelor Has Nothing On Him!
                                                 Slea Head Beach