Once upon a time we revisited our Thanksgiving menu and wondered if we needed to trim back the sides. Since there were two types on the menu, the potatoes came up for review. But how can you possibly have Thanksgiving without sweet potatoes and then to eliminate mashed potatoes, well that’s just crazy. So, both potatoes have remained firmly in place on our Thanksgiving table. So here’s how I prepare both the sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes.
First, the sweet potatoes.
I do have a couple of rules when it comes to sweet potatoes. Marshmallows should be nowhere near this naturally sweet, earthy vegetable. Secondly, sweet potatoes should not be poured out of a can. Fresh sweet potatoes are so easy to prepare and the taste far exceeds your expectations. The recipe I use is known as a Sweet Potato Sham. I originally saw a version of this recipe published in a wonderful cookbook called Holiday Favorites, by Food & Wine. I’ve found similar recipes in two vintage cookbooks, one belonging to my Grandmother published in 1938 and another given to me by Emily, published in 1946.
You start with a quick rinse and scrub of the sweet potatoes before tossing them into salted water. Once they’re tender and cool enough to handle the skins are quick to remove. The sweet potatoes are blended with freshly grated nutmeg, a bit of cinnamon, a blend of sugars all to enhance their natural flavor and some butter and half and half for an extra touch of richness. These are the sweet potatoes you’ll want on your holiday table!
For mashed potatoes, I stick with the basics, starting with the potato. It’s hard to beat Yukon Gold potatoes – with their rich, nutty flavor and creamy texture, they’re a perfect choice for a delectable mashed potato.
Butter warmed with half and half, freshly grated nutmeg plus seasoning with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper – that’s all you need to finish a wonderful batch of mashed potatoes.
Simple things can be so delicious!
Sweet Potato Sham
4 to 4-1/2 pounds fresh sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 extra-large egg
½ cup half and half
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste
Rinse and scrub the sweet potatoes and place them in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Cover with cold water and 3 tablespoons of the kosher salt. Cook over medium heat until the potatoes are very tender, about 45 -50 minutes.
Remove the potatoes and set aside until they are cool. When they are cool enough to handle remove the skins by simply peeling them off. Place the peeled potatoes in a large mixing bowl.
In a small bowl stir together both the sugars along with the nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper.
Combine the egg and the half and half, whisk together until they are blended. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until they are fairly smooth.
Add the melted butter along with the egg and half and half, stirring until well blended.
Add the sugar and spice mixture, mixing well. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste. Check the flavors of the sweet potatoes before adding all the salt. They will be somewhat seasoned from the salted cooking water. Pour the sweet potatoes in a large baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with a cooking spray.
Bake the sweet potatoes at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until they are set in the center and heated through the middle. (Use the longer cooking time if you use a deep baking dish.)
You can make the Sweet Potato Sham a day ahead and refrigerate until ready to bake. Allow the dish to come to room temperature, about 30-40 minutes before baking. If the dish is still cold to the touch, set it on a baking sheet to prevent it from directly resting on the hot rack which could cause the dish to crack or break.
3-1/2 to 4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed or peeled and quartered
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups half and half
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste
Place the potatoes in a large stockpot and cover with cold water. Add 3 tablespoons of the kosher salt to season the cooking water. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat and cook for about 45 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender. If you make the potatoes ahead of time do not pour out the cooking water.
While the potatoes are cooking, warm the half and half along with the butter either in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave.Using a kitchen spider or slotted spoon remove the potatoes and place them in a large mixing bowl.
Gently beat the potatoes on low speed just enough to break the potatoes into smaller pieces. Add about 1 cup the half and half and butter along with the grated nutmeg, black pepper and kosher salt as needed. (Check the flavor before adding all the kosher salt, the potatoes will be somewhat seasoned from the cooking water.) Using low speed, mix until the potatoes are blended with the seasonings. Add additional half and half to reach your desired consistency. A few lumps are fine!
You can make the mashed potatoes up to one hour ahead of time, cover the mixing bowl with foil and place it on top of the stockpot. The heat from the water will keep the potatoes warm. About 30 minutes before you serve the potatoes, turn the heat on to medium-low and slowly reheat the potatoes, adding more half and half and butter if the potatoes have thickened.