Monday, November 2, 2009

Hate marshmallows? A cure for the Thanksgiving side dish blues!

There are some things about Thanksgiving I just dread. The vile green bean casserole with the canned mushroom soup and canned fried onions is bad enough. So is the ubiquitous lime Jell-O mold. But one thing I just can't abide is marshmallows on the sweet potatoes, so I'm going to offer up an alternative. Chipotle sweet potatoes.

I know, the dish you're used to is generally referred to as candied yams, but I'm assured that yams and sweet potatoes are related to each other in much the same way that an armadillo is related to a giraffe. What you get in the can from the supermarket, though it may be labeled as yams, is actually sweet potatoes. Since I have an aversion to almost all canned food with the exception of tomatoes and tuna, I'm going to suggest you use fresh ones.

Basically, you have two choices. You can make a "mashed" dish or something similar to a gratin. Either dish starts with the same thing, canned chipotles en adobo pureed with milk, half and half or cream. It's your call depending upon your waistline's tolerance level for butterfat.

The key here is to truly puree them, not chop them. A blender (either the upright type or an immersion blender) or a small food processor is a must here. I'm pretty good with a knife, but the one time I tried mincing them very fine I almost killed someone who didn't have much of a tolerance for heat when she got a small chunk of chipotle stuck in her throat for a bit - until she could wash it down with some water. Trust me and use a blender. If you don't have one, Amazon (shameless plug, here) is running a special on the Cuisinart immersion blender and the ad is in the "Deals" section in the sidebar of this blog. It's a great tool, especially if you like to make soup. Okay, the blatant attempt at generating ad revenue from Amazon is over. Back to the recipe.

How many chipotles? I can't tell you. They're all a bit different in heat like all chiles, and it depends on the tolerance levels of your guests and how many people you're serving (and, naturally, how many sweet potatoes you're cooking as a result). Start with one or two along with some of the sauce from the can to a cup or so of dairy product and taste the result. You can always add more. And don't forget - wash your hands after you've handled any chile, preferably 2 or 3 times.

If you're making the "gratin", peel and slice raw sweet potatoes and layer them in a baking dish, salting and peppering as you go along. Add some of some of the chipotle mixture - to which you've added some honey (not much - maybe a tablespoon for every sweet potato, but trust your personal taste) which cuts the slight bitterness of the chipotles - after every layer. Dot the top with butter and bake, covered with foil, at 350 until the potatoes are tender.

If you're making the "mash", poke a few holes in the sweet potatoes as you would if you were baking a russet and bake in a shallow pan (they tend to ooze all over the oven floor if you put them directly on the rack) at 350 until they're soft, then scoop the flesh from the skin. Season with salt and pepper, add a big lump of butter and some chipotle/milk/honey mixture and stir. There's no mashing involved.

If you don't have any honey you can use brown sugar or maple syrup (the real kind, not something with butter flavor in it), but the whole point of the honey is to get away from the cloying, brown sugar-laden and overly sweet traditional dish. Along with the cranberries, this is one of the reasons it's so difficult to match wines to the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Enjoy, don't over-eat, and may your bird be nicely browned.


  1. The bird photo is quite a chuckle.
    Thank you for the sweet potato recipe.It looks very good. I've cooked with chilis in adobo (I'm a Texan) and can vouch for the fact they are hot, hot, hot. Good reminder about washing hands after handling chilis.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Susan. I'll look forward to more of your comments.

  3. I have to say that these were the tastiest sweet potaoes I have ever eatedn. They were spectacular. Not so ovelry sweet adn justa little hot. Dee-lish!

  4. I think you have found the holy grail in getting my husband to eat sweet potatoes! Just found your blog through Tracey (she also turned me on to Mother's...did I look like a star to my daughters!) thanks! debbi

  5. Give 'em a try, Debbi. I'll almost guarantee he'll like them this way.

  6. Sounds wonderful!

    I personally like my sweet potatoes real (not canned) as well; and baked with pralines and coconut.