Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sweet potato casserole

Thanksgiving is around the corner. It is one of those holidays that makes me giddy because I know that my creativity with food can run wild, and no one will mind :) I take the time to look over the year that's coming to a close and count all my blessings, big and small. And they are many. This blog being one of them. I had never heard of Thanksgiving until I moved to the US. Turkey was something we did not cook at our house,nor is it common to find on the menu of any Kenyan household. So I did not know what to make of this day when people take great care and time to cook this great big bird and have a feast. In fact, I remember the first Thanksgiving meal my Kenyan roommates and I had. We decided to go all out with the turkey, ham, collard greens-everything! I must say that that was quite ambitious on our part. In hindsight, I'm surprised we did not try to make a curry out of the turkey (because that is how we are used to cooking our poultry back in Kenya), but I must say we got an A for effort. It was alright, we lived to tell the story and most importantly, we were our own family at that time. All drawn together by circumstance and the yearning for the families we had left behind in pursuit of  a better education.

Fast-forward fifteen years later and not only do I get the meaning of the holiday,but I also know how to properly cook a traditional Thanksgiving meal and I want to teach what I know to those who were like me back then and anyone else who might care to learn what they do not already know. So here's one of the recipes that makes an appearance at my Thanksgiving table each year and is a crowd pleaser. It is a very decadent side-dish and that is why we see it only once a year at my house ;)
Oven-safe dish
Aluminum foil
-2 large grated sweet potatoes (use the side of the grater with the bigger holes).
-1 can evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk!)
-2 large eggs.
-the zest (orange part) of one large orange.  Be careful not to grate the orange down to the white part (the rind), or it will make your food bitter!
-pinch of salt (to balance the sweetness).
-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
-3/4 cup (or less of granulated sugar).
-1/3 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature (If you use salted butter,omit the pinch of salt from the recipe).
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
The topping ingredients
-1 1/2 cups of mini marshmallows.
-1/3 cup tightly-packed light brown sugar.
-1/3 cup roughly chopped pecans (Pecans are a type of nut for those of you who don't know).
-1/3 cup melted butter.
-1/3 cup sweetened coconut flakes (these are found in the baking aisle at the grocery store).
***You can make your topping ahead of time by mixing the brown sugar, pecans, coconut flakes and butter. Reserve the mini marshmallows as they will go on top of the topping mix****
-In your casserole dish, spread your grated sweet potatoes.
-Add 3/4 of the can of evaporated milk and stir.
-Add the eggs and stir.
-Add the orange zest and stir.
-Add the cinnamon and stir.
-Cut the butter into cubes and distribute evenly throughout the dish and stir.
-Add the sugar and stir (I did not use the whole 3/4 cup of sugar, I used 1/2 cup).
-Add the vanilla extract and stir.
-Now spread the topping mix (pecans, coconut, butter, brown sugar) over the potatoes (do not stir).
-Spread two hand fulls of the mini marshmallows over the topping and reserve the rest for later.
Souffle right before going into the oven
-Cover the dish with aluminium foil and place in the center rack of the oven for 1hr 15mins and set your timer.
-5 minutes before the dish is done cooking, uncover the dish, sprinkle to more handfuls of marshmallows on top of the mixture and let the marshmallows melt and brown (uncovered).
-When your timer goes off,remove the dish from the oven, resist the urge to dig in and let it cool for 10-15mins.
Souffle straight out the oven
Now your souffle is ready to enjoy. Indulge your senses!

***Accompanying YouTube video coming soon at YouTube: Stella's Meza ***