Clearly you already have a plan for Thanksgiving. You know where you'll be, or figured out who, and how many, will be coming to you. If you're cooking, you've settled on the menu, counted your platters, ironed the napkins, and ordered the turkey. And you know exactly which sweet potato recipe you'll be making. I mean, duh.
I crack myself up.
I bet your Thanksgiving plans are like mine: forever evolving, morphing, and transforming from one minute to the next. I've already had several friends recount their fears of Thanksgiving-related familial mayhem, and to them, I say, have wine on hand.
For me, Thanksgiving has always been about family, pies, and side dishes. Usually in that order.
I'm fine with turkey; I really am. I order a nice free-range one and cook it until my normally-reliable oven shuts off spontaneously midway through, and displays that inscrutable symbol in the upper-left hand corner. Then I freak out cause the turkey's not quite done, and I run around, frantic, trying to find the damn user's manual so I can figure out how to clear f*!%# symbol and get the oven to turn back on. I kid you not: this happens every year, and I've never been smart enough to get it checked out. Come on, though. Am I really going to call an appliance guy to diagnose a once-a-year problem? I think not.
Anyway, if you want some really good Thanksgiving recipes, you've come to the right place. I've decided to prepare a few holiday dishes at random intervals over the next two weeks and share them here. This is exceedingly nice of me since I'll be eating the same food on the 27th, and therefore will have preempted my own meal, but whatever. The recipes will do you no good if I post them after the holiday.
So here you go. Installment number one: sweet potatoes.
Recipe for Thanksgiving Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Pecan Crumble
Over the years I've tweaked this recipe from Epicurious, changing the proportions and ending up with a version that's far less cloyingly sweet. The addition of cardamom lends a note of complexity, but don't kid yourself: this dish is all about comfort.
Makes 6 reasonable sized servings, or slightly more
3 to 3-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 potatoes), peeled
1-1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons very cold butter, cut into small dice (keep in fridge until needed)
Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 1-1/2 quart baking dish and set aside.
Cut the sweet potatoes into 1-1/2 inch pieces. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, the potatoes will take about 10 minutes to become sufficiently tender. (Test one to confirm.) Strain and allow to sit in the colander for about 15 minutes.
Puree in a food processor, stopping to swipe the sides 2 or 3 times. You want the mixture to be quite smooth.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, syrup, vanilla, lemon, salt, and cardamom. Scrape in the sweet potatoes and stir with a wooden spoon until well-combined.
Transfer the potato mixture to the prepared baking dish and smooth the top.
In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, pecans, and diced butter. Rub with your fingertips until it forms small clumps. Scatter over the potatoes.
Set the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and transfer to the hot oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, keeping an eye on it in the last 10 minutes to make sure the nuts don't burn. (If they get too dark, tent with foil.) Serve hot.