So, some odd… uh, weeks later… we get to our next promised project. This was intended as a side to an elk roast that got put off from week to week (and two sets of sweet potatoes lost to sprouting or molding as a result), which we finally got around to tonight. If it’s not apparent, I LOVE sweet potatoes, far more than normal white potatoes. Unfortunately for me, Stingray does not share my enthusiasm; as a result, finding recipes involving them that he actually likes after a childhood of palate abuse at the hands of his grandmother’s yam aberrations is a priority for me. He likes some sweet potato fries, but deep-frying still gives me visions of the burn ward, so I set my sights on something a little easier.
So here’s the original, from Heidi Swanson’s site, which is apparently itself a recipe from Terrence Brennan’s “Artisanal Cooking”: Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, cleaned and left a bit damp
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/3 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
white pepper in a mill
Now that we’ve got our ingredients, let’s start throwing stuff out and adding it back in. For starters, the most delicious mashed sweet potatoes I ever ate left a tantalizing tangy note somewhere in the aftertaste; after googling up about three million mashed sweet potato recipes, I decided the flavor was probably yogurt. So I decided to swap out the extra three tablespoons of heavy cream for three tablespoons of plain yogurt. I elected to throw out the orange zest as an obfuscating flavor when trying to figure out what effect the yogurt would have. I threw out the vanilla when Stingray informed me that if I used one of the $$$ vanilla beans he’s saving for pies, he would invent ways to make me regret it. No skin off my nose- I’m not that wild about vanilla in what I meant to be a savory dish anyway.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until tender to a fork tip, about 1 hour.
1. Preheat oven. Locate baking dish. Locate sweet potatoes. Put potatoes on baking dish. Chuck in oven. Walk away for an hour. Gee, that was easy.
2. Ehhh, that’s not *quite* tender to fork tip. Requires a little force. Another ten should do it. Wait ten minutes. Achieve satisfying results with a fork, which you are rapidly learning should really be sitting by the stove for any given recipe, the Unmentioned Tool.
Remove from oven and let cook until warm enough to handle, 10 to 15 minutes. Peel and discard the skin. Put the potatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.
3. Let the sweet potatoes sit while you proceed to…
Meanwhile, pour the cream into a 2-quart pot, add the vanilla bean and orange zest, if using, and set it over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Locate “2-quart” pot after some consultation with spouse. Extract the heavy cream and the yogurt from the fridge. Open the heavy cream.
5. Using your fork, take another run at opening the heavy cream.
6. Employ a steak knife to get the GOATFUCKING cream carton open, what the hell, was the dairy afraid it would fall into terrorist hands?
7. Pour half a cup of cream into pot. Glop three tablespoons of yogurt into pot. Turn to medium heat and look questioningly at pot.
8. Conclude it’s not going to do anything interesting in the next few minutes and apply yourself to the sweet potatoes. As the flesh has shrunk away from the skin some, peeling them does not actually require tools of any sort. Resist the urge to lick your fingers. (Note to self: baked sweet potatoes with butter and salt would be even easier.) Optional: find out if your dogs like baked sweet potato skin. Mine do.
9. Shove skinned sweet potatoes in the bowl of the whizzy new food processor your spouse bought after exposure to effective marketing and re-attend to the cream and yogurt, which is showing no signs of “simmering”, which you assume to be some slight sign of liquid agitation. Since it’s been more than five minutes, bring the heat up to medium high until SOMEthing moves, what the hell.
Remove from heat. Use tongs to fish out and discard the vanilla bean. Pour the mixture over the potatoes in the processor and add the butter.
10. Since you didn’t use the vanilla bean, go ahead and pour. Slice off a two-tablespoon hunk of the butter you remembered to set on the counter somewhere around getting the cream, and chuck that in too.
Puree the potato mixture until smooth.
11. As it turns out, the whizzy new food processor only has two settings, “off/pulse” and “on”. No puree, no high, no chop, no nothing. Shrug your shoulders, make sure the lid is battened down, and give “on” a go. In a welcome development, this food processor has a very powerful motor that it doesn’t try to burn itself out on after a few frantic seconds of action, so leaving it on doesn’t cause that burning-machinery smell. Leave it on with a few rounds of pulsing until chunks are no longer discernable in the orange goo.
12. Locate an appropriate vessel for your puree and an appropriate scraping tool. Begin the somewhat laborious process of scraping orange goo off the food processor blade, then the food processor bowl, saving as much as possible even though it seems like the goo has bonded to the plastic. Wonder if mashing by hand in the bowl really would have been all that much worse.
13. Sprinkle in a big pinch of salt. Throw in another just for good measure. Stir. Since you have white peppercorns but no grinder for them (curses), throw half the recommended number of grinds of black. Taste. Yep, that’s about right. Slop onto plates next to your roast. Nom.
This turned out to be easily the best taste result for the lowest effort and fewest complications since I started writing these. I was right about the yogurt being the mystery flavor, and I think it really added a nice dimension to the result, one I’m almost positive I’d prefer over the vanilla version. Even better, Stingray liked them well enough to accept as a “regular side dish, just not one in heavy rotation”. That’s probably as close as I’m going to get- I’ll definitely take it. If you like sweet potatoes at all, give this a shot. If you think you don’t, let someone else try to sell you on them with this recipe- very, very far away from the over-sugared, over-nutmegged “yams” we all suffered through at Thanksgiving. If you go to the original recipe I linked, there’s also a number of good suggestions for using the puree in other applications, such as thinned out as a base for winter soup or as the filling in a ravioli.