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Tis The Season For Sweet Potatoes

Making Sweet Potato Pie and Other Sweet Potato Recipes

by Sidney Carlisle

Big baskets and boxes of newly harvested sweet potatoes begin arriving at farmers markets and grocery stores in early fall. While there are several varieties available, the most common are Beauregard and Red Garnet. Both have dark orange skin and orange-colored flesh that is moist and sweet when cooked. The potatoes are high in fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C, and are naturally sweet.

Sweet potatoes are not yams, a fact that nutritionists and food writers have been trying to explain for years. A sweet potato and a yam are two completely different plant species. True yams were brought to this country from Africa and are not grown in the United States on a commercial basis. Their flesh is white and not sweet at all. Occasionally a well-stocked Latin market may have a few yams, but generally they are difficult to locate. Louisiana and East Texas growers like to call their product yams in order to distinguish their potatoes from those grown in the north, a marketing technique that is confusing. And some canned sweet potatoes may be labeled yams, further complicating the issue.

When selecting sweet potatoes, choose small to medium-size with no spots or extended roots. Store in a dark, dry location, but not in the refrigerator. The potatoes will keep best if left unwashed.

A versatile vegetable, sweet potatoes may be baked, boiled, mashed, grilled or fried. And the cooked potato may be substituted for pumpkin or butternut squash in many recipes without a noticeable difference in the taste of the finished product.

Although sweet potatoes are available almost year around, it's hard to resist buying them when they are fresh from the field. Just the sight of them at a roadside stand makes one think of the approaching holiday season.

Two of my favorite holiday sweet potato recipes are given below. The pie recipe is my mother's and is wonderful topped with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream. You'll notice that the only spice in this pie is nutmeg. Follow the recipe and don't be tempted to substitute another spice or add any other ingredients. The pie is exceptional just as it is. The second recipe is a different twist from the usual candied sweet potatoes and I've never seen this recipe in any cookbook. Since I began serving these potatoes, no one has ever asked for any other sweet potato dish. The potatoes may be prepared ahead of time and warmed in the oven before serving.

And as I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, remember that either of these two recipes may be used at any time throughout the holidays, or any other time of year.

Sweet Potato Pie

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¾ cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup cooked sweet potato (see note)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 9-inch unbaked pie crust, chilled
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Whisk together the sugar, flour, salt and nutmeg in mixer bowl. Add the half-and-half, sweet potato, eggs and butter, one at a time, beating on medium speed about 30 seconds after each ingredient is added. Pour the filling into the pie shell. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until filling is firm on the sides and just barely shakes in the middle. Cool on a wire rack. The pie may be served warm or cold and yields 8 servings.

Note: The pie is best when prepared with a baked sweet potato. Wrap a medium size potato in foil. Bake at 400F degrees about 1 hour, or until very tender when pierced with a fork. Remove the potato from the oven and cool to room temperature. Scoop out the soft inside with a spoon and measure out 1 full cup for the recipe above. The potato may be cooked ahead. Remove the pulp and refrigerate for up to two days.

HOLIDAY SWEET POTATOES

  • 4 medium-size fresh sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons butter
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Spray a medium size baking dish with non-stick spray. Peel the sweet potatoes. Cut into halves and then divide each half lengthwise into quarters. Cut each quarter into thin slices, about 1/4-inch. Depending on the size of the potato, the slices will be about the size of a half-dollar or quarter.

Place the potatoes in the baking dish. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle over the potatoes. Cut the butter into small pieces and scatter over the sugar. Do not add any water. Bake uncovered 30 minutes. Stir thoroughly. Bake uncovered another 30 to 45 minutes, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve hot.

To reheat potatoes prepared ahead of time, place in a 300F degree oven and bake uncovered until hot, stirring often. Leftover potatoes may be reheated in the same way.

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