Apple Pecan Sweet Potatoes
November 18, 2021
Recipes for holiday side dishes can vary greatly across the country, and opinions on proper preparations can be a source of debate, even within families. My Aunt Gail learned this the hard way while helping prepare a feast at a family reunion. She hoped to impress her Texas relatives with an alternative to classic sweet potato casserole, the kind made extra sweet with the addition of a molten marshmallow topping. She lovingly prepared sweet potatoes roasted with apples, spiced with cinnamon, and lightly sweetened with brown sugar, a reflection of the healthy cooking style she picked up living on the west coast. When they were perfectly browned and aromatic, she pulled them out and looked away for a minute to tend to something else. To her horror, she turned around just in time to see her cousin dump an entire bag of miniature marshmallows on top and set it back in the oven to melt. Oh well, to each their own. Over the years, I have continued to make her version of this dish for my holiday table. Here, the apples and sweet potatoes are enhanced with the bright addition of fresh orange juice. Just sweet enough, the flavors of the individual ingredients are allowed to shine.
3 - 3 ½ pounds sweet potatoes or yams
2 tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced in ¼ -inch rings
Juice and zest of one large orange
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
¼ packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground clove
⅛ teaspoon ground mace
Pinch of salt
¼ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup currants or raisins
3 tablespoons butter, divided
Place whole sweet potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on thickness, until just fork tender. Drain and allow to cool. Peel and slice into ¼ -inch rounds.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter. In a small bowl mix brown sugar, spices, and salt. In a measuring cup combine the orange juice, zest, and cider vinegar.
To assemble, start by arranging half the sweet potato rounds in bottom of the dish. Next arrange half the apple slices over the sweet potatoes, then evenly sprinkle half the sugar spice mix, half the pecans and half the currants. Repeat with layers of the remaining sweet potatoes and apples. Pour the orange juice mixture over the top, then sprinkle top with remaining sugar spice mix, pecans, and nuts. Finally, cut remaining butter into little pieces and dot the top of the casserole.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the apples are tender, top is browned, and sides are bubbly.
In the United States “sweet potato” is used to describe both the creamy white sweet potatoes and brightly colored yams. Either will work beautifully for this recipe or try a combination of both.
This dish will be a welcomed addition to any autumnal or winter holiday table, as good with turkey as it is with roast beef or wild game.
However you plan on spending this Thanksgiving, I hope it finds you happy, healthy, and surrounded by cherished loved ones. This year I am very thankful for the opportunity I have had to share a little part of my kitchen with you. It continues to be a joy. Bon appétit!