Every year my family battles it out over mini-marshmallows versus praline crumbles. To make the competition even more stiff, throw in the tasty corn flake crust I discovered last Thanksgiving. Oy vey.
I had an Aha! moment while dining out recently that may have changed my opinion forever. An inspired side dish from my favorite Atlanta chef: sweet potato casserole topped with homemade marshmallows, bacon crumbles (!!!), and chives, baked in an individual cast iron skillet. Yes, I just said bacon crumbles. It was mind blowing.
Needless to say, I knew immediately that a version of it would be making an appearance at this year's holiday table. I gave it a little test run Saturday to make sure it was up to speed for the big day. "Fakesgiving," anyone? Minus a tiny little incident involving bacon and the smoke alarm (watch out for that broiler, folks), I'd say it was a smashing success.
I can't wait to make it again very soon, but next time with the bacon on the souffle instead of in the trash can... Will sweet potatoes be making an appearance at your holiday feasts? If so, how will you prepare them?
Sweet Potato Soufflé
Serves 6 to 8
4 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
1/2 cup maple syrup (or to taste)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Bacon crumbles, for garnish (optional)
Snipped chives, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roast sweet potatoes over an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet for approximately one hour, or until tender. Cut in half and allow to cool until able to touch. Peel and mash sweet potatoes (this should yield a scant 5 cups).
Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees.
In a stand mixer, combine mashed sweet potatoes and maple syrup (adjusting to personal taste and for the sweetness of the potatoes. Keep in mind that marshmallows are very sweet, too.) Add butter, half and half, eggs, cinnamon, and salt until well combined. Pour mixture into a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove casserole from the oven and increase heat to BROIL. Top the casserole with marshmallows. Cook, WATCHING CAREFULLY, until the marshmallows just begin to melt and brown, about 1 - 2 minutes.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)