sweet potato and sage butter casserole

“No one who cooks cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”  Laurie Colwin from “Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen.”

This came from the foreword of a book my mom gave me for my birthday last year and even though I haven’t read further than the foreword yet I know I am going to love the book already based on this line alone.

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Today I share with you this simple and quick (and delicious) recipe for a sweet potato casserole featuring one of two herbs I’ve managed to keep alive in my apartment: sage (the other being rosemary.)  It comes from a cook who is often with me when I am alone in my kitchen: Martha Stewart.

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Sweet Potato and Sage Butter Casserole (recipe found at www.marthstewart.com)

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus 1 ounce (2 tablespoons), melted
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk, warmed
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (from 3 slices white bread, crusts removed)

Place sweet potatoes and potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with water, and season with salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 9 minutes. Drain; pass through a ricer into a bowl.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 1 stick butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat; add 2 tablespoons sage. Stir butter mixture and milk into potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish. (Mixture can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

Combine breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons melted butter and remaining 1/2 tablespoon sage. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

Top potato mixture with breadcrumbs. Bake, uncovered, until bubbling around edges and breadcrumbs are golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. (If browning too quickly, tent with foil.) Let stand, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

rosemary bourbon pecan sweet potato pie

This pie is full of all kinds of things I like: sweet potatoes, rosemary, pecans, bourbon.  What’s not to like in there?

I must warn you that this pie is not for the low maintenance baker wanting to whip up something quick.  There are multiple steps and they take some time.  But the end result is well worth it, and as with the other pies I have posted in recent weeks, this would be great for Thanksgiving.  Especially if it’s the only thing you are responsible for bringing to the meal!

The early steps involve roasting sweet potatoes until they are tender enough to puree.  You also have to candy up some pecans and let those cool while you work on the rest of the pie.  (Try to resist the urge to eat them all or you’ll regret that when it comes time to place them decoratively on top of the pie in a few minutes.)  You have to roll out a crust and fit it into a pie pan and then put that in the fridge until you are ready to fill it.  The one kind of high-maintenance step that is never my favorite to do involves separating the eggs and beating the egg whites until foamy and then folding them in with the rest of the batter.  I don’t know why it’s not my favorite thing to do because it’s really not that difficult but it does add a little extra time to the process.

As I said above though, all the extra steps are well worth it.  The resulting pie is light (which is not an easy feat for a sweet potato pie) and the rosemary adds a hint of savory, while the candied pecans add a nice sweet crunch, and the bourbon and maple syrup add a certain depth to the flavor.  And if you artfully arrange the candied pecans (which I didn’t so much do) it’s also a very impressive-looking pie.  Wow your guests this Thanksgiving!

Rosemary Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie (from “A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies” by Ashley English)

  • ½ recipe Basic Pie Dough (see below)

Pecan Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Filling:

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan.  Trim the crust overhang to 1 inch and crimp the edges decoratively.  Place the crust in the refrigerator while you prepare the topping and filling.

Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat.  Add the pecans, maple syrup, bourbon, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and gooey.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Prick the potatoes 3 or 4 times apiece with the tines of a kitchen fork.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the potatoes on the baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.

Remove the potatoes from the oven, leaving the oven on and reducing the temperature to 350 degrees F.

Let the potatoes stand 10 to 15 minutes, until cool enough to handle.  Peel off the skins and put the flesh in a large bowl.  Mash with a potato masher until softened and smooth.

Using an electric mixer or a whisk, beat the egg whites in a medium-sized bowl until billowy peaks form.  Set aside.

Add the heavy cream and butter to the bowl containing the mashed sweet potatoes.  Whisk until the butter melts and the cream is well incorporated, then whisk in the egg yolks until fully combined.

Place the bourbon in a medium-size saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat and boil vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, then stir in the maple syrup and brown sugar.  Boil 2 to 3 minutes longer, until the brown sugar melts.

Remove from the heat and pour into the potato mixture.  Whisk until well combined.  Add the rosemary, salt, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg and whisk to blend thoroughly.

Add the beaten egg whites to the potato mixture.  Fold in gently with a spatula until the whites are fully incorporated.

Pour the filling into the chilled crust, using a spatula to distribute it evenly.  Arrange the candied pecans decoratively over the filling in a pattern that you like.

Bake in the 350 F oven for 1 hour, until the filling is set and doesn’t jiggle when the pie pan is gently shaken.

Cool at least 50 to 60 minutes before serving, so the pie has time to set up and firm throughout.

Basic Pie Dough (from “A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies” by Ashley English)

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • ¾ vegetable shortening, chilled and cubed
  • ¾ cup ice water

Mix the flour and salt together in a medium-large bowl.

Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal (you should still have some rather large bits of butter and shortening when you’re done.)

Slowly drizzle in the ice water and stir with a large spoon until the dough begins to clump.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and, using your hands, fold it into itself until the flour is fully incorporated into the fats.  The dough should come together easily but should not feel overly sticky.

Divide the dough in half, shape it into two balls, and pat each ball into a ½-inch thick disk.  Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

penang vegetable curry

When I was new to Thai food I was a Pad Thai girl all the way.  Pad Thai seems to be the gateway food for many who are new to Thai cuisine, though I eventually did venture away from the noodle dish and experimented with Massaman curry and satay and various peanut-based curries.  Lately I’ve been really into Penang curry.

I’m not so well-versed in Thai food as to be able to tell you what makes Penang curry different from other curries, I just know that I like it and also that a local Asian grocer conveniently carries Penang curry paste.  Score.

I found a recipe for a simple vegetable curry to use as a guide and went from there.  The recipe called for sweet potatoes (love), cauliflower, and chickpeas (which I had cooked up myself from dried beans and stored in my freezer for later use a few months back).

I wanted to add a little more color to the curry so threw some frozen peas into the mix.

A little tip that I sort of feel like a genius for thinking up, though by no means do I think that I am the first one to have this thought: the recipe called for coconut milk and a cup of water so I emptied my can of coconut milk and then filled the can up with water and added that to the pot.  It made broth richer by getting a little more coconut milk in there and also cleaned out the can for recycling at the same time: two birds, one stone.  So simple, and yet I’d never thought to do this before.

The resulting curry tasted pretty much exactly like the Penang curry I often get at a local Thai restaurant so on nights I don’t feel like making the half hour drive for carry-out I can recreate it myself at home.  It would be especially excellent with a little Thai iced tea.

Penang Vegetable Curry (loosely adapted from “Simple Vegetable Curry” from Everyday Food magazine)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Penang curry paste
  • 13.5 oz. can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 sweet potato (about  3/4 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 bag of frozen peas

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft, 3 minutes. Add curry paste and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in coconut milk and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Add sweet potato and cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir chickpeas into curry and increase heat to high. Simmer rapidly until liquid reduces slightly, 2 minutes. Serve curry over rice.

sweet potato fries

This is going to feel like a cheat post and it kind of is.  There are only two photos and the recipe is one that I have memorized I make it so much.  I’m not sure if there even was a recipe originally, but I suppose those are the best kind.

Much like kale chips I make these when I feel like I want healthy versions of junk food.  Which is often.

I like to peel my sweet potatoes but you could certainly leave the peels on yours if you’re into that.  I toss the peeled sliced sweet potato chunks with olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin, though you could shake it up and change out the cumin for curry powder and that would be awesome too.  Shake it up a bit.

These fries are healthy because they aren’t actually fried, they’re baked.  Genius.  Sometimes I eat them with honey, sometimes with ketchup, and sometimes plain– just depends on what kind of mood I’m in.  You could even get fancy and whip up an aioli to serve them with.  Go forth and enjoy!

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

  • Sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into desired fry shape (I like to cut them thick like classic steak fries)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cumin or curry

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Toss sweet potato fries with a little olive oil until lightly coated.  Sprinkle fries with salt, pepper, and cumin or curry.  Bake for 30 minutes, shaking pan several times to bake fries evenly.  Serve with ketchup or honey, if desired.

pinterest digressions and spicy curry noodle soup

I have a confession to make: I think I have a Pinterest problem.

For those of you unfamiliar with Pinterest it is essentially a virtual cork board.  Remember cork boards?  You probably had one on your wall in middle school with pictures of Salt N’ Pepa, INXS, and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air on it.  (Or maybe that was just me…)

Anyhow, I have become almost obsessed with finding cool images of food/signs/flowers/home interiors, etc. on Pinterest and last night found myself up until almost midnight (aka waaaaay past my weeknight bedtime) pinning pretty images to my boards.  (If you’re already on Pinterest or are persuaded to join after reading this and care to follow me, my username is baxterandmain.  Little plug.)

All of this is leading me to a blog-related point or two.  1) I need to step my food photography game up, big time.  2) I need to get a real logo/header because I am tired of the up-close brownie shot.  Real tired of it.  Point 1 can be aided with natural sunlight (which should be more plentiful in Wisconsin in the next month or so, fingers crossed) and more thought put into the mise en scene of my pictures (and maybe a proper camera at a later date.)  As for point 2 I am real lucky to have a talented friend who has volunteered to help in this endeavor which brings me full circle as I have been looking for inspirational images on Pinterest to give to her to create some artwork for this here site.  So there we go.

And now the food!  I made some wonderful sweet potato chicken curry noodle soup to go along with the Thai iced tea for you!

Vegetarians please note that this dish could easily be made with tofu instead of chicken and sub vegetable broth for chicken broth and I bet it’d still be as amazing.

It’s spicy, a little sweet, and incredibly flavorful.  You will love it!  Unless spicy and curry is not your thing.  In that case stay tuned for butternut squash lasagne in my next post!

Spicy Curry Noodle Soup with Chicken and Sweet Potato (by Mai Pham from Bon Appetit magazine)

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass* (from bottom 4 inches of about 3 stalks, tough outer leaves discarded; NOTE: if you can only find dried lemongrass in your grocery store you will only need about 1 tablespoon as it is more potent in dried form)
  • 2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons Thai yellow curry paste*
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)*
  • 2 13.5- to 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk,* divided
  • 5 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)*
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 cups snow peas, trimmed
  • 2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled red-skinned sweet potato (yam; from about 1 large)
  • 1 pound dried rice vermicelli noodles or rice stick noodles*
  • 3/4 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 red Thai bird chiles or 2 red jalapeño chiles, thinly sliced with seeds
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add next 4 ingredients; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in curry paste, curry powder, and chili paste. Add 1/2 cup coconut milk (scooped from thick liquid at top of can). Stir until thick and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add remaining coconut milk, broth, fish sauce, and sugar; bring broth to boil. Keep warm. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate until cold, then cover and keep chilled.

Cook snow peas in large pot of boiling salted water until bright green, about 20 seconds. Using strainer, remove peas from pot; rinse under cold water to cool. Place peas in medium bowl. Bring water in same pot back to boil. Add sweet potato and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Using strainer, remove sweet potato from pot and rinse under cold water to cool. Place in small bowl. Bring water in same pot back to boil and cook noodles until just tender but still firm to bite, about 6 minutes. Drain; rinse under cold water to cool. Transfer to microwave-safe bowl. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Bring broth to simmer. Add chicken; simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add sweet potato; stir to heat through, about 1 minute. Heat noodles in microwave in 30-second intervals to rewarm. Cut noodles with scissors if too long. Divide noodles among bowls. Divide snow peas and hot soup among bowls. Scatter red onion, green onions, cilantro, and chiles over soup. Garnish with lime wedges and serve.

sweet potato and carrot bisque

Last weekend was a total soup weekend. It was cold, it snowed like six inches on top of the six we already had, and I was in no mood to venture out to grocery shop so instead decided to shop my pantry. I had sweet potatoes. I had carrots. I had onions. I had vegetable stock. Done and done and done and done.

With baking you have to stick pretty close to actual recipes but with cooking you can be more free and soup is an especially easy arena in which to experiment. Some of my favorite soups (and salads for that matter) have been a result of the mix of ingredients I happened to have on hand at that moment that all worked together to create something better than the sum of their parts.

This soup is full of orange vegetables– you know, the kind that make you see further and help prevent cancer. Totally awesome. Added bonus: it tastes good too.

Don’t fret if you don’t have an immersion blender, (though I highly recommend investing in one) you can puree this soup in batches in a blender or a food processor. Or you could even leave it chunky– that would be great too. Totally up to you. Experiment!

Sweet Potato and Carrot Bisque

  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into quarter-inch rounds
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
  • 5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the onion, cover and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the carrots and sweet potatoes, cover and cook, stirring once, until the vegetables are just beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and vegetable or chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot and allow to simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Using an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, transfer soup to blender or food processor in batches and puree until smooth.