For my family, a holiday dinner was not complete unless we had baked sweet potatoes. Mom baked them next to the turkey or ham, cut each lovely potato in two or three pieces and taught us how to peel them, mash them with our forks and smother them in butter.
For Jerri’s family, on the other hand, a holiday dinner featured a casserole made by mashing canned sweet potatoes, mixing them with sugar and butter and topping the mixture with marshmallows before baking it in the oven.
“Horrible,” I said, as Jerri served our very first Thanksgiving dinner in Charlottesville, Virginia, nearly 1,200 miles from her home in Kansas. The marshmallows smirked at me with their toasted cheeks.
Looking back at that time, I realize that I was very lucky we were so far from Kansas. Also that it was not a very diplomatic way to express my appreciation for the hours she had spent in the tiny kitchen of our terrace (almost a basement) apartment. Also that Jerri has been incredibly patient with my prejudices and lack of flexibility about certain foods.
My friend Bob, who shares my lack of flexibility, is married to another patient woman. “Every successful marriage needs flexibility,” says Bob. “Jody is the flexible one in this marriage.”
Jerri is the flexible one in ours. Like Bob, I am blessed.
We have baked sweet potatoes with plenty of butter for the holidays. But we also have candied sweet potatoes from time to time, just not out of a can. Jerri likes these better than baked sweet potatoes, and you may also.
3 medium sweet potatoes
1/8 tsp. salt
3 – 4 T brown sugar
3 – 4 T butter
1 T water
Peel and quarter the sweet potatoes lengthwise, then cut the quarters into half inch slices. You should have four to five cups of chopped sweet potatoes. Put the potatoes into a heavy saucepan with a tight fitting lid.
Spread the salt, brown sugar and pieces of butter over the potatoes. Add a tablespoon of water, cover tightly and put the pan over moderate heat until the water starts to steam. Turn the heat to low to cook the potatoes until they are tender. Check every four or five minutes to make sure that the pan does not boil dry. If necessary add a little more water.
After 15 minutes, test for doneness with a fork.
NOTES: If you find that the potatoes boil dry very quickly, check to make sure that you have the heat at its lowest setting. You can also start with two tablespoons of water but keep in mind that you want to steam the sweet potatoes, not boil them.
With our “waterless” cookware, the sweet potatoes release water as they cook, so we end up with a very nice sauce. We tend to use the smaller quantities of sugar and butter, but you may prefer a sweeter sauce.
Although I have never done so, I am sure that you could taste a potato and if it was not sweet enough for you, add a bit more sugar. Cook a minute or so to make sure that the sugar is dissolved before serving.
I suppose you could melt some marshmallows on top.