by John Ryan
You'll probably make this only once a year, but I think you'll find it a holiday keeper because orange and Madeira go so well with the natural sweetness of sweet potatoes. Another nice thing about this recipe is that whether you are taking this to a friend's home or making it for your own Thanksgiving dinner, you can make it a day or two in advance.
About 2 hours
Electric mixer or food processor
Baking dish that easily holds 9 cups
6 large sweet potatoes—about 5 pounds
7 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup Madeira* or dry sherry
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cold butter or 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1. Jab the potatoes in several places with a fork and lay them on the rack of a 375 degree F oven for about an hour (put a cookie sheet on the rack below to catch drips). They are done when a knife slips in and out easily. Meanwhile, butter the 9-cup baking dish and set it aside.
2. When the sweet potatoes are done, hold them under cold water and pull off the skin. It will come off in wide strips. Use an electric mixer or food processor to whip the potatoes with the butter, half & half, Madeira, orange rind, and spices. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
3. Plop the mixture into a buttered baking dish, level with the back of a spoon and top with chopped nuts or dot with slivers of butter.
3a. Cover and refrigerate if you are making this in advance.
4. When you are ready to cook this, bake uncovered for 25 minutes at about 350 degrees F. (Plan on about 45 minutes if the casserole is cold.)
Madeira is famous largely because our colonial forefathers liked it. And our forefathers like it largely because it transported well and lasted forever. If you need to buy a bottle for this recipe, I recommend getting a decent one, one you will like to drink. (Good Madeira isn't half bad.) Madeira ranges from pale to dark (fairly dry to sweet). What you want for most cooking or baking is a dry to medium-dry Madeira. I recommend a medium-dry style called Rainwater from Madeira (a Portuguese island off the coast of Morocco). It's not too expensive to cook with and a it's pleasure to drink. You should find it for $12 to $15 a bottle. Avoid those bottles in the supermarket for $3.50. They are nasty to drink and just barely passable for cooking.
Both chef and musician, John Ryan wrote the Just Good Food blog from 1996 through 2001.
This page created November 1999
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