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Thanksgiving Thursday – Bourbon Molasses Sweet Potatoes with Buttered Pecans

Sweet Potatoes!  I love ’em.  I have come to the conclusion that there is little you can do with a white potato that you can’t do better with a sweet potato.  I used to say there isn’t anything you can do with a white potato that you can’t do better with a sweet potato, until a young acquaintance of mine mentioned scalloped potatoes.

I believe she had a point.

At any rate, I still love sweet potatoes and make them often – steamed, baked, mashed, candied, roasted, and OH MY, HOW I LOVE sweet potato fries.  Oh, and my sweet potato salad?  You’ll never eat the kind made from white potatoes again.  I promise.  *Homer Simpson drool*

Growing up, the only time my mother made sweet potatoes was at Thanksgiving, and her recipe wasn’t exactly inspiring.  She took one large can of Sugary Sam Yams (sweet potatoes and yams are not the same thing, by the by, so the name is a misnomer), drained it, seasoned them with salt and pepper, mashed them together with a small container of sour cream, spread it all in a buttered casserole, covered the top with miniature marshmallows, threw it in the oven till it was heated through and the marshmallows were brown, and called it good.

It wasn’t.

Oh, it was all right, I suppose, but at least one of my siblings won’t touch sweet potatoes to this day; when you’ve only been served that on a yearly basis growing up, can you blame them?  At any rate, the sweet potato dish became the norm on my own Thanksgiving table for many years, simply because, well, that’s what I was served all my life.  When I began revising my meal plan about 10 years ago, the “Sweet Potato Mallow,” as my mother called it, was the first thing to go.  This is the dish that replaced it.

But I have to tell y’all, the recipe for sweet potatoes Thistle posted?  We’re going to try that one this year.  It may very well become the new standard.

Bourbon Molasses Sweet Potatoes with Buttered Pecans

serves 8

6 pounds sweet potatoes (about 6 large)

3 tablespoons bourbon*

1 tablespoon molasses**

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups pecan halves (about 8 ounces)

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Prick sweet potatoes with a fork; place them on a cookie or shallow baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake in the middle of the oven until tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and transfer half to a food processor.  Add the bourbon and molasses and half the butter; puree 30 seconds and transfer to a large bowl.  Puree the remaining sweet potatoes with the remaining butter in the food processor until completely smooth and transfer to the bowl with the first batch.  Season with the salt and pepper and stir until well combined.  Transfer to a buttered, 2 quart, shallow baking dish.  May be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered; bring to room temperature before proceeding.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 F.

In a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet, spread the pecans in one layer and place on the middle rack of the oven, baking until fragrant, about 7 – 10 minutes.  Toss the hot pecans with the teaspoon of coarse salt and 2 tablespoons butter.  Pecans may be made 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

Arrange pecans on top of the sweet potato mixture and sprinkle with the brown sugar.  Bake in the upper third of the oven until heated through and the pecans are slightly browned, about 30 minutes.

* Don’t skimp on the bourbon – if you can afford Maker’s Mark, go for it  (the leftovers make for a fine sippin’ whiskey).  But Jack Daniels Black Label is perfectly acceptable, and can be bought by the pint if you’re not the type to keep bourbon lying around the house.

** I prefer blackstrap molasses, but a lot of people think the taste is way too strong.  Go for a golden molasses (Grandma’s is a good brand) if you prefer.

P.S.  While I miss my Mom something fierce and wish she were here on a daily basis, sometimes (like when I post things like this) I’m a little glad she’s not.  ‘Cause I can hear her now:

“What do you MEAN, my sweet potatoes weren’t good?  I LOVED those sweet potatoes.  YOU LOVED those sweet potatoes!  EVERYONE LOVED those sweet potatoes!!”

Oh, not really…but she might have sniffed and pouted a little.  The whole Mom guilt thing, you know.





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