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Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Well, here we are – as of this writing, it’s 6:40 a.m. the day before Thanksgiving and we’re brining our heritage, pastured turkey.  As we pulled the bag of giblets out of the cavity, both Beloved and I marveled at the size of this bird’s innards; they are huge compared to an industrially produced turkey.  I purchased some tapioca flour in anticipation of making giblet gravy (for Beloved, Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without giblet gravy, and I’ve decided I’m not thrilled with arrowroot for things like gravies), and I do believe there is going to be more giblets than gravy.  Oh, darn. </sarcasm>.

Anyhoo…on to the recipe, as promised.  You can thank me in the comments section. 😛

While we were making our weekly excursion through our favorite natural foods store in Akron this last weekend, I was delighted to see a display of Japanese sweet potatoes.  We’ve only ever eaten them once, and I’d never cooked them before at all.  They weren’t cheap – they cost twice what the garnet “yams” that were on sale did – but I grabbed three huge ones and put them in our basket, meaning to save them all for Thanksgiving.

I didn’t, of course, but I’m so glad I decided to cook one ahead of time.  Because this dish?  Is stupendously good.

Japanese sweet potatoes, or Satsumaimo, are a purple-skinned variety with a creamy, pale yellow flesh.  When prepared this way, they have a texture, and color, similar to Yukon golds.  They are also very, very sweet – much sweeter than the tan or red-skinned, orange flesh sweet potatoes that are so ubiquitous this time of year.  If you’re the type that prefers the “ancient marshmallow yams of sorrow” with their Thanksgiving dinner, a casserole made with Japanese sweet potatoes would need no adornment.

Because they’re so sweet, they are best simply prepared – they would be dynamite roasted, slathered in butter and sprinkled with cinnamon.  Mashed, however, a touch of pure vanilla extract takes them completely over the top – it enhances their sweetness without making them cloyingly so, and gives it a very sophisticated flavor.  (The original recipe I found called for beans scraped from a pod, but wasn’t about to use one of my precious Madagascar vanilla beans on mashed potatoes, I don’t care how good they are.)

If you can’t find Japanese sweet potatoes, use jewel or garnet yams; they have a redder flesh and are a tad sweeter than conventional, yellow-skinned sweet potatoes or Beauregard yams.  You might want to add a touch of honey and grate a little orange zest into them along with the vanilla.  But if you can find the Japanese variety, use them.  You won’t be sorry.

Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes

serves 6

2 1/2 pounds Japanese sweet potatoes
1/4 cup goat or regular unsalted butter
1/4 cup coconut milk mixed with 1/4 cup water OR 1/2 cup half and half
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan.

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into large cubes and drop them into the boiling water. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes; drain and return to the pan.

Shake the potatoes in the pan over medium heat until the excess moisture evaporates. Reduce the heat to low and add the butter and vanilla to the potatoes; mash lightly with a potato masher. Gradually add the coconut milk or cream, mashing lightly between additions, until the potatoes are smooth and creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

Nutrition (per serving): 251 calories, 9.8g total fat, 20.3mg cholesterol, 172.8mg sodium, 661mg potassium, 38.4g carbohydrates, 5.7g fiber, 8g sugar, 3.2g protein.

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Posted in participation with Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday

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