Sweet Potato Casserole: There lies another debate in my family. Some like the marshmallows, some don’t. Some like burnt marshmallows, some don’t. In making my family happy, we always have half the casserole topped with marshmallows with some a little toasty and the other half plain!
Sweet potatoes are sometimes called yams…but the two are not even related! Yams originally came from Africa with the word “Yam” meaning “to eat”.
How to tell the difference? Yams have rough hairy skin, sweet potatoes have thinner smoother skin. Sweet potatoes can be short and fat or long and skinny but will ALWAYS taper at both ends. Yams are cylindrical and taper at one end. Ironically for the names, Yam is actually much sweeter and grows bigger, some up to almost five feet long! So why all the confusion?
The firm white sweet potato (try it if you never have, like a healthy Idaho potato) was around long before the soft sweet potato. There needed to be a way to tell the difference, so since the soft sweet potato resembled the Yam, that became its new name. (It sounds like a good old-time marketing ploy to me!) To confuse matters more, the USDA requires labels that have the term Yam be accompanied by the term sweet potato.
In most of the markets, it is actually sweet potatoes you find. Louisiana is a great state for sweet potatoes with over 15,000 acres of sweet potato farms. LSU is the creator of many new varieties. The Beauregard is my favorite! So all this talk of “sweet” has gotten my sweet tooth going, so let’s get started!
Sweet Potato Parfait: This dish is easy to make with your leftover sweet potato casserole or just mashed sweet potatoes. My casserole has ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, orange zest, and a little maple syrup. I use those flavors as a base to build upon. If you like sweet potato pie, you will enjoy this easy recipe.
Let’s take some inventory of your pantry. What kind of cookies do you have? Do you see any Biscotti, gingersnaps, graham crackers, animal crackers, shortbread, vanilla wafers? Any fortune cookies leftover from your last takeout? I am in luck having some pumpkin biscotti!! Take some of your cookies and set them in a dish. We are going to let them soak up some flavor of your choice whiskey, cordial, liquid coffee creamer, almond milk? Choose one and add to dish, don’t drown the cookies, but let them soak up all the goodness, like the beginning of Caramel Apple Bread Pudding. Let sit until all liquid is fully absorbed and cookies are soft. Set aside.
Toasted coconut is an easy addition to dress up any dessert (try some over pineapple sherbet!) as well as toasted pecans. I like to have both for my sweet potato parfait. Take a skillet over medium heat and add some pecans (or your favorite nut-almond, walnut, macadamia?) and some flaked or shredded coconut. No need to add any oil, the natural oil in the coconut and nuts will release.
Keep stirring and take it slow. Remember how you did when making Brown Butter sauce?
You can also toast the nuts and coconut in the oven for 5-10 minutes at 325 degrees, but I like to keep and eye out on them-that’s much easier to do in a skillet.
Toast to your liking and get it out of the hot pan. Set aside to cool. In my family, we like things crispy. (There is no such thing as too crispy even burnt toast has a happy home with my husband!)
Next is my favorite part, heavenly goodness, Mascarpone cheese, an Italian soft triple cream cheese that is rich and buttery. It is that wonderful part of a Tiramisu dessert and some cheesecakes. It can be a little pricey and can spoil quickly, so plan a few meals ahead to make with it. It’s not just for dessert. Mascarpone cheese makes a wonderful easy cream sauce for pasta or pizza but also delicious on a bagel or toast. (It is delightful whisked into eggs before scrambling!!) Mascarpone is well worth the splurge but if not, Greek yogurt, especially vanilla or honey is a great substitute. You can also use cream cheese whipped with some creamer or vanilla pudding!
Take your mascarpone cheese or yogurt and blend in the moistened cookies. Add a dash of vanilla extract, if you like, and give it a good stir.
Take your cold sweet potato casserole (it’s o.k. everything is already cooked) and scrape off marshmallow layer (if you have one). Set aside, that will be our topping.
Get a glass or container of your choice and lets start layering the yummy components. I like to start with a layer of toasted coconut and pecans, then sweet potatoes, then cookie mixture, then repeat. When you get to the top of your container, top with some of the marshmallows and coconut and pecans.
That’s it! Share it with someone you love or treat yourself for another holiday meal done well!
Put your TO COOK IS TO CREATE thinking cap on: What other cookies would be good? What other flavors in your casserole could you build on? For example, graham crackers and Bailey’s compliment each other and nutmeg. Frangelico and gingersnaps compliment each other and the cinnamon. This is an easy dessert to get creative with and use what you have on hand.
FOOD FUN: A translated Portuguese tongue twister for the holiday table. Say this three times fast: “The sweet asked the sweet which sweet was the sweetest. The sweet responded to the sweet that the sweetest sweet was the sweet-potato sweet”