5 Side Dishes, 5 Ways

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Sweet Potato Casserole

The basic ingredients: Baked or boiled peeled sweet potatoes, butter, and mini marshmallows

The upgrades:
1. Pecans: The addition of toasted pecans complements the candy sweetness of the dish and adds a delightful crunch. Toast chopped pecans in a pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned. Let cool, and sprinkle over the top of the casserole after it has been baked.

2. Raisins: Plump and juicy, this fruit adds tremendous texture to a tasty but mushy dish. Stir the raisins (2 tablespoons per cup of potatoes) into the potato mixture, or sprinkle them on top of the marshmallows before baking. Dark and golden raisins work equally well. For a grown-up twist, soak the raisins for about 30 minutes (or until plumped) in bourbon before adding them to the casserole.

3. Apples: Play up the flavor of fall by adding fresh, crisp apples. Peel, core, and dice the apples into small- to medium-size pieces. Sauté the apples (about 1/4 cup per cup of sweet potatoes) with a little butter and a pinch of cinnamon and sugar until softened. Stir them into the sweet potatoes prior to baking the casserole.

4. Curry: The warm, aromatic spice of curry complement the sweetness of the potatoes perfectly. Add 1 teaspoon yellow curry powder per cup of sweet potatoes. The spice will give this simple dish a whole new dimension of flavor.

5. Pumpkin: We know Thanksgiving is a busy day, and canned pumpkin will do just fine (not canned pumpkin pie filling); about 1/4 cup per cup of sweet potatoes. But if you have the time, it's best to roast your own. Peel, seed, and chop a small pumpkin (we recommend Cinderella or cheese varieties). Chop it into small cubes (you'll need about 1/4 cup pumpkin per cup of casserole) and toss with olive oil to lightly coat, adding salt, and pepper. Roast on a lightly oiled sheet pan at 350°F for about 20 minutes or until fork-tender. You can add the roasted chunks whole or mash them before adding to the potatoes.

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