My family loves Thanksgiving–regardless of the number of folks at the table, we definitely go all out with cooking. For example, this year we had a very quiet Thanksgiving, with only my parents and myself. My mom told me she bought a small turkey since there were only three of us…at only 16 lbs!
One thing I really enjoy is the balance between tried and true old recipes and more experimental fare. This year, I was able to contribute a couple of new recipes to the table. I recently saw this lovely recipe on Food52, which was appealing for a couple of reasons. First, I’m definitely of the opinion that sweet potatoes and marshmallows don’t mix. Also, I just can’t stomach sweet potatoes from a can (Why the can? They are so easy fresh!). And this looked like a creative way to present sweet potatoes that didn’t involve a potato masher.
The recipe is also ultra simple–just sweet potatoes, butter, and port-soaked prunes. Yes, I did say prunes! Stay with me here. It totally works! The prunes give a lovely sweetness that is the opposite of the typical cloying thanksgiving yam approach.
Also, if you care about aesthetics (as I tend to do), try to buy the long cylindrical sweet potatoes, rather than the more stout and stubby variety. This allows you to cut them into coins, vs. more lumpy bumpy slices. I had a couple of each, and ended up saving the lovely coins for the top and bottom, and buried the imperfect ones in the center.
I modified the recipe from the original in a couple of ways. We are trying to be judicious from a caloric standpoint, so I cut the butter in half. I can’t quite imagine how you would need a 1/2lb of butter, but feel free to add more as you see fit! It seems to crisp it up a bit more, based on the pictures in the original recipe, but it could be I didn’t let it cook long enough to crisp up. It tasted great this way, and I don’t think I missed it. I also didn’t take the time to clarify the butter, and it didn’t seem to make a difference–I’m all about efficiency on Thanksgiving!
Also, I found that the cup of port called for in the recipe wasn’t really necessary to soak the prunes. I’d rather save my port for drinking, so I used just a few tablespoons of port to cover the prunes. Otherwise, the recipe is lovely, and I’ll definitely give credit where it is due, to Sarah Shatz, who posted the recipe on Food52.
Sweet Potatoes Anna with Prunes
5 sweet potatoes (long cylindrical is best)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tbsp port wine
salt and pepper to taste
Chop the prunes into 4-5 pieces each. Place them in a small bowl, and cover with port wine, about 2 tbsp. Let them soak for 20 minutes, then drain off any port that has not been absorbed by the prune pieces.
Heat the oven to 450°. Melt the butter in a small bowl, and brush the bottom and sides of a pie pan with a layer of the butter. Peel and thinly slice the sweet potatoes, placing the coins of sweet potato in rings to cover the base of the pie pan, stopping after each layer to brush it with of the butter.
Sprinkle the prunes over about every 2 layers of potatoes–I ended up with about 6 layers, so layered on the prunes in two rounds. If you want to use salt, feel free to dust on some salt and/or pepper every level or two. My dad is trying to reduce his salt consumption, so I decided to avoid the salt entirely. I planned to add it at the table, but I didn’t even miss it–the sweet potatoes are so flavorful as they are (and the butter doesn’t hurt…).
Finish with a layer of sweet potatoes, and then brush on the remaining butter. Pop it into the over for 45 minutes to an hour. You should check it after about 30 minutes, and if it is browning more than you’d like on top, cover it with foil to finish. Take it out when it begins to crisp on the edges. Our oven was in high demand, so it was pulled out right at 45 minutes…in the future, I’ll probably try for more time to get it a bit crisper.
When it is done, let it sit out for about 5 minutes to set. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert onto a large plate or platter. You’re ready to serve! The flavor is definitely sweet potato, but with a sophistication you don’t often see on Thanksgiving. The port flavor is very subtle, and I’m sure you could substitute bourbon or rum instead, or even fruit juice if you didn’t want alcohol.