More Paleo Comfort Foods: Sweet Potato Casserole

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I’m still making my way through Paleo Comfort Foods: Homestyle Cooking in a Gluten-Free Kitchen (Victory Belt Publishing, 2011), Julie Sullivan Mayfield and Charles Mayfield’s new cookbook.

  6a00e552ad01da8834014e8be14eda970d-320wiThe Sweet Potato Casserole
This weekend I made their Sweet Potato Casserole (p. 200). I love sweet potatoes and yams. As I child I never liked sweet potatoes (mistakenly called yams). The only way I’d ever had them (once) was with marshmallows and brown sugar, which I didn’t like. For years, I avoided them. Then one summer when I was at a macrobiotic conference in Brookline, MA, volunteering in the kitchen, they served baked red garnet “yams”. I was amazed at how delicious and naturally sweet they tasted. From that point on, I was hooked. I baked them several at a time and I still do that more than 20 years later.

Btw: What you see labeled yams, as in red garnet and jewel yams, in supermarkets, they’re actually sweet potatoes. The creamy beige fleshed sweet potatoes, they’re sweet potatoes too. The name yam was applied years ago and it stuck although, botanically speaking, it is incorrect.

So, I’ve been a fan of sweet potatoes for more than 20 years. I bake them whole in their jackets, usually in a toaster oven at 400˚F, until they are squishy soft, which is usually about an hour for the size I select (no larger around than the diameter of one of my hands formed into a circle by touching my thumb and index finger, any larger around and I find they’re often tough and mealy textured). I frequently mash them with a squeeze of lime juice (as in Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Lime from my Garden of Eating cookbook) or with freshly squeezed ginger juice or cinnamon, then top them with a dab of butter, coconut oil, or some chopped toasted nuts.

What I like about Julie & Charles’ recipe, besides the fact that it’s easy to assemble, is the rich flavor and fluffy consistency created by the addition of coconut milk, eggs, vanilla, olive oil or butter (coconut oil or avocado oil would also work), cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest (orange zest would also work), sea salt, pepper, topped off with my favorite variety of chopped nuts, pecans. Their recipe doesn’t contain any added sweetener although I found it satisfyingly sweet.

I followed their recipe except that I baked the “yams” whole rather than cutting them into cubes and boiling them. I find their natural starches caramelize better when baked and it’s less work. I frequently start a pan of sweet potatoes baking in the toaster oven first thing in the morning or before sitting down to lunch or dinner, making them ready for later and the next day, and the day after that. (I offer more tips like this in my Garden of Eating Cookbook.)

I will definitely make this recipe again, probably by Halloween and maybe for Thanksgiving, unless I make my infamous Squash Pudding Pie to take to a T-day potluck with friends. It’s not that I don’t have other sweet potato recipes, I do! It’s that I love changing things around. This recipe is a keeper! In fact, it would also be great with a sweet winter squash, a Kabocha, butternut, or several sweet dumplings, if they’re nice and ripe and sweet.

  6a00e552ad01da8834015391ed96d5970b-320wiSmokin’ Good Pork Spare Ribs
Yesterday I cooked their Smokin’ Good Pork Spare Ribs made with their Easy Dry Rub (p. 119). I seasoned the ribs on Sunday and let them sit in the fridge overnight, then started them cooking shortly after breakfast. I slow cooked them in a covered roasting pan in a 250˚F oven for almost 3 1/2 hours.

The recipe calls for using a grill or smoker. I had neither so I used a slow oven. I cooked them covered the whole time although you could cook them on a rack over a pan with a second pan below that filled with water to generate steam. I might try that next time. I left enough ribs in the fridge for a few days and frozen the rest for future meals.

They came out great. In the photo on the right I’ve removed the bones and sliced the meat for ease of serving with baby greens and coleslaw. I served them the day before with Sweet Potato Casserole and Coleslaw.

I still want to make their Braised (beef) Short Ribs, among other things. I’ll let you know as I make more recipes. I won’t post all of the recipes though, just a few. You really need to buy the book.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Prep: 20 minutes*    Cooking: 1 hour (for sweet potatoes) + 20 to 30 minutes  (for casserole)
Yield: about 6 to 8 servings

This weekend I made their Sweet Potato Casserole (p. 200). I love sweet potatoes and yams. Btw: What you see labeled yams, as in red garnet and jewel yams, in supermarkets, they’re actually sweet potatoes. The creamy beige fleshed sweet potatoes, they’re sweet potatoes too. The name yam was applied years ago and it stuck, but it’s not, botanically speaking, correct. Okay, slight digression. Back to the recipe.

* Reviewers note: Paleo Comfort Foods does not contain prep time, cooking time, and yield, that was my addition because I’m used to providing that for my cooking students and readers. If the sweet potatoes or “yams” you buy and cook don’t taste very sweet, you could add a tablespoon or two of honey or maple syrup or 1/4 teaspoon of plain or vanilla flavored liquid stevia to the mix.

2 pounds (900 grams) sweet potatoes: red garnet, jewel, beauregard, or white sweet potatoes
1/4 cup (60 ml) unsweetened canned coconut milk (not the watered down kind sold in an aseptic carton)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter (avocado or coconut oil would also work)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon lemon zest (or sub orange zest)
sea salt and pepper, to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper)
1/2 cup (50 grams) chopped pecans

Coconut, avocado, or olive oil or clarified butter or ghee to coat baking pan

  • Peel sweet potatoes and cut into equal-sized cubes. Place all in large sauce or stock pot, cover with water, and boil until potatoes are very tender. Note: I changed this step. I rinsed the sweet potatoes, baked them on a dry, rimmed baking sheet in a 400˚F toaster oven until tender and squishy, turning them over after 30 minutes. Do not add water. No foil needed.
  • Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  • Drain potatoes and return to pot. (Note: There will be nothing to drain if you baked them whole. In this case, peel them, then mash.) Using a handheld mixer (this really improves the texture), blend in coconut milk.
  • Add eggs, vanilla, oil (or butter), cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Taste and add sea salt and pepper, if desired.
  • Place sweet potato mixture into a 9×9 Pyrex pan, or oval baker. (I used a deep dish pie plate.)
  • Sprinkle crushed pecans on top.
  • Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
  • Serve. My addition: Cover and refrigerate leftovers. Freeze whatever you don’t think you’ll use within 3 days. This recipe reheats well in a toaster oven.

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