I realize I didn’t talk very much about Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday, and I hardly made a fuss. What gives?
Well, it’s true. Thanksgiving IS my favorite holiday. I don’t think it always has been, as I’m pretty sure the excitement of presents on Christmas made my year when I was younger, but over the past few (or many) years, Thanksgiving has moved up to take the reign of highest of holidays in my heart.
And not for the reason you think. Although I am a foodie [wouldn't have this blog otherwise ], for me, the reason Thanksgiving is so special is that you spend it with your family. There is no personal pressure of gift-giving or the cultural/societal pressure of build-up that surrounds Christmas, and it simply becomes a time to celebrate being together, relaxing, and enjoying doing nothing at all (or maybe just playing a few board games) with the people you love.
This year, I was without my family, so it really didn’t feel like Thanksgiving. I had two Thanksgiving dinners (three if you count the “leftover party” the following day…), and met a lot of new people while also spending time with close friends. But Thanksgiving without family? That doesn’t really mean Thanksgiving to me.
What DOES mean Thanksgiving? This:Sweet Potato Casserole. Specifically, Bertha‘s Sweet Potato Casserole.It is, and has always been, my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal. It is the only thing I really care about eating the next day, and the first thing I want seconds of during the actual meal. I love it so much that the first year I spent Thanksgiving with my dad and (then brand new) stepmother, and I found out we weren’t having sweet potatoes, I called my mom in North Carolina, nearly crying and had to be put on the phone with Bertha, who walked me through the recipe and method for preparing her famous casserole. I was the only one who ate any of it, but it made Thanksgiving Thanksgiving for me.You might notice that there are no marshmallows on this casserole. Streusel all the way….where did you think my loyalty to sugared pecans came from? It’s been ingrained in me from an early age. Hence my strong aversion to those of the marshmallow families.
And then I immediately turned the oven to 400 degrees and threw a sweet potato in there, saying, “You can’t leave until you’ve had one.* And your first one should be warm.”
*She didn’t leave. She couldn’t. I barricaded the door.
Then began my construction of the ultimate Thanksgiving side dish.I popped my roasted, peeled sweet potatoes into a mixing bowl, already diverging from Bertha’s original recipe.Seriously, y’all, you thought I was actually going to give away the family’s secret recipe? Never!
But I will give you the new one I made up, which actually is healthier for you than the original, and, dare I say it, just as delicious?
…and after a few minutes, pull the beaters out and let them run (make sure to catch any remnants with your hand). When you turn off the mixer…
But since this is Thanksgiving, we’re going to go ahead and keep cooking. (I did save half of those whipped sweets just to eat later one.) We’ve also got a little more whippin’ to do. This time? Egg whites.
Clean the beaters, crack three eggs, and whip the whites in a metal bowl until they are frothy and somewhat solidified. Then, add them to about 3 1/2 cups of whipped sweet potatoes.
This is called folding, although you don’t have to go through the annoying process of putting clothes away when you are finished.
It might take a minute or two, but eventually everything will smooooooth out.
Stir in a teaspoon or so of vanilla extract, and also maple extract if you have it. I imagine you could substitute some maple syrup, or just leave it out altogether.
Put the sweets into an 8″ x 8″ pan, or whatever casserole dish you want to use.
Try not to eat them right then and there. Reminding yourself of the fact that there are raw egg whites in there now is a good preventative tactic.
In a small bowl, make the streusel topping: about 5 Tbsp. brown sugar, 3 Tbsp. flour, a generous sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice, and 2-3 Tbsp. melted butter.
Sprinkle the streusel all over the top of the casserole/souffle and bake for about 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees. [You'll know it's finished when the top is toasty and the sweets are warm in the middle.
And yes, to test if they were warm in the middle I just stuck my finger in it. [I was planning on eating all of these myself, so I didn't worry about anyone feeling weird about this.]
Oh my goll, y’all. These are one of my favorite foods of all time, right up there with ice cream and pimiento cheese.
(adapted from Bertha’s Famous Sweet Potatoes)
3 1/2 cups whipped sweet potatoes
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. maple extract (or 1 Tbsp. maple syrup)
1/2 tsp. salt
3 egg whites, whipped until foamy and relatively stiff
5 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2-3 Tbsp. melted butter
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine first four ingredients (sweet potatoes through egg whites).
2. Spread sweet potato mixture evenly in casserole dish of your choosing.
3. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, pumpkin pie spice, and pecans. Pour melted butter into the bowl and stir well.
4. Sprinkle streusel evenly on top of potatoes.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until the top is toasted and the middle is warm.