When it come to Thanksgiving cooking I usually have it pretty easy. I fall into the category still of “youngster” despite my age, and therefore I have not yet been promoted to Thanksgiving Day hostess! While part of me is yearning for that title, the other part of reminds myself to relish my current status as long as possible. Why is that you say? Because, by not hosting I still get to bring only one dish to the party – these Roasted Bourbon Sweet Potatoes – I can sleep in, drink coffee, watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, and relax until I need to hit the road to attend two family Thanksgivings where I will proceed to eat for the next ten hours. While this Thanksgiving morning sounds magical, for years I had it completely wrong. I was getting up at the crack of dawn so that I could make my dish, so by the time I got to my first party I was tired because I’d been up early and way more stressed than I wanted to be on a day in which mentally I had prepared for some rest and relaxation.
In order to change my routine I came up with a couple new strategies that would hopefully guarantee the lazy morning that I was hoping for.
First, I looked at my Bourbon Sweet Potato recipe – one that had been given to me by a friend years ago and one that had been her family for years – and I wondered how I could simplify it so I wouldn’t have to peel the sweet potatoes – or yams, call them what you will – arguably the most time consuming step in this recipe. In a moment of pure genius I decided to try roasting the heck of the sweet potatoes in the oven, leaving them whole, in their jackets and just piercing them all over with a knife.
By roasting the sweet potatoes instead of boiling them I was able to skip a step that I didn’t enjoy, PLUS, I totally enhanced their flavor since roasting brings out the natural sugars in any vegetable, but especially sweet potatoes. The aroma wafting through the house when roasting sheet pans of sweet potatoes is intoxicating, in fact, my husband often thinks I’m baking cookies when I’m in the middle of this step.
After removing the roasted sweet potatoes from the oven I let them cool for a few minutes, and then proceeded to remove the skins from the potatoes by dunking the potatoes in a bowl of iced water and removing the skins with my hands. Oh my gosh! This takes literally seconds! I found this tip online and it is seriously a game changer.
Now that the skins are removed it’s time to throw in the good stuff. The good stuff is the five ingredients which make this sweet potato mash heavenly. Bourbon. Butter. Brown Sugar. Vanilla. Salt. I am not sure I can completely express to you how wonderful these five ingredients make this dish. Most people’s sweet potato casseroles are borderline dessert. However, the bourbon here is the perfect partner to the brown sugar and and vanilla. Everything is balanced just enough so that there are hints of sweetness, but the smoky bourbon is what makes it truly special. Once again, bourbon saves the day!
From here it is easy peezy! With an electric mixer, mix all the ingredients together til they are super smooth. I taste it at this point to see if I want to adjust anything, usually I like to add a splash more bourbon, or a pinch or two more of salt – some might say a little extra booze here is my trademark – you’re welcome.
At this point I spread the Bourbon Sweet Potato mash into a baking dish and, if it’s Thanksgiving morning I bake it right away until it’s dark on top. But, in the effort of creating a perfectly relaxing Thanksgiving morning, I present to you the second step to simplifying this recipe for yourself. Freeze it!! Yes! This dish freezes perfectly. All you have to do is spread it into the dish that you plan to bake it in. Let it cool completely. Wrap it nice and tight and pop it in the freezer. If you find yourself ahead of the game you can take it out of the freezer the night before so that it can begin to thaw, otherwise, you can bake it straight from the freezer on Thanksgiving day, just make sure you are giving yourself about two hours of cooking time.
For many people Thanksgiving is a day that you look forward to spending the whole day in the kitchen. However, if you aren’t in charge of the whole production and want to do a teensy bit of relaxing before the show begins, try making a dish that you can make ahead of time and you know will still be delicious when it’s time for Thanksgiving Dinner. I promise you this dish is simple but a show stopper. It has turned many sweet potato haters into lovers, and I hope that it will become a tradition on your family’s table too!
What do you do to ease the pressure on Thanksgiving Day? Do you have a recipe that you know freezes beautifully? Do you have a time saving tip for the big day that allows you to put your feet up for a couple of hours while the oven is doing all the work? If you do please share with us in the comments below!
Roasted Bourbon Sweet Potatoes
3 ½ Pounds Sweet Potatoes
1 Tsp. Salt
½ Teaspoon Vanilla
½ Cup Light Brown Sugar
½ Cup – ¾ Cup Bourbon
1 Stick Butter
Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare the Sweet Potatoes by scrubbing them, drying them, and poking them a few times with the tines of a fork. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by wrapping in tin foil, and place the Sweet Potatoes on the baking sheet. Once the oven has reached 400°F place the baking sheet with the Sweet Potatoes into the oven to roast, you want them to get very soft as you will be mashing them in a bit. Baking time for the Sweet Potatoes will take as long as 45 to 1 ½ Hours. If your Potatoes are different sizes the big ones might take a little longer, so keep any eye on them. You know the potatoes are going to be delicious when you see dark juices oozing out of the potato where the fork marks are, this is going to give your Sweet Potato an awesome roasted caramel flavor.
When the Potatoes are all nice and soft (you should be able to poke a knife through the center and have it slide right in and out) remove them from the oven and allow them to cool until you can handle them with your hands.
Next, remove the skins from the Potatoes and put the soft Sweet Potato flesh into a large mixing bowl. To the Sweet Potatoes add: Salt, Vanilla, Brown Sugar, Bourbon and Butter. Using an electric hand mixer, or a standing mixer, beat the Sweet Potatoes with the added ingredients until they have become super smooth, this could take as long as 3 minutes. When the Sweet Potato Mash is the texture that you like, taste it, this is your chance to add more Salt, Brown Sugar, or Bourbon, if you think it needs tweaking. The great thing about this dish is that it doesn’t taste like dessert, however, if you want to give the sweetness a boost, this is your chance to adjust it!
The final step is to bake the Sweet Potato Mash. First, adjust the oven temperature to 375°F. Next, spread the Sweet Potato Mash in to a casserole dish and place it in the oven and bake it for about 45 minutes. When the top of the mash has a nice roasty-caramel colored crust on the top it is ready to be removed. The dish can be served right away, or you can cover it with tin foil til you are ready to serve.
I like these sweet potatoes just as is, however, if you want to add some pizazz to them you can sprinkle some pecans on top for the last 15 minutes of baking for a bit of crunch. Or, if marshmallows are your thing you can certainly use them here! Again, marshmallows should be added towards the end of the baking process.
Make Ahead Tip
If you are trying to get ahead of the game for Thanksgiving, you can make this dish up to two months ahead of time and freeze it. Simply prepare the sweet potato puree as instructed above, spread it into the baking dish and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Put the who thing in the freezer and you are set. You can take it out the night before serving and let it thaw and then bake as instructed. Otherwise, you can bake it frozen, simply cover in tin foil and bake at 375°F for an hour, uncover and give it a couple of good stirs, then continue to bake, uncovered, for another 45 minutes or so. Once again, you are looking for that nice caramel color on top for serving.