Answer a question for me: do you guys have sweet potatoes (or yams, which are actually something completely different) at your Thanksgiving table? And if you do, are they the kind that have three cups of sugar and mini marshmallows on top?
We do in my family. Minus the marshmallows. Our turkey day sweet potatoes have a pecan brown sugar streusel on top (it’s just as amazing as it sounds), but other than that, they are the same sugar-bomb that most folks have on their tables. I’m not exactly sure who decided that sweet potatoes spiked with more sugar than a pumpkin pie isn’t a dessert, but we serve those sweet spuds as a side dish right alongside our turkey.
That particular recipe for sweet potatoes is a well-loved family heirloom (I can’t believe I haven’t shared it with you guys—I will!), and you’ll never be able to pry it off of our Thanksgiving table. Traditions.
But if you have a family that is a bit more amenable to change, might I suggest a different way to serve sweet potatoes this Turkey Day? Skip the mashed white potatoes. Skip the sweet potato casserole. And instead, knock out two birds with one delicious stone, and make yourself a beautiful bowl of mashed sweet potatoes! Easy, delicious, healthy, and still super festive.
Mashed sweet potatoes come together in pretty much the same fashion as regular mashed potatoes. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes. Boil until tender. Mash and add in butter, milk (animal, soy, nut, etc.), and salt. Serve.
One of my favorite things about sweet potatoes is that they straddle the line between savory and sweet. That independent spirit is what makes sweet potatoes a wonderful pair to all kinds of flavors. Here, I used nutty, rich browned butter and high-quality Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract to make the sweet potatoes sing.
I think investing in high quality extracts is one of the best things you can do to improve your cooking—especially during the holidays. Good quality vanilla will totally transform your holiday baking! It might seem like a big chunk to invest (especially when the imitation stuff is just a fraction of the cost), but I think you can really taste the difference.
I used to be one of those folks that scoffed at paying $10+ for a tiny bottle of real vanilla extract when I could get a jug of the imitation stuff for $2. But then I was gifted a tiny glass bottle of good quality pure vanilla extract years ago, and after my first batch of sugar cookies, I was a total convert. I had no idea such a small volume of ingredient could make such a difference in my food. I also discovered that, in my kitchen, the real stuff seemed to stretch a lot further than the imitation stuff. I had to use 2-3 times the amount of the stuff in the jug! Which didn’t make that $10+ price tag so bad.
Enough of me preaching about vanilla extract (but seriously, if you can swing it, go get yourself a good bottle). Let’s talk about brown butter.
If you’ve never browned butter before, it’s one of those kitchen things that sounds really fancy and complicated, but is super simple (and honestly, super impressive). Butter is amazing “raw,” but when cooked over a low heat until it starts to brown, it gets this nutty, rich, toasty, and caramel flavor to it that is out. of. this. world.
You can add it to sweet or savory dishes to give a nice slow-roasted flavor—without slow-roasting. Yes, browning butter adds an extra step (and lordy, if you’re pressed for time and stressed on turkey day, skip it – no one will know!), but the added flavor is totally worth it in my opinion. Enjoy!