Everyone has a favorite dish on Thanksgiving, and as a child, mine was always sweet potatoes. Every year, I looked forward to my grandmother’s version: roasted until caramelized and dripping with butter and brown sugar.
SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE FOR THANKSGIVING DINNER
My immediate family does not share my passion for the sweet spud, so it was only a matter of time (with me consuming the whole casserole by myself for a few years) before I gave up and deleted them from the Thanksgiving menu.
But help was on the way. A very darling girl joined our family this past summer and brought her enthusiasm for sweet potatoes with her. I’m no fool! A wife holds stronger sway over her husband than a mother over her married son.
So sweet potatoes are back on the menu, whether my son is gung-ho or not!
My newly minted daughter-in-law and I have been cooking Thanksgiving together for a few years even before they were married. Aspiring to be a good future mother-in-law, I relinquished my beloved version for hers, which, as it turns out, includes marshmallows.
When I pondered how to streamline an already established dish, I made only a few small tweaks.
SWEET POTATOES VS. YAMS
A sweet potato is not a yam. Despite what supermarkets’ confusing labels might say, a yam is a tuber with white, pale yellow, or even purple flesh with a rough skin originating in Africa, and is often also grown in Asia and the Caribbean. It is actually not very sweet.
Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, have orange or yellow flesh, with smooth and easy-to-peel skin. Just to make you crazy, some of the best “Thanksgiving” sweet potatoes are called garnet yams or a jewel yams.
When shopping for sweet potatoes, look for tubers that have reddish-brown smooth skins and deep orange flesh, no matter what the label says. These are what you want for this sweet potato casserole.
HOW TO COOK SWEET POTATOES FOR CASSEROLE
Roast—don’t boil—the sweet potatoes.
If you roast the sweet potatoes instead of boiling them, you say goodbye to tedious peeling! The potatoes become soft in the oven, and after a few minutes of cooling, the skins slip off like magic.
Line the baking sheet with parchment to ensure that cleanup will be at a minimum.
The Best Way to Mash Your Sweet Potatoes
If you have a stand mixer, use it. The paddle attachment is your friend here. Warm potatoes, butter, orange juice, and orange zest can be dumped into the bowl and mashed in under a minute. Scrape them into a buttered baking dish and you’re ready to roll.
You can also mash them the old-fashioned way with a potato masher.
Butter and a little fruit juice, such as apple cider or orange juice, add plenty of flavor and sweetness to the potatoes, which are sweet enough as is, in my humble opinion.
After all, nothing is sweeter than a marshmallow, so you will get your sugar fix in the end. Keep it simple!
A TRICK FOR THE BEST MARSHMALLOW TOPPING
All marshmallows are coated with cornstarch to keep them from sticking together in the bag, but this can prevent them from melting and turning gooey on top of a casserole.
The solution is to use large marshmallows, snipped in half with a pair of scissors.
The cut side melts easily, helping to cover the surface of the casserole. Mini marshmallows are also fine to use, but because they’re coated with more cornstarch and too small to snip, they don’t spread out as much when baked.
HOW TO MAKE SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE IN ADVANCE
You can make and refrigerate sweet potato casserole two to three days in advance.
All that needs doing is to reheat the potatoes. Once hot, pull them out of the oven, decorate with the marshmallows and bake for another 5 to 6 minutes to melt.
You can also freeze the casserole ahead of time—just don’t add the marshmallows. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and then foil. Take them out of the freezer at least the day before to give it time to thaw. If you see any liquid separation, just beat it again with a spoon or a hand mixer until combined. Add the marshmallows and bake as directed
MORE CLASSIC THANKSGIVING SIDE DISHES!
- Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans
- Green Bean Casserole from Scratch
- Cranberry Sauce
- Perfect Mashed Potatoes
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows Recipe
To make ahead: Prepare the recipe through Step 4, then cover the casserole with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until hot all the way through. Top with marshmallows and bake for a few more minutes until the marshmallows have melted.
- 8 sweet potatoes (about 4 pounds)
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 4 cups large marshmallows (about 12 ounces), cut in half with scissors
1 Roast the sweet potatoes: Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment and spray it with vegetable oil spray.
Scrub clean and dry the sweet potatoes. Slice them in half lengthwise.
Place the potato halves, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Prick each in several places with a fork and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until soft. Remove and let rest until potatoes are cool enough to handle.
2 Lower the oven temperature to 375ºF. Butter or coat with cooking spray a 3-quart or 9-x13-inch baking dish.
3 Remove the sweet potato skins: As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, pull off the skins and discard. Transfer the inner flesh to the bowl of a stand mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, or a large bowl.
4 Mash the potatoes: Add 1/4 cup of the butter, orange zest, orange juice, salt and pepper. Mix on low speed in the stand mixer until the potatoes are creamy, but not necessarily perfectly smooth. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Transfer the potatoes to the buttered baking dish.
Alternatively, mash with a potato masher and beat until creamy with a wooden spoon, then transfer to the baking dish.
4 Bake the casserole: Dot the top of the casserole with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until hot.
5 Add the marshmallows: Place the marshmallows close together in a random pattern over the potatoes. Return the casserole to the oven and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the marshmallows melt and brown.
6 Serve: Cool the casserole briefly and serve while hot. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
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