It’s getting close to Thanksgiving and Christmas is coming up fast. Thinking of these holidays always means family and feasts to me. I was an only child and growing up we usually spent those days at my paternal grandmother’s house where there was always a crowd at her huge table (and later auxiliary tables for my cousins as they were born). The women would gather in the kitchen to make cornbread dressing with a dozen eggs and rich broth, along with chopped onions and celery and such, in a huge roaster. It smelled heavenly as it baked. And we always had sweet potatoes in one form or another–sometimes in several dishes. I still adore sweet potatoes. All my aunts and my mother would bring wonderful bowls and platters of food to add to the groaning table. (When I was older, I always made the potato salad.)
Our family has dwindled considerably through death and/or distance so that now only my husband, our only son, our only grandson and I sit at our groaning table. And it does groan during the holidays. I still make cornbread dressing. (Right now I’m boiling a big pot of chicken necks in canned broth and onions, celery, parsley, and bell pepper to strain and put the rich broth in the freezer for Thanksgiving dressing.)
I’ve made sweet potatoes many ways over the years, but when I hit upon my friend Margie’s scrumptious Sweet Potato Casserole fifteen or so years ago, I’ve never made another kind for the holidays. Here’s the recipe. It truly is scrumptious, and I always give Margie credit. I wish I had a picture to share and a way to pipe you the lovely fragrance of cinnamon and allspice and nutmeg and vanilla. Forget those dishes with the toasted marshmallows on top–though I suppose you can add them if you insist.
MARGIE’S SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE
3 large (4-5 med.) sweet potatoes
1 ½ sticks butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (I like fresh ground best)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup light brown sugar
¾ cup pecan pieces (or more to taste)
Pare and cut sweet potatoes into hunks. Cover with water and boil until fork tender.
Meanwhile preheat oven to 350°. Butter or spray a casserole dish (I use a rectangular one about 7 X 12).
Drain and pour potatoes into large mixer bowl. Add one stick of butter to the hot potatoes and beat until smooth. Add the next 7 ingredients to the mixer and beat until incorporated, then pour into the casserole dish.
Melt the ½ stick of butter and pour over the top. Sprinkle the brown sugar over that, then the pecans.
Bake for about 30 minutes. Ah, Heaven. (Sometimes this takes a little longer to bake. Ready when the middle looks as done as the outsides–a bit puffy.)