EVERY YEAR THIS time, I start to experience subtle, creeping dread. It has to do with Thanksgiving, and it’s not fear of the turkey. No, I’m stopped in my tracks by marshmallow, maple, sugary peril: fear of the sweet potato cliché that dominates Thanksgiving tables coast to coast. I just can’t do it, folks: I like sweet, sure, but it has a place, and it’s NOT as cloud cover over a perfectly good casserole full of vegetables. I’ve come up with a solution, thanks to a dish served a few weeks back by a new friend.
It was one of those blind-date dinner parties: our husbands were friends; all our friends were friends, but we, the two women in question? We’d managed to never really meet. “Wouldn’t it be hilarious,” one mutual friend mused that afternoon, “if you guys totally hated each other?” Um, NO, it wouldn’t. I was a little nervous, and so was she. We had nothing to fear: it was love from the minute I stepped into her kitchen and she put me to work finishing her roasted sweet potatoes. Tossed with olive oil, roasted until soft and crisp, they had shallots and pecans nestled in among them, she instructed me to add a sprinkling of tart blue cheese just before serving. They were heaven on a plate, and I begged for the source. “Cooks Illustrated,” said she, and the conversation turned to other subjects.
Back at home, I searched. And searched. And searched. Nowhere, NOWHERE could I find anything resembling what she served. So I made it up as I went along, and a try or two later, at the urging of my husband, mother and, oh my, even my children, this is the Thanksgiving sweet potato side my family is going to call their own.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Blue Cheese
4-5 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2 dice
1 T olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
a few grinds of good black pepper
4 slices thick bacon, cut into 3/8 inch wide strips (across the slice, not along it), cooked until just crisp and drained on paper towels
6 shallots, peeled, trimmed and quartered
3/4 cup pecan halves
2 ounces firm blue cheese, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Toss the potatoes and shallots with the olive oil, thyme and salt and pepper. Place on a rimmed cookie sheet and roast in the oven, stirring several times, for about 40 minutes or until nicely browned and starting to get crunchy, but still soft within–in other words, don’t dry them out! Add the pecans and bacon, and roast for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with the blue cheese and serve. Wait for the praise that is certain to come your way
Like all good things, Fall Fest must come to an end, and ours is approaching. So don’t miss out on all the goodness from my fellow foodies:
Todd and Diane, White On Rice Couple: Sweet Potato Molasses Cookies
Nicole from Pinch My Salt: Cumin-Scented Sweet Potato Hash
Michelle at Cooking Channel: Sweet Potato Cupcakes With Marshmallow Topping
Kirsten at Food Network: Sweet Potato Thanksgiving Sides
Roberto at Food2: Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Liz at Healthy Eats: Sweet Potatoes 5 Ways
Caroline from The Wright Recipes: Sweet Potato Galette</