Thursday, December 3, 2009

Match Made In Heaven

Holiday meals are special. This is when I pull out recipes my family loves, but are made only for special occasions. For holiday meals, I turn off my calorie counter and set aside the dietary taboos. Translation, I don’t concern myself with fat content or other such things. The rest of the year our meals tend to be heart healthy--low in saturated fat and high in dietary fiber. On holidays, these practices are set aside. This sweet potato dish falls into the holiday meal category. Not terribly complicated, but somewhat time consuming, this dish has a beautiful presentation. It contains flavors I adore. For me, the combination of sweet potatoes and apples are a match made I heaven. When maple is added into the mix, the combination is elevated to near perfection.

The sweet potato has along and venerable history. Archeobotonical research indicates that this starchy root was first cultivated in the Yucatan Peninsula more than 5,000 years ago with it appearing in the agricultural record of the Caribbean and South American around 2500 B.C.E. From there it spread throughout the islands of the Pacific Ocean, Africa and Asia. Today it remains a staple crop for many of these regions. Over 127,000,000 tons of sweet potatoes are grown annually world wide. Sweet potatoes are surprisingly nutritious. They are high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, Vitamins A, C, B6, iron, calcium and many other important vitamins and minerals. Dark orange varieties have a very high beta carotene content.

The key to this dish is to beat the potatoes until they are light and fluffy. Brown sugar can be substituted for the maple sugar, but the flavor will be greatly changed. It is entirely possible that you will not be able to find maple sugar. Contact the Morse Farm Sugarworks where you will be able to order maple sugar. Maple syrup can not be substituted for the maple sugar. This dish can be made one day and advance and stored in the refrigerator.

Sweet Potatoes with Maple Caramelized Apples

6 medium sweet potatoes

4 oz. unsalted butter, cut up

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. ginger

White pepper

Caramelized Apples

2 Granny Smith apples, cored and peeled

¼ c. lemon juice (fresh or bottled)

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

4 Tbsp. maple sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Select a one quart heat proof casserole and grease with unsalted butter. Set aside.

Wash, dry and prick sweet potatoes. Place them in the preheated oven, and bake for 45 minutes or until done. Remove from oven and allow to sit until cool enough to handle. When cooled sufficiently to handle, but still quite warm remove potatoes from peels placing potato directly into the bowl of a mixer.

When all the potatoes have been peeled and are in the bowl, turn on the mixer to low. Add the butter, kosher salt, ginger, and a good grind of white pepper. Beat until the butter is melted and the potatoes are smooth and “creamy” about 4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Scrape into prepared casserole and set aside.

Cut the apples in half from core to core and thinly slice into wedges. Place the apples slices in a bowl and pour in the lemon juice. Toss to evenly coat. Select a heavy skillet, enameled cast iron or stainless steel is best, place it on a large burner. Turn the heat to medium low and add 2 Tbsp. of the butter and melt. Add the 2 Tbsp. of the maple sugar. Stir to combine and dissolve the sugar. Add enough apples to comfortably cover the bottom of the skillet. When the apples are caramelized (lightly browned), turn them over with a kitchen

fork. Watch the apples carefully to prevent burning. When caramelized on both sides remove the slices from the skillet and arrange in a decorative swirl pattern on top of the sweet potatoes.

Add the last 2 Tbsp. of butter to the skillet and repeat as before with remaining apple slices.

Preheat the oven to 350. Bake the sweet potatoes for approximately one hour or until heated through and the sides are bubbling slightly.

This dish can be made a day in advance and stored covered in the refrigerator. Bake as above.