I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Luxurious Cranberry Port Compote

Luxurious Cranberry Port Compote

The time has come to talk about Thanksgiving. The turkey, the dressing, the sweet potatoes, the pies…but don’t relegate the cranberry sauce to the back of the buffet! A rich, homemade cranberry dish can be a stunner on the spread. With rich port wine, balsamic vinegar and an intriguing blend of herbs and spices, this compote is a showstopper.

If you are in charge of the whole meal, this can easily be made ahead and not seem like a cranberry afterthought. But this luxurious recipe is perfect for those assigned to bring the cranberries to a gathering. Don’t plop a can on the table – show your friends and family that you care and took your humble assignment seriously. People will actually be talking about the cranberries!

Leftover cranberry sauce is always good on a turkey sandwich, but give this a try over ice cream for a sophisticated treat at anytime of year.

Luxurious Cranberry Port Compote
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Ingredients
  1. 1 2/3 cup ruby port wine
  2. ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  3. ¾ cup white sugar
  4. ¼ cup light brown sugar
  5. 2 sprigs rosemary
  6. 2 bay leaves
  7. ½ teaspoon whole cloves
  8. 1 star anise
  9. 1 cinnamon stick
  10. 12 ounces fresh cranberries
Instructions
  1. Stir the port, balsamic and sugars together in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Tie the rosemary, bay leaves, cloves, star anise and cinnamon stick up in a small piece of cheesecloth or place them in a mesh tea ball. Drop the packet into the liquid and bring to a boil. Add the cranberries, lower the heat to medium and simmer, stirring frequently, until the berries pop and break down and the mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Fish out the spice packet then cover and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Notes
  1. Yields about 1 1/2 cups
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Pumpkin Tres Leches

Pumpkin Tres Leches

Moist, sweet and tender Tres Leches cake is a favorite of mine. A classic of the cooking canon of many Hispanic cultures, “three milk” cake is simply a delicate cake soaked in a combination of milks. For years, I used a recipe given to me by a friend from Nicaragua that used a box cake mix and it was always a big hit. I eventually developed a from-scratch recipe, and then adapted that to become one of my favorite Christmas dessert, Eggnog Tres Leches. It’s a fabulous holiday dish, because it needs to be made ahead and can serve a crowd. So for Thanksgiving, it seemed only right to come up with a pumpkin version.

Pumpkin Tres Leches is a great treat for any seasonal entertaining, and with its origins is a great choice for a Day of the Dead celebration. Serve it up as a post trick-or-treating feast of Chicken Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce or Spicy Chorizo, Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili (because you can’t have too much pumpkin on Halloween). And it is a natural for Thanksgiving and is imminently portable if you are headed to another house for the celebration. An artful dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle of nutmeg add an elegant touch if you’d like.

Pumpkin Tres Leches
Serves 12
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Ingredients
  1. 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  2. 2 cups granulated sugar
  3. 1 cup vegetable oil
  4. 4 eggs
  5. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  6. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  7. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  8. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  9. ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  10. ½ teaspoon salt
  11. ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  12. ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  13. 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  14. 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  15. ¾ cup evaporated milk
  16. ½ cup buttermilk
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 by 13 glass baking dish.
  2. Beat the pumpkin, sugar and oil together in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth and well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Mix the flour, soda, spices, and salt together in a small bowl. Beat into the pumpkin mixture at low speed until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
  3. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 – 45 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool to room temperature.
  4. Stir the condensed milk, evaporated milk and buttermilk together in a 4-cup measuring jug until completely combined. Poke small holes over the top of the cake using a skewer or cake tester. Slowly pour the milk mixture evenly over the top of the cake. Let sit for about 15 minutes, then carefully cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Leave the cake to soak up the syrup for up to 12 hours.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Green Bean Casserole with Tarragon and Hazelnuts

Green Bean Casserole with Tarragon and Hazelnuts

Green bean casserole is a traditional, can’t-do-without dish for many families Thanksgiving table. I have to say it though, I cannot stand the traditional version made with canned soup and fried crunchy bits. The beans are mushy, there is no telling what is in that can of soup and the oniony things are too salty. But green beans do make a great casserole for the holidays.

So here’s a perfect, unique version with a fresh, clean taste and a great deal of interest. I love to use tarragon to get a different herbal flavor in the mix, as I always use lots of sage and rosemary in the dressing and the bird. Toastyhazelnuts add a nice crunch, and a hit of cream, tangy mayonnaise and nutty cheese keep things in the traditional vein, while the lemon keeps it from being too cloying. Maybe this will be a new tradition for your family table too.

Green Bean Casserole with Tarragon and Hazelnuts
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
  2. ¼ cup butter
  3. 4 shallots, halved and sliced into thin half moons
  4. 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  5. ½ cup chopped hazelnuts
  6. 3 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
  7. zest and juice of one lemon
  8. 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  9. 1/4 cup heavy cream
  10. 6 ounces gruyere, grated
  11. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 8 by 8 inch baking dish.
  2. Cut the trimmed green beans into roughly one inch pieces. Bring a large skillet of water to a boil and drop in the beans. Boil for about a minute, just until the bright color of the beans comes out. Drain the beans and plunge into cold water to cool. Drain again.
  3. Wipe out the skillet and melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallot strands and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallot is soft and just beginning to turn a pale caramel brown, about 4 minutes. Add the hazelnuts, stir and cook for about 2 minutes, then stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute. Do not let the garlic brown. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the green beans, tarragon, the lemon zest and 2 Tablespoons lemon juice until everything is evenly distributed. Set aside to cool.
  4. Mix the mayonnaise and cream together in small bowl, then add it to the green beans, stirring to coat well. Spread a layer of beans in the baking dish, sprinkle over half the cheese, then layer the remaining beans and cheese.
  5. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake a further 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
  6. The casserole can prepared several hours before baking and kept covered in the refrigerator.
Notes
  1. Easily doubled.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Cranberry Tangerine Relish

Cranberry Tangerine Relish

I am pretty traditional about the cranberries on the Thanksgiving table. I have to have my traditional cooked cranberry sauce. But I like to mix things up sometimes and have a second version as well. But I am not from the jiggly can of cranberry sauce camp, so it’s a chance to get creative.

This raw relish is sweet and tangy and a definite twist. Usually made with oranges, I find the sweetness of tangerines a special touch, and add a little kick of bourbon. You can use small tangerines, larger honey tangerines or even clementines. Serve this with the big meal, and there will still be lots left to go beside leftover sandwiches.

Cranberry Tangerine Relish
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Ingredients
  1. 8 ounces whole tangerines
  2. 8 ounces fresh cranberries
  3. ½ cup pecan halves
  4. 1 cup sugar
  5. 2 Tablespoons bourbon
Instructions
  1. Cut the tangerines into pieces – skins and all - and place in the food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse six to seven times to break up the tangerines. Add the whole cranberries, sugar, pecans and bourbon and pulse until you have a rough relish. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times and make sure everything is well combined. Scoop the relish into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours or up to a week. If lots of liquid accumulates in the bowl, you can drain the relish.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Decadent Chocolate Bread Pudding (and variations)

Decandent Chocolate Bread Pudding

I’ve been making this bread pudding for years, when I really want to pull out the stops for a decadent, but homey, dessert. It’s another of those recipes written on card, transferred to a notebook, moved to a file folder – the victim of my many attempts to organize a lifetimes worth of shared and saved recipes. The chocolate custard soaks through the bread and the chocolate morsels add little surprises of molten chocolate. This is not a dessert for the faint of heart.

When I was making this again to test and photograph it, I was suddenly struck with great indecision. Should I make a peppermint version? Add a new sauce? I finally decided the most helpful thing to do would be to stick with the basics and share this template recipe, which is utterly delicious and perfect as it is. But I offer some seasonal variations and additional trimmings from the archives.

Decadent Chocolate Bread Pudding (and variations)
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound loaf challah bread or soft Italian bread
  2. 3 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  3. 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
  4. 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  5. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  6. 5 large eggs
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  8. ½ cup whole milk
  9. 11.5 ounce bag milk chocolate morsels
Instructions
  1. Cut the bread into roughly 1-inch chunks and set aside.
  2. Break the chocolate into small pieces and drop it in a food processor. Heat 1 cup of the heavy cream in the microwave (about 45 seconds) or in a saucepan until just steaming. Do not boil or bubble. Process the chocolate for a few seconds to break it up, then pour over the warm cream and process until smooth. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sugar, the melted butter and the vanilla to the chocolate mixture and process until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, processing until smooth between each addition. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a capacious bowl –one that will fit the bread too. Stir in the remaining 2 cups cream and ½ cup milk and stir until smooth. Add the bread cubes and the chocolate morsels to the bowl and gently stir until the bread is well coated, the morsels are evenly distributed and everything is well combined. Scrape the mixture into a greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, but up to six.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Take the baking dish out of the fridge for 10 – 15 minutes to get the chill off. Bake for 55 minutes to an hour, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Serve warm.
Notes
  1. You can serve this with ice cream, plain vanilla, salted caramel or peppermint or with whipped cream, or try it drizzled with Toffee Sauce or Bourbon Sauce.
  2. Give an autumn twist by adding 2 cups of dried cranberries, soaked in a little brandy to plump and ½ cup chopped walnuts, using just 1 cup of chocolate morsels.
  3. As the holidays approach, mix this up to make a Mint Chocolate Bread Pudding. Swap the vanilla for ½ teaspoon peppermint extract and use white chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate. Sprinkle the top with crushed peppermint candies before serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Tennessee Hot Browns

Tennessee Hot Brown

My mother used to make a dish she called Hot Browns on cold nights when we were kids. I loved hot brown nights. I didn’t know that Hot Browns were a real dish, something with a history and many fanatical supporters and traditionalists, I just thought it was something yummy my mom invented, specific to our house. I have to admit that my mom’s version was not traditional. It involved sliced turkey, ham and cheddar cheese soup from a can. My mom always made them in these white porcelain dishes that I think of today as Hot Brown dishes.

As an adult, who cooks the vast majority of the Thanksgiving meal, I have asked my mom to make Hot Browns with the leftover turkey. So it occurred to me some years ago that I should develop a recipe for this favorite treat. In researching the idea, I discovered how serious the discussion of the Kentucky Hot Brown is, with fervent camps for versions with sliced tomatoes, and those without. I even had a Hot Brown in Kentucky that had potato chips piled on top. But I didn’t necessarily want to share the classic recipe, but to re-create the memory from my childhood. So I call these Tennessee Hot Browns to stay out of the battle. I like lots of cheddar cheese, and no tomatoes, but crispy bacon is always a good thing. The sandwiches are hot and cheesy and comforting and perfect for a long weekend.

Tennessee Hot Browns

½ cup butter

½ cup all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

6 Tablespoons grated cheddar cheese (plus a little for sprinkling)

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

8 slices white bread

About 2 pounds sliced roasted turkey

8 strips bacon, cooked until crispy

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then whisk in the flour until smooth and pale in color. Whisk in the milk, cooking until the sauce is thick. Whisk in the cheese and nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat the broiler of your oven. Lay a slice of bread in the bottom of each of four oven proof dishes. If you don’t have individual dishes, lay the bread in a 13 by 9 inch dish. Layer the turkey on top of the bread, then pour the sauce over the top. Sprinkle some grated cheese over the top of each sandwich. Broil the hot browns until the tops are speckled brown and bubbling, about 5 minutes – but watch carefully. Lay the bacon slices on top of the hot browns and serve immediately.

Makes 4 sandwiches

Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice Chowder with Toasted Dressing Croutons

Creamy Turkey and WIld Rice Chowder with Toasted Dressing  Croutons

Thanksgiving leftovers for me are generally of the sandwich variety.  I love leftover turkey sandwiches.  With cranberry sauce and a slice of dressing.  I make extra dressing, bind it with eggs and cram it into a loaf pan.  Baked off, it makes perfect slices to fit a sandwich.  I even make some sweet-savory jams and chutneys during the summer for use on the post-Thanksgiving concoctions.  My family gathers and plows through the leftovers in a laid-back feed, usually at someone else’s home (lucky me). After preparing the bulk of the Thanksgiving feast, I don’t usually have the energy to deal with another cooking project.  Frankly, I don’t’ always have it in me to make stock from the turkey carcass.  Mostly, it means more dirty dishes.

But last year, I put my mind to creating a hearty, warming meal using the leftover turkey with minimal work and lots of flavor.  And this is my result.  There are several ways to speed up this process.  When you are chopping vegetables for the big meal, put some aside in a Ziploc in the fridge to use for this.  Or buy a bag of frozen chopped mire-poix or soup starter when you do the big shop. I always overbuy on sage, the classic Thanksgiving herb, but use what you have on hand. I find quick-cooking wild rice easily, so look out for that and save yourself a step (though it is an easy one) of cooking the rice.   I don’t always have eight cups of turkey stock leftover after I make gravy and dressing, so I make up the difference with boxed stock.  Cream cheese adds a little body and tang to the final creamy product. The soup is lovely as is, but some toasted pieces of leftover dressing on top add a nice contrast.

Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice Chowder with Toasted Dressing Croutons

2 cups finely diced onion

1 cup finely diced carrot

1 cup finely diced celery

2 Tablespoons olive oil

8 cups turkey or chicken stock, or a combination

2 finely minced garlic cloves

2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage

1 yellow potato, finely diced

1 ½ cups quick-cooking wild rice, or 1 ½ cups wild rice cooked according to package instructions

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups diced cooked turkey

Sauté the onion, carrot and celery in a 5-quart Dutch oven in the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle over 1 Tablespoon of the sage and stir well.  When the vegetables are soft, add ½ cup stock and cook until the liquid is evaporated.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minutes.  Pour in the remaining stock and bring to a boil.  Add the remaining sage and the potato, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 1o minutes until the potatoes are becoming tender.  If using quick cooking wild rice, add it now, cover the pot and cook for a further 15 – 20 minutes until the rice is tender.  Bring the soup to a low bubble (not boiling, but bubbling). Cut the cream cheese into small chunks and whisk a few at a time into the soup adding more as it melts.  Don’t worry if it looks odd and separated at some point, just keep whisking away until the soup is smooth and creamy. Stir in the diced turkey (and cooked wild rice if that is what you are using) and cook, stirring, until heated through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Because of the potatoes and rice, you may need to be generous with the salt.

Serve immediately.  Leftovers can be gently reheated until warm.

Serves 6

For the Croutons: Cut leftover dressing into cubes or rough pieces.  Melt a Tablespoon of butter over medium high heat and toast the cubes until brown and crispy.

Butternut Squash Pie with Sorghum Whipped Cream

Butternut squash is one of my favorite fall foods.  I buy whole squashes at the last farmers markets, and when I see pre-cut pieces in the store, I buy those up too.  I make pasta sauces and quick soups, I roast and mash. Get creative and go simple.  I generally find myself with a surfeit of squash as I tend to get a little over-excited when they are in season.  As I write this, I see there are three large squashes on my counter, and I know there is some leftover soup in the refrigerator.

Though butternut has its own unique flavor, I frequently use it interchangeably with pumpkin and even sweet potato, so I wondered how it would work in a pie, would it just be the same as standard pumpkin or sweet potato, or would there be a difference?  And a little bit to my surprise, there is a quite a difference.  Butternut squash is earthier, sweet, but with a rougher edge.  I worked with my basic recipe and added woodsy, warm spices that really highlight the unique flavor of the butternut, particularly aromatic clove. This pie turns out a beautiful dark umber color, rich from the spices and squash.  A dollop of whipped cream, flavored but not overly sweetened with grassy sorghum is a perfect accompaniment. Serve this at Thanksgiving, or any autumn meal.  I promise, your guests will be surprised and intrigued – and pleased.

Butternut Squash Pie with Sorghum Whipped Cream

For the Pie:

Pastry for one 9-inch pie, homemade or store bought ready-to-roll

1 ½ pound butternut squash

2 eggs

1 cup light brown sugar

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1 Tablespoon bourbon

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

For the Sorghum Whipped Cream:

½ cup heavy whipping cream

1 Tablespoon sorghum

For the Pie:

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Place a piece of foil on the rack of the oven (to catch drips) and place the butternut squash on top.  Roast the squash for 45 minutes to an hour, until it is completely soft when you squeeze it (wearing an oven mitt of course).  Remove the squash from the oven, and holding it with a folded tea towel, cut it in half.  Scoop out the seeds and fibers and discard, then scrape the flesh into a wire mesh strainer set over a bowl.  Make sure there is no skin attached.  Using a spatula, press the flesh through the strainer completely. There are no solids left behind.  This will give you a smooth purée perfect for pie. Leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Fit the pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate, trimming the edges as necessary. Line the crust with waxed paper and fill with beans or pie weights and blind bake the crust for 10 minutes until partially cooked. Remove the paper and weights and set aside to cool.

Beat the eggs and sugar together with a whisk.  Add the cooled squash purée, the heavy cream, the bourbon and the spices.  Beat until everything is thoroughly combined and smooth.  Scrape the filling into the pie shell and bake for 50 – 55 minutes, until the center is set with just a little wobble to it.  Shield the edges of the pie crust to prevent overbrowning about halfway through the cooking.  Cool the pie completely, then cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours or overnight.

Serve chilled with a dollop of Sorghum whipped cream.

Serves 6

For the Whipped Cream:

Pour the sorghum and the cream into a small bowl.  Using a hand mixer, beat the cream to stiff peaks form.  Serve immediately.

Makes ½ cup

Autumn Sweet Potato Salad

Part of the joy of Thanksgiving for me is the leftovers.  I cook a turkey bigger than my family could ever eat on the day, I make huge amounts of dressing, I even cram some in a loaf pan to bake so it can be sliced to fit on a sandwich.  My shopping lists include good bread, cheese and condiments for next day sandwiches.  I’ve made Fig, Bourbon and Vanilla Bean Jam and Rosemary Pear Butter months ahead to spread on those sandwiches.  After the fun of a formal meal, it’s nice to gather the next day (usually at someone else’s house, lucky me) very casually, in jeans and comfy sweaters, to enjoy our own sandwich creations.

If the leftovers are a big part of your tradition, or if you have guests around the house through the weekend, add this salad to your plans.  As long as you are buying (and peeling) all those sweet potatoes for the big meal, it’s worth the little extra effort to have this stashed in the fridge.  It is an absolute dream next to a turkey sandwich, better than a bag of chips, and looks like you really went that extra mile. Earthy sweet potatoes, crunchy pecans, tart cranberries and rich maple syrup create a symphony of fall flavor. If your fridge is full to bursting, you can store this in a ziptop bag in a crisper drawer to take up less room.

A word about process.  Don’t be tempted to do that TV chef-y thing and put the potato cubes directly on the baking sheet, casually drizzle over oil and roast.  When you do that, there is inevitably too much oil, and the potatoes steam rather than roast, so they don’t get those nice, crisp edges, but are mushy and soft.  Lightly toss the potatoes with a small amount of oil in a bowl, rubbing around with your hands to get a little coating on each cube, then lift the potatoes out of the bowl onto a baking sheet (I line mine with non-stick foil for easy cleaning), leaving any extra oil behind.  I do this with all my roasted vegetables,

Autumn Sweet Potato Salad

2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 medium)

1/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

¼ cup maple syrup (grade B amber)

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 – 4 fresh sage leaves

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Ground black pepper

4 green onions, white and some dark green parts, finely chopped

2/3 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted

2/3 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into ½ inch pieces.  You want them to be bite-sized and roughly the same size so they roast evenly.  Toss the potato cubes with the 2 Tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Use your hands to make sure every potato cube has just a slick of oil on it.  Lift the potatoes out of the bowl onto a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast them for 25 – 30 minutes, until a knife easily slides into a potato piece.  You want them to be cooked through but not mushy.  They should still hold their shape and have a little bite.  Cool the potatoes to room temperature.

Put the mustard, maple syrup, vinegar, sage, cinnamon, salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth.  With the motor running, drizzle in the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil until you have a creamy, emulsified dressing.

When the potatoes are cool, gently toss them with the chopped green onions, pecans and cranberries.  Pour over the dressing and toss until all the potatoes are coated.  It’s fine if you prefer not to use all the dressing, but reserve the remainder in case you want to add some later.

Refrigerate the potato salad, tightly covered, for several hours or up to a few days.

Serves 6

Southern Candied Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel

Sweet potatoes are a foregone conclusion on the Southern Thanksgiving table. I would never consider serving mashed white potatoes at the big meal. For most of my life, I only had sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, though a pie may have snuck in at some other time during the year. I have now discovered the joy of sweet potatoes, though, and eat them year-round in all sorts of ways, sweet and savory. But on Thanksgiving, there is just no question.

I grew up with the marshmallow topped version, which never really did much for me. I think that may be the reason I never explored sweet potatoes much further. When it came my turn to contribute to the Thanksgiving feast though, I worked out a dish of Sweet Potatoes with Cider, Maple and Orange that has been the standard on our table for many years. But every once in a while, change is good. There is however, a strange feeling that comes up. I’ve made that same sweet potato dish for a decade at least, and everyone always tells me how much they enjoy it. And when I presented this new version, it got raves. “Best sweet potatoes I’ve ever had.” I love it when the family enjoys what you cook and take great pleasure that I have done right by them. But then there is that niggling sense in the back of your mind…”What was so bad about the ones I’ve been cooking you for all these years….”

Southern Candied Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel

Yes, these potatoes are rich. I don’t want to hear it. It’s Thanksgiving, live a little!

For the Sweet Potatoes:

8 medium sweet potatoes

½ cup (1 stick) butter

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 cup bourbon

¼ cup cane syrup or sorghum

2 teaspoons salt

½ cup cream

For the Streusel:

1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

2/3 cup white sugar

6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the Sweet Potatoes:

Peel the potatoes and slice them ¼” thick ( a mandoline or food processor makes quick work of this). Melt the butter with the brown sugar, bourbon, cane syrup and salt in a large skillet that will hold the potatoes, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, drop in the potato slices and stir to coat. Layer one half of the potato slices in a well-greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Pour over half of the syrup from the skillet. Layer the remaining potatoes in the dish and pour over the rest of the syrup.

The potatoes can be cooled, covered tightly and refrigerated overnight at this point. When ready to bake, remove from the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

For the Streusel:

In a food processor, process the sugars, the cinnamon, salt and flour for about 1 minute. Add butter; pulse 10 to 15 times, until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the pecans. Refrigerate the topping, covered, in a medium bowl until ready to use. It can be made up to a day ahead.

Assembly:

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350°. Pour the ½ cup cream over the potatoes, drizzling it into all the nooks and crannies. Spread the streusel evenly over the top of the potatoes. Bake the casserole for one hour, until the potatoes are soft and you can slide a knife easily through the center, the sides are bubbling and the streusel is golden brown. You can cover the dish loosely with foil if you feel the top is getting too brown too early.

Serve immediately.

Serves 8 – 12, depending on how much food is on the table!