Sweet potatoes are an absolute staple on the southern Thanksgiving table, and the general preference seems to be for very sweet sweet potatoes. I’ve never been a big fan of the marshmallow topped variety, but I do go for Candied Sweet Potatoes with Pecan Streusel or a casserole with cider, maple and orange. A few years ago, I veered over to the savory side (to great results) with my Sweet Potato and Country Ham Gratin. But now I’ve landed somewhere in the middle. These sweet potatoes are mostly sweet potato. The edge of sweetness comes from the slow roasting, with a small boost of honey and a nutty note from the browned butter, amped up with a little spicy chile flake. And, at least for the moment, these are my favorite sweet potatoes. On a table laden with turkey and gravy and casseroles and a bread and desserts, these rather simple potatoes pack a lot of flavor without a lot of heavy additions.
Wrapping the potatoes tightly in foil packets and roasting them low and slow in the oven really brings out their natural sweetness and earthiness. It is I think the best way to cook sweet potatoes for mashing. As an added bonus, the skin pretty much just slips off without a peeler, though you may need a paring knife to get things started. Just a hint of honey boosts the sweetness without overpowering the delicious flavor of the potatoes. Browned butter adds such a lovely, nutty richness that is a perfect complement. Spicy chili flakes infused in the butter add a subtle kick of heat but nothing overpowering. You could add a pinch or two of cayenne pepper as you beat the sweet potatoes of you want to turn it up.
Hot Honey Brown Butter Sweet Potatoes
4 pounds sweet potatoes, about 4 medium
8 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons chili flakes
¼ cup honey
- Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Wrap each potato very tightly in two layers of aluminum foil. Place them on the middle rack of the oven and roast for 2 hours, or until a thin skewer slips into the flesh of the potato with no resistance. When cooked through, remove from the oven and leave until just cool enough to handle.
- Cut the butter into small pieces and place in a small saucepan (light colored or stainless is best so you can see the butter as it browns). Heat over medium high heat, watching constantly, until the butter is melted. It will start to spit and hiss, then you will see brown speckles appear. Swirl the butter around to distribute the browned bits, and as soon as the butter has an even brown color and a nice nutty smell, pour it into a heat proof measuring jug. Add 2 Tablespoons chili flakes and give it a stir. Leave to cool.
- Peel the still warm sweet potatoes (you will likely just be able to pinch and pull the skins away) and place the flesh in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Strain the browned butter through a fine wire mesh strainer to remove the chili flakes, leaving any dark brown sediment behind in the jug. Measure out 2 Tablespoons of the brown butter and set aside. Pour the rest of the brown butter and the honey into the sweet potatoes in the mixer and beat until smooth and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Taste and season with salt as needed. Scrape the potatoes into a well-greased 3-quart baking dish and smooth the top, then use the back of a spoon to create a circular channel on the surface of the potatoes. Pour the remaining 2 Tablespoons of brown butter into the channel, then cool the potatoes completely, cover and refrigerate for up to two days. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and cook the potatoes until warmed through.