Creamy green bean casserole topped with crisp, oniony bits…whipped, buttery mashed potatoes…moist, sage-laced dressing. Everyone has that favorite holiday side dish, and mine happens to be sweet potato casserole. I’m not talking about the old-fashioned kind topped with marshmallows, but rather a creamy, custard-like sweet potato base with a sweet, crunchy, nutty topping. Glorious.
I love sweet potatoes. They’re one of my favorite sides to order at restaurants, filled with whipped butter and doused with cinnamon-sugar. A few years ago, I came across a method for baking sweet potatoes that results in perfect ones at home every time. (After discovering the method, I baked five sweet potatoes at a time and ate one every day!) Baking them briefly at a high temperature (450 degrees) and then lowering it for the remainder of the baking cycle causes the skin to pull away from the flesh, creating a pocket of steam around the potatoes. You can find the method with photo instructions here. You can also peel and boil the sweet potatoes for 30 minutes. I prefer the baking method because it doesn’t require hand-peeling them; the skin easily peels away after baking.
Growing up, my mother made a similar sweet potato casserole; it used canned sweet potatoes, but had a similar topping of pecans, brown sugar, and butter. I use the method mentioned above to bake my sweet potatoes. They come out so tender that they’re a breeze to mash for the casserole. While it does take about an hour and a half to bake the potatoes, assembling the casserole is extremely simple.
This recipe is inspired by the casserole at the steakhouse chain, Ruth’s Chris. Darrell and I enjoyed a beautiful, picturesque dinner at the Ruth’s Chris beside the St. Louis Arch, and enjoyed this dish aside our steaks (served on 500 degree plates). While it was scrumptious, this at-home recipe is just as delicious!
RUTH’S CHRIS SWEET POTATOES
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans
1/3 stick butter, melted
*(optional) 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Combine brown sugar, flour, nuts and butter in mixing bowl. Set aside.
SWEET POTATO MIXTURE
3 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, well beaten
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a medium-size casserole dish, or coat with a nonstick spray.
Combine mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, salt, vanilla, and eggs in a large mixing bowl in the order listed. Beat thoroughly with a hand mixer for three minutes to increase the fluffiness of the sweet potato mixture.
*Note: If you don’t want to “dirty” another set of utensils, I’ve often just whisked the sweet potato mixture until combined instead of getting out the hand mixer.
Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes. At this point, dish can be covered and refrigerated for a couple of days.
Sprinkle the top of the sweet potato mixture evenly with the crust mixture and return to oven for 10 minutes. Allow to set at least 30 minutes before serving. The brown sugar and pecan crust should be slightly browned and crunchy. Makes 12 servings.