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Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Crumble

December 9, 2011

Thanksgiving is the Holy Grail of family meals.
-Virginia Willis, Dec. 8, 2011

This past Wednesday, I attended a cooking class led by Virginia Willis, who is on the road promoting her second cookbook, “Basic to Brilliant, Y’all!” that just came out this fall. Her quote above was in reference to her Winter Greens and Butternut Squash Gratin that has made its way on to the Thanksgiving menu of some of her friends.

Now, I know that Thanksgiving has come and gone. But in my family, the differences between our traditional Thanksgiving dinner and our traditional Christmas dinner were reflected in the desserts, not the dinner. And goodness help the poor soul who wanted to make a radical change to core elements of those traditions.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that we decided to chuck tradition out the window when it came to our Christmas dinner. Instead of turkey and the fixings, we had schnitzel and fried potatoes. Not to get into details that are not mine to share, but let’s just say we’d been through a rough time and letting go of this particular tradition was sort of cathartic in that we got to make a symbolic break with our troubles.

The perfect sweet potato casserole in my corning ware I got from my Mom's collection.

That Christmas dinner opened up the door for other crazy ideas when it came to our holiday meal traditions. And I was more than willing to exploit the opening by recommending new sweet potato dishes that had nothing to do with the yams in a can topped with marshmallows. As a kid, I liked this dish, but – as my Mom told me this year – it was never really the most popular dish on the table.

These new-fangled sweet potato casseroles have had varying levels of success with different family members. But in the back of my mind, I always knew that I was messing around with my Mom’s favorite dish, and it made me feel a bit guilty. Last year, we struck a compromise. I made a sweet potato casserole from scratch, but added marshmallows. It was a good effort, but there wasn’t much heart in it and it still wasn’t really my Mom’s favorite nor anyone else’s.

This year though, I struck the jackpot with a recipe from Saveur.

The Perfect Sweet Potato Casserole with its pecan crumble and smattering of marshmallows was, indeed, the perfect sweet potato casserole.

Sweet potato casserole in a gold goblet from my Dranny's collection of dishes.

My Dranny loved it enough to put the recipe into the family tin of recipes (high praise, in my world). And my Aunt, who hates sweet potato casserole went back for seconds and snuck bites while we were putting away leftovers. And then, while my Mom was urging me to take leftovers home with me, she put one caveat on it – Do NOT take any of the sweet potatoes. She wanted to have those and I could just make some more if I wanted more.

I gotta tell you. That was when I knew I had a winner and that my Mom wasn’t just saying she liked it so that she wouldn’t hurt my feelings.

Now that I’ve cracked the Holy Grail of family menus with the Perfect Sweet Potato Casserole, I can’t wait to start trying my hand at a new twist on a family favorite.

Have no fear though, family, I have zero plans of messing with the Cornbread Dressing. Messing with that recipe amounts to sacrilege, and I will not stand for that. =)

Now, to be honest, I used the Saveur recipe more as a guide. A close guide, but I will say the subtle hand with the spices and brown sugar were important. And the crumble was to die for. Just the right balance of textures and tastes in one dish. You can find the recipe on Saveur.com.

Today’s post is part of the #LetsLunch bunch’s gathering. We get together about once a month to have a virtual potluck hosted by Cheryl Tan of A Tiger in the Kitchen fame. This month it was all about festive holiday side dishes important to our families or cultures. I’ll share links to the rest of the group’s posts as soon as I can or you can follow us on Twitter using the #LetsLunch hashtag. And, we hope you’ll consider joining us next month!

More #LetsLunch Bunch Posts

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2011 1:06 pm

    Love how new family favorites evolve. Thanks for sharing!

  2. December 12, 2011 3:40 pm

    Pecan crumble? OMG. Lovely. Do not, I repeat, do not, mess with the cornbread dressing.

  3. December 13, 2011 12:22 am

    I love sweet potato casseroles! This looks really delicious. ; )

  4. December 27, 2011 8:51 pm

    I love the vintage Corningware.

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