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~ A Sweet Potato & Caramelized Apple Casserole ~

IMG_5802It was Thanksgiving morning 1997.  I was watching Good Morning America on my kitchen TV.   Wolfgang Puck was their guest chef.  He prepared this casserole, which he proclaimed to be his favorite way to eat sweet potatoes on Turkey Day.  I adore sweet potatoes and am always looking for new ways to cook them.  I quickly grabbed a piece of parchment paper from one of my baking pans and scribbled down the recipe as he spoke.  I made the casserole that very day and it was every bit as good as Wolfgang proclaimed it to be.  It's been on my Thanksgiving table or buffet ever since, and, it is a great side-dish to serve with pork roast or pork chops too.

IMG_5635A bit about sweet potatoes:  Sweet potatoes were first introduced to North America when Columbus brought them over from the island of St. Thomas, where this large edible root (which belongs to the morning-glory family) is native to the tropical regions of the Americas.  There are many varieties of sweet potato, but, the two most widely grown commercially are a pale sweet potato and a dark-skinned variety Americans erroneously call "yam" (the true yam is not even related to the sweet potato).  The pale sweet potato has a thin, light yellow skin and pale yellow flesh.  Its flavor is not sweet, and after being cooked, the pale sweet potato is dry and crumbly, similar to that of a Russet potato.  The darker variety has a thicker, dark-orange skin and vivid-orange, sweet flesh.  When cooked it has a very sweet flavor and a creamy texture.  The dark-skinned, orange-colored variety is the only kind I use in my recipes.

IMG_6171When buying sweet potatoes, choose plump, firm, even-sized ones with no cracks or bruises. They should not be stored in the refrigerator, but they need to be stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place.  If the temperature goes above 60 degrees, they'll begin to sprout, get woody and/or shrivel.  Cooked sweet potatoes, if stored in the refrigerator last for about a week.  Like regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are always eaten cooked, never raw.















2 1/2-3  pounds peeled and very-thinly sliced (1/8"-1/4"), dark-skinned, deep-orange sweet potatoes (Note:  Always use a chef's knife with a stainless steel blade when cutting sweet potatoes.  Why?  A knife with a carbon steel blade will react with the potatoes and cause them to discolor quickly.  The discoloration is not harmful, but it is unappetizing.)

2  cups heavy or whipping cream

1/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

2  pounds peeled, cored and thinly-sliced Granny Smith apples 

8  ounces butter (2 sticks)

2  tablespoons sugar

8  ounces golden raisins

1/2  cup plain dry breadcrumbs

no-stick cooking spray

IMG_5667~ Step 1.  Prep the sweet potatoes as directed, placing them in a large bowl as you work.  Add the cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and white pepper.  Using two forks or two spoons, toss as you would a salad, until the sweet potatoes are evenly coated.  Set aside, tossing occasionally, while prepping and caramelizing the apples as follows:


~ Step 2.  Prep the apples as directed.  Do not try to do this in advance and be inclined to toss them with lemon juice to prevent discoloring.  If some of the apples start to turn a bit brown while you are working, worry not.  They are going to brown in the pan in a few minutes.  

In a 12" skillet melt the butter over low heat and stir in the sugar.  Fold in the apples and raisins...


... Increase heat to saute, stirring frequently, until the apples are turning golden brown and the raisins are plump, about 25-30 minutes.  Watch carefully during the last few minutes, as they can and will quickly go from browned to burned.

The mixture will look a little bit like hash browns.  Remove from heat and set aside about 10 minutes.

IMG_5707~ Step 3.  Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with no-stick spray.  Arrange two layers of potatoes in the bottom of dish (about half of the potatoes).

IMG_5714~ Step 4. Distribute all of the caramelized apples evenly over the top of potatoes.

IMG_5722~ Step 5.  Arrange two more layers of potatoes over the top of the apples.

IMG_5730~ Step 6. Drizzle all of the cream mixture remaining in the bowl evenly over the top of the casserole.

IMG_5739~ Step 7.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.

Note:  At this point, casserole may be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 2 days prior to baking.  Remove from refrigerator and return to room temperature (1-2 hours) prior to baking as directed.

IMG_5742~ Step 8.  Bake, uncovered on center rack of preheated 325 degree oven, 1 1/2-2 hours, or until cooked through and breadcrumbs are nicely browned.

Note:  Watch the progress carefully after 75 minutes.  Loosely cover with aluminum foil, if necessary, to prevent breadcrumbs from burning.

Remove from oven and rest 15-30 minutes prior to serving, to allow juices to stop bubbling and set up:

IMG_5772A Sweet Potato & Caramelized Apple Casserole:  Recipe yields 8-12 side-servings.

Special Equipment list:  2-quart casserole dish, preferably see-through glass; cutting board; vegetable peeler; chef's knife; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick

6a0120a8551282970b014e8858f3e9970d-800wiCook's Note:  For another one of my favorite sweet potato side-dishes, you can find my recipe for ~ Smashed Maple Sweet Potatoes ~ in Categories 4 or 18.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


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