Monday, August 31, 2009

Sweet Potato Pie



About Sweet Potatoes

For my money, sweet potatoes are one of the most, if not the most, versatile foods you can buy at a North American farmer's market or grocery store. You can boil them, bake them, mash them, hash them; puree, roast, French-fry, scallop or candy them; bake them in muffins, pies, cakes, biscuits, bread, souffles and casseroles; thicken stews and sauces, sweeten greens, tenderize meat with them.

And, yes, you can grow them north of the Mason Dixon Line. If you can start them early indoors and keep the field plants warm with mulch and compost, especially during the early tuber initiation stage, you'll be good to go. Your best bet, of course, would be to cultivate a local variety. The plant, which looks like a bush bean variety, flowers like a morning glory, to which it's distantly related. Some varieties have deep purple leaves and are grown purely for ornamental purposes.

The plant is native to Central America and unrelated to the potato. In most European countries, sweet potatoes are hard to find unless the country boasts an immigrant population who traditionally eat the tuber.

Many folks in the United States refer to sweet potatoes as yams, but this is misnomer. Yams belong to a completely different plant species than the orange-, white-, yellow- or purple-fleshed sweet potato and remains an important crop around the world, especially in Africa and the Caribbean. They are rarely found in the States.

Select unblemished, firm tubers with small soft spots and no broken skin. Do not refrigerate them. Ever.

Sweet Potato Pie

4 large sweet potatoes, washed and scrubbed
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cardamom
Splash of fresh squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup (12 oz) heavy cream
4 large fresh eggs, room temperature
3 9-inch deep dish pie crusts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place sweet potatoes directly on middle rack and bake until juices run and potato skins separate from flesh, about an hour. Place strips of aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to catch the juice.

Remove potatoes from oven and let cool until comfortable to handle. Pull off peels and place potatoes in large boil. Add butter and mash. Add sugar, spices, zest, orange juice, and vanilla extract and mix well. For a smooth, custard-like pie, transfer filling to a food processor, puree for five minutes, and return to bowl. Adjust spices and sweetness to taste. (I prefer a sweet pie, so I tend to sweeten the filling to taste with pure maple syrup at this point.) Using a hand beater on medium high, slowly add cream and beat until smooth. Add eggs one at a time and beat until smooth after each egg. Pour filling into crusts and bake until center of the pie rises like a souffle and the edges crack, about 60-90 minutes depending on your oven.

Remove pies and place on racks to cool. Serve plain or with fresh whipped cream flavored with your choice of liqueur, essence, extract (all the above) or vanilla ice cream. Of course, if you want to be ghetto/country, you can always pull out a vat of Cool Whip and smother a slice with it, but I suggest you read the ingredients on the vat and stay as far away from that mess as possible.

Pies may be stored at room temperature for two days, in the refrigerator for 10 days, or frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, wrap pies tightly with several layers of food plastic, place in air-tight freezer bags, and store in freezer as far away from the door as possible. The crust will separate from the filling on the sides when thawed out. You won't notice till you plate a slice.

6 comments:

Elize said...

YES!!! OMG it looks so good AGAIN! I can taste it just by looking at it....
you are such an amazing cook!

maryanne said...

I love your blog! My Irish Dad's favorite pie was sweet potato, even though he grew up in NJ where this was not a common thing. He learned to love it as a child because a Black neighbor lady, who he said was like another mother to him, always made it for him when he went over to her place.

My Dad lived to be 92 and talked about Mrs. Jackson and her sweet potato pie all his life. He also taught me and my brother that racism was stupid and wrong when that was not a common attitude.

Justice58 said...

Craig,

I've been thinking about that pretty Sweet Potato Pie all day!

Whycome you do me like that? :)

Anonymous said...

Yum. I've never made a SP pie. I hear the greens lower cholesterol. I once bought some at the Asian store, but didn't like them because the leaves are slightly slimy when cooked.

Rock on, Craig!

-TruthSeeker

Kippa said...

I know it's Only a Pie. But I am faint with desire!

Craig Hickman said...

Truthseeker,

Swiss chard lowers cholesterol as well.