Chipotle-Maple Sweet Potatoes with Spiced Pecans

This is what I ended up putting together as our sweet potato dish for Thanksgiving. One word of advice: if you have leftovers, I wouldn’t recommend keeping the pecans on top. They get soft and sad. Scrape them off and just eat them. Then the next time you serve them, chop up some more and re-top.

between 3 and 3.5 pounds sweet potatoes/garnet yams, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup cream
1 Tbsp maple syrup, grade B
1 tsp chipotle powder (or 1 canned chipotle pepper, minced + 1 tsp adobo sauce from the can)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 to 1 cup Spiced Pecans, chopped (depends on the surface area on top of your serving dish how much you’ll need to cover it)

First, make the Spiced Pecans (it says you can use any mixture of nuts in that recipe—for this application, just use pecans).

Steam sweet potatoes in a steamer basket over simmering water for 20 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. (This took me two rounds, but you might be better at fitting in all the sweet potato cubes.)

Empty into a bowl and add the butter and cream. Mash with a potato masher. With a large spatula or spoon, fold in the maple syrup, chipotle, and salt. Taste and adjust for seasonings (not just salt, but the chipotle as well—these aren’t super-spicy, so you can totally add more).

Transfer the sweet potatoes to a serving dish and sprinkle an even layer of pecans on top.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

[image: roasted pumpkin seeds]
[image: roasted pumpkin seeds]

I hope folks had a nice Thanksgiving. I’m stuffed and can barely think about food right now. My mom likes making low centerpieces (so people can still see and talk across the table, but they’re still colorful and festive) for our Thanksgiving table. She hollows out small sugar pumpkins and puts flowers in them. They’re really cute!

This year I took the seeds and roasted them. I set aside a handful to dry out and plant next spring. I may have failed at the kabochas this year, but I’m not going to let that stop me! Pumpkins ahoy!

a bunch of raw pumpkin seeds
olive oil

Heat oven to 325. Rinse the pumpkin seeds to remove any giant pieces of pumpkin flesh left clinging to them. Don’t be too obsessed with removing every last strand—small pieces are fine (they’ll add to the flavor, maybe). Spread out and dry with paper towels. They’ll stick to the towels, just flick them off. Toss with a little olive oil and salt. Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with a little extra salt (kosher is nice). Roast at 325 for 30 minutes, stirring every 8 minutes. Keep an eye on the doneness after 20 minutes to make sure they don’t burn. You want a nice toasty brown. Cool completely before storing (otherwise they’ll lose their crunchiness).

(This isn’t really a recipe, just some broad guidelines. Mostly it’s because I like that photo.)

Roasted Creamed Onions

[image: creamed onions]
[image: creamed onions]

This may be my family’s greatest Thanksgiving dish. It is annoying to make but so great to eat. Do not wimp out and use frozen pearl onions. No good. Those bags of pearl onions you see in the store? Don’t use those, either. They are too small and it’ll take forever to prep enough to make a full dish. Cipollini onions are an okay-ish option, but they don’t roll properly and therefore won’t brown evenly. What you really want, and what are increasingly difficult to find (at least in our area), are “boiling” onions, which are white, round, and about 1″-1.5″ in diameter. Good luck.

My parents got the casserole dish we’re serving this in back in the 70s. It’s beautifully retro. C is not for Cookie. It is for Casserole!

[image: casserole dish]
[image: casserole dish]

2 lbs. whole white boiling onions (1-1.5″ in diameter)
Olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup water
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 Tbsp butter
like a quart of heavy cream

Drop the onions into rapidly boiling water for 1 minute. Shallowly trim the root end, squeeze the onion out the root end (they’ll pop out once you apply enough pressure, be quick catching them!), then trim the top and cut an X 1/4″ deep into the root (this keeps them from bursting throughout the rest of the cooking).

Heat the oven to 350. Toss the peeled onions in olive oil to coat and sprinkle with salt. Put them in a roasting pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Roast onions until they are tender, 30–45 minutes (really depends on the size of the onions, though). Check for doneness with a sharp paring knife. Every 10–15 minutes, roll onions around so they get browned evenly.

Place the cooked onions in a frying pan or saute pan large enough to hold them in one layer. Add sugar, white wine, water, and butter. Reduce this to a syrupy state, rolling the onions around to glaze. When reduced, add the cream and thyme. The cream should come halfway up the sides of the onions (this usually takes about a quart for us, it may be more or less depending on the size of the onions and the size of the pan). Simmer until the cream reduces to a sauce-like consistency. Discard the thyme and adjust seasoning (it will definitely need more salt by this point).

Note: can be made a day ahead and gently rewarmed. If the cream sauce becomes too thick, add a little more cream to thin it out (probably could use milk or half and half by this point if you’re out of cream).

Thanksgiving Prep

Like many Americans, I have spent the past few days shopping for Thanksgiving ingredients. My dad’s trying out a new preparation for the turkey (the house is already awash in the smell of roasting turkey bits for stock and gravy—he’s got it in the oven overnight), my mom has exhausted every single store in the region trying to find the perfect size and shape onions, and I’m girding myself to try out a new sweet potato dish this year.

I really like sweet potatoes (garnet yams, whatever), as long as you keep them away from that goddamn marshmallow topping. I like my sweet potatoes spiced up with chipotle peppers! You may recall that for several years I attempted to make a perfect version of this Bobby Flay recipe, which my parents ate at his Vegas restaurant. At the restaurant, they received a perfect pie-like slice with perfect layers that stayed together beautifully. My version… oof. Time and time again I tried, and time and time again I ended up with a goopy broken sauce, oceans of oil sitting on top, and an upset stomach. Slices? Layers? Ha! It still tastes pretty good, but the presentation is seriously awful.

Last year I gave up and made Alton Brown’s chipotle smashed sweet potatoes. It was fine but not particularly revelatory. It was just fine.

This year, I’m going to try something weird—maybe. I’m going to do a dry run of a recipe tomorrow morning, and if it turns out well, I’ll do a full version for Thanksgiving. If not, well, my brother wants me to give the Bobby Flay version another go, but I don’t know if my digestion can handle it. Seriously we just have way too much heavy cream in everything, and I will give up my sweet potato recipe long, long before I say goodbye to my mom’s creamed onions. Those are my #1 Thanksgiving Must-Eat Dish.

(My other Thanksgiving prep today was putting a basecoat on my fingernails and picking out all the most harvest-y colors in my nail polish collection. Holiday manicure!)