Surrogate parental figures can have an important positive influence in our lives. As a child, my best friend’s maternal grandparents were a strong presence for me. Both of them were born and raised and lived most of their lives in a very small Mississippi town on the banks of the great river itself until they moved to California in their old age. Granddad taught me how to fish and with his voice like a gravel truck on a washboard road how to sing bass, and by his example any number of important parts of what it means to be a man. Granny taught me many things about living in harmony, among them the fine art of cooking for others. From her recipes I still make a great number, including Sweet Potato Pie.
We managed here at Whenceforth Progress to make it through the Yule/Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/Whatever season without a post on cookery, a miracle in itself since Blogbuddy and I are cooks both by avocation and necessity. Seems a shame to continue to let that omission slide along, since we each of us have a lot to offer in the kitchen and building a foodie section for the blog would be a fruitful and delightsome and satisfying way to pass along bits of useful and rewarding knowledge, a gift of information that over time can be enjoyed by untold others we will never know. Part of the Pay It Forward ethos, that, and with tasty food as the subject we can enthusiastically anticipate our eventual reward.
A brief forward about the tuber at hand. I’m talking sweet potatoes here, Ipomoea batatas and preferably one of the finer cultivars such as Hayman, Hernandez or Porto Rico or if necessary the more widely available O’Henry or Beauregard, but not true yams (Dioscorea spp.) and there is a difference. Yams are fine in their own way, no intent to disparage, good for many things and excellent for some, but sweet potatoes are in my not so very humble opinion the ne plus ultra of the tuber family and for some things simply not replaceable. Sweet potatoes are wonderful stand-alone baked, boiled, sautéed, fried or grilled and oh my yessss, my own creation as a cross-cultural bite of heaven itself, peeled and sliced crossways into circles then deep-fried with Tempura batter and dipped while sizzling hot into mayonnaise in the Dutch manner. Sinful, and so satisfying.
But what sweet potatoes were made for, the absolute essence of their existence as surely as there is a god or goddess or force or purpose or coherence of any sort in the universe, the indivisible reason for their being, is to be made into a pie.
Granny K’s Sweet Potato Pie
9” -10” pie pan, preferably clear glass
One layer pie shell, premade*
One whole lemon, one whole orange
Ingredients for the filling**
2 cups sweet potatoes (2 medium or 3 small), roasted***
and mashed by hand;
A coarse texture is perfect.
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
¾ cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 ½ teaspoons each lemon juice and orange juice.
2 whole large eggs
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon each zest of lemon and orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 425F.
In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar with a sturdy fork.
Add honey and juices and beat with fork until incorporated.
Separately, beat eggs with the fork until uniformly yellow.
Add eggs and mashed sweet potatoes to butter-sugar mixture and blend with fork until well mixed.
Add rest of filling ingredients except for whipping cream and beat with fork until color is uniform.
Whip cream separately with the fork to soft peaks.
Add whipped cream to mixture, folding in gently with the fork until nearly uniform.
Place pie crust shell into pan, pressing down to eliminate air bubbles and folding edges back onto rim. Flute edge with fork.
Pour filling mixture into pie shell, scrape bowl with spatula and level.
Important! Give spatula and bowl to child you’ve been teaching, to scrape and lick.
Bake for 20 minutes at 425F then reduce heat to 325F.
Continue baking for 30 minutes more, or until knife inserted in middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool,
then refrigerate under cover until serving.
Traditionally served cold, plain or with whipped cream. For a slightly different take and a more elegant Yuletide presentation, slather with crème fraiche and top with a sprinkling of sliced mint leaves and dried cranberries.
* Any preferred pie crust will be fine. I used to be fanatical about my crust, but lately with time pressures and arthritis I’ve learned to compromise and am in no way now unhappy; some of this new-fangled stuff turns out to be A-O-Kay. Store-bought Phyllo dough works wonderfully, as does Pillsbury-brand ready-made pie crust. I’ll put up my trusty semi-modernized home-made pie crust recipe later for the purists, and add a link here.
** Filling can be doubled exactly.
** *Lots of approaches for roasting sweet potatoes, but I’m settled on wrapping them tightly in tin foil and baking at 325F for an hour. Absolutely wonderful just with butter, salt and pepper, or add brown sugar or sour cream or all of them with maybe some chives or diced green onions for variety. Sometimes I get distracted, one thing and another, but left at 325 I’ve come back to them after a couple of hours or more and they are still just dandy. Don’t tell anyone, but a few times I’ve had to run out unexpectedly just as they finished and so I shut off the oven and left them until the next morning, no problem. Once cooked they can be let cool and stored in the fridge for several days or frozen in a zip-lock for up to four weeks and re-heated by micro or oven with no loss of flavor or character. Magnificent, these tubers.