Each November, right around this time, my insides bubble vigorously with joy. Abundant, uncontainable joy. I begin a ritualistic spiral into pure, unadulterated holiday oblivion and therefore lose touch with anything that isn’t pine scented, peppermint-spiked, and parceled with shiny silver wrapping.
I lavish all things warm, cozy, fall-flavored, twinkly lit, red-and-green-swathed, and covered with chocolate. And everything else- bills, bathing, and maintaining logic and reason- falls to the wayside.
I’m going to introduce you to the holiday recipes I can’t live without. This week, that means the side dishes that sit pretty on my Thanksgiving table.
Next week, I’ll show you what to do with all those leftovers.
The week after that, I’ll begin my holiday baking spree.
And the week after that, I’ll have died.
But we’ve got three solid weeks until then, so let’s get cooking, shall we?
These sweet potatoes are sweetly glazed in a salted and spiked caramel sauce. They’ve got notes of vanilla, richness and depth from softly bubbled dark brown sugar, the gentle saltiness of butter, and the warmth of maple syrup and whiskey. Sweet potatoes, by nature, have a deep, rounded sweetness, and this glaze just intensifies that. It tastes just as I’d imagine fall would, if it were edible. I love that.
When I served them recently, at a dinner for two, I cut the recipe down significantly and baked the glazed potatoes in two individual ramekins, rather than the large casserole that I’ve called for in the recipe below.
The recipe is fairly simple. I par-boil the potatoes, then lay them in a greased casserole dish with diced red onion. In a small saucepan, I whisk and simmer butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, and whiskey to create a caramel sauce. I then pour it evenly over the potatoes and onions, toss them to coat, cover the casserole with foil, and bake it for about 45 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender and the sauce is bubbly. I like to reglaze them halfway through cooking, because otherwise the sauce just tends to collect at the bottom of the baking dish.
The onions can be omitted, but I like how they soften and lend a slight sweet pungency. It’s a nice contrast in flavors.
Whiskey Caramel Glazed Sweet Potatoes
(serves 6 as a side dish)
- 3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thick 1 1/2″ thick crescents, wedges, or rounds (about 4 medium sweet potatoes)
- 1/2 large red onion, chopped
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons whiskey (optional)
Generously coat a 3 quart shallow baking dish or a 13×9″ pan with nonstick cooking spray or a light greasing of butter. Place your sweet potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring them to a boil and let them cook until just shy of tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and then lay the sweet potatoes in the prepared pan, along with the red onion.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, maple syrup, water, salt, vanilla, and whiskey. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture is well combined and bubbly, about 5 minutes.
Pour the brown sugar-butter glaze evenly over the top of the sweet potatoes and onions, and then toss to coat. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes, then toss them once more, just to reglaze them with the sauce that has fallen to the bottom of the pan. Recover with foil and bake an additional 20 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are so tender you can easily pierce them with a fork. Gently toss them again with the glaze that remains in the pan. Serve.