I absolutely hated sweet potatoes when I was a kid. Or, at least I thought I did. Really, I think I was misinformed about sweet potatoes. My only real experience with sweet potatoes was with the famed Thanksgiving side, “Sweet Potato Casserole”. You know the dish I’m talking about, right? The bright orange casserole, which was usually made with canned sweet potatoes and was topped with some sort of marshmallowy substance. The whole thing was devoid of texture and sickeningly sweet. (I apologize if I’m stepping on any toes here, I do know that there are many out there who love this classic Thanksgiving dish. I’m just not one of them!)
This is what I knew of sweet potatoes, and I did not like it one bit.
But then I grew up and figured out that sweet potatoes are awesome. They’re a surprisingly versatile little root vegetable, and can be used in various sweet or savory applications. In addition, they’re classified as a “superfood“. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I’d like to pretend it means that sweet potato fries aren’t bad for you. Fried superfood is still a superfood, right?
But, I digress.
The point is, sweet potatoes are fantastic. I could eat them a million different ways; in pies, biscuits, soups, stews, gratins, and more. But of all the ways to enjoy sweet potatoes, there is one recipe that is my clear favorite. I like to sauté them with butter, whiskey, rosemary, shallots, brown sugar, and cayenne. Just take a moment and let your eyes wander back over that sentence. Yep. There are a lot of good things in that sentence. And when you combine all of those good things with sweet potatoes, it’s downright magical.
The potatoes are buttery, salty, sweet, and a little bit spicy. The whiskey and the brown sugar work together to give the sweet potatoes beautiful brown, caramelized edges. (I’m making myself hungry as I type this. Seriously.)
And the best part about these potatoes? They’re really, really easy to make. And, you can do a lot of the prep work ahead of time. If you boil your sweet potatoes a day ahead of time, they only take 10 more minutes to cook. TEN MINUTES. I used to over-complicate the holidays and make ridiculous dishes that required me to slave over the stove all day. I’ve since learned my lesson, and I try to relax and actually enjoy the holidays. That’s one of the reasons I love this recipe, it allows me to do just that.
All of that to say, these sweet potatoes will be making an appearance on my Thanksgiving table this year. And who knows, maybe they’ll end up on your table as well. :)
(P.S. In the spirit of “Thankful November” I would like to mention that today, I’m thankful for the company of a good book and a snuggly cat. Oh, and I’m thankful to have a working heater. It is COLD out there!)
Sautéed Sweet Potatoes with Whiskey, Brown Sugar, Cayenne and Rosemary
4-5 medium (red flesh) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 small shallots, diced
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped finely
2 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons whiskey
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt & pepper, to taste
This step can be done ahead of time: Place sweet potato cubes in a medium size pot and cover with water. Add a dash of salt, and place over high heat. Allow the water to come to a boil, and then reduce heat and allow the potatoes to simmer until soft (20 minutes or so). Drain water, set potatoes aside. If you do make the potatoes ahead of time, store them in the fridge in a sealed container until you need them.
In a large non-stick skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add shallots, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Add in sweet potatoes, and gently stir to coat with butter. Allow to cook for 2-3 more minutes. Sprinkle cayenne, brown sugar, rosemary, salt and pepper over the potatoes while they cook. Be careful not to over-stir, so that they potatoes retain their shape (and don’t get mushy. You want them to remain in cubed form!). Turn the heat up to high, and deglaze the pan with half of the whiskey. Allow the sweet potatoes to caramelize. Once slightly browned on one side, turn the potatoes over (or give a quick stir) and sprinkle with more brown sugar. Add in the rest of the whiskey, and cook until potatoes have caramelized and have light to medium browning. If the potatoes begin to stick at any point, add in more butter.
Taste, and adjust seasonings if needed. I like them to pack a punch, so I use more cayenne than indicated. Sprinkle a bit more fresh rosemary over the top of the potatoes and serve immediately. If you really want the potatoes to pack a bit of a punch, drizzle just a touch more whiskey over the top of the potatoes before serving.