Apr 24 2011

What’s Cooking: Sweet Potato Mash

(8 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

I love sweet potatoes and not just at Thanksgiving. I like them baked, boiled and mashed and dipped in tempura batter and fried. They are great in breads and baked desserts. They are very nutritional, an excellent source of vitamin A and a good source of potassium and vitamin C, B6, riboflavin, copper, pantothetic acid and folic acid. Sweet potatoes are native to Central America, grown in the Southern US states since the 16th century and are in the same family of plants as Morning Glories. The plant is a trailing vine with a large tuberous root.

Sweet Potatoes are often confused with yams which are native to Africa and relate to lilies and grasses. Even though they are both flowering plants, botanically they are different.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term ‘yam’ to be accompanied by the term ‘sweet potato.’ Unless you specifically search for yams, which are usually found in an international market, you are probably eating sweet potatoes!

A couple of Thanksgivings ago, my daughter decided to ditch the “traditional” candied version topped with marshmallow that would put a normal person into a diabetic coma and went “surfing” for something different. The recipe she found now makes it to our table more often than once a year. It is still sweet but not overwhelming. It’s great served as a side with pork or ham, as well as turkey. Nummy as a midnight snack with a little whipped cream, too.

Bourbon-Walnut Sweet Potato Mash


   4 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes

   1/2 cup whipping cream

   6 tablespoons (3/4 cup) butter

   1/4 cup pure maple syrup

   2 tablespoons bourbon

   1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

   1 teaspoon ground allspice

   3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

   1 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped


Preheat oven to 350°F. Roast potatoes on rimmed baking sheet until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cool slightly. Scoop flesh into large bowl; discard skins. Mash hot potatoes until coarse puree forms.

Heat cream and butter in heavy small saucepan over low heat until butter melts, stirring occasionally. Gradually stir hot cream mixture into hot potatoes. Stir in syrup, bourbon, and all spices. Season with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm in microwave. Sprinkle nuts over and serve.


  1. TMC

    These are great warmed with a little whipped cream, too

  2. Translator, aka Dr. David W. Smith

    Sweet potatoes (actually a member of the Morning Glory family, and if you cut off some of a tuber and put it in a water source, you will have a wonderfully attractive plant with morning glory like blooms in a few months.  But back to the suggestion.

    Sweet potatoes store their energy mainly as starch, especially after having been harvested a month or so before.  They also contain an enzyme that converts the starch back to sugar, but it becomes inactivated at around 170 degrees F.  For the sweetest sweet potatoes, do this simple trick:

    Start them in a very slow oven, at around 225 degrees F.  Keep them there for half an hour or so, then increase the temperature to 350 degrees F and cook them until they are tender.  The slow oven activates the enzyme (remember, heat transfer is extremely slow in an oven) which peaks it starch to sugar activity around 130 to 135 degrees F.  I have cooked even extremely old (thus very starchy) sweet potatoes that way and they are always sweet after cooking.

    I prefer mine just with a bit of butter and a little salt, but more elaborate recipes, like yours, are also excellent.  If you prepare them with temperature protocol, you might just begin to think that they do not need much more that butter and salt to be at their best, but I strongly suspect that they will be excellent in your recipe.

    If you cook them in water, note that the heat transfer is much more efficient than if in the oven.  Use a thermometer and keep the water at no greater than 135 degrees F for around 20 minutes or so before simmering them to make them soft.

    Warmest regards,


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