Saturday, November 07, 2009

What I Am NOT Making for Thanksgiving

I like to mix things up on holidays, try out new things. It's not always a hit with the kids, who like holiday meals to be traditional, but the food bug is buried so deep inside me that I feel the need to experiment. Sometimes those experiments are disasters, in more ways than one.

Recently I tried to make Bourbon Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole with a Pecan Crust. It is from the Oct/Nov issue of Fine Cooking. Sounds like a good alternative to the sweet potato/marshmallow mash that has carried over from generations past, right? Not.

The ingredients seemed simple enough, most of which I had on hand. Two problems occurred: (1) I had to pull out 8 cooking vessels (2 bowls, 1 skillet, 2 saucepans, 2 baking pans, casserole dish), a fork, 2 knives, a masher, strainer, peeler, food processor and spatula, as well as numerous measuring spoons, measuring cups and mixing spoons. So, more than 20 total items to make one dish. Okay, so I should have read through the whole recipe first to figure this out, but who uses 20+ items to make a sweet potato dish? Not me...not ever again.

I am not a happy camper when it comes to doing dishes. It is one of my least favorite things, right behind scrubbing the toilet. But it is a necessary evil when testing recipes, and on most occasions I do not mind if the result is wonderful. Which leads me to item (2). The final dish was dry, starchy and much blander than I could have ever imagined. And given the work put into it (multiple steps over the course of two hours), it was an unqualified disaster. I wouldn't even eat it past the first few bites.

The recipe calls for sweet potatoes but doesn't designate the exact type. Grocery stores in my neck of the woods call the white sweet potatoes by their proper name, sweet potatoes. Yellow or orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are called yams. So I bought sweet potatoes, the white ones. This was the basis for the dish and what ruined it. Sweet potatoes are starchier and drier than either russet-style potatoes or yams, and need a lot to amp up their flavor and take away all the starchiness. This recipe did not come close to doing so. Even with apples and pecans and ginger…and bourbon.

Sorry, Fine Cooking. Hate to slam a recipe, and given the trouble I went to I am not going to retry the recipe with yams. Especially since I cannot get that two hours back and there is no dispensation from doing dishes on the recipes that don't work out!

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