By Barbara Beltrami

As the countdown for Thanksgiving begins, the cooking side of my brain starts thinking of recipes, old ones and some variations on them as well as new ones to jazz up the dinner a bit. It seems like a good time to take you along on this culinary journey and share with you this week and next some of the recipes that have been in my files for a long time and some that have recently landed there. This week I’ve been fooling around with sweet potatoes. Although I personally think that a sweet potato baked in its skin can’t be improved upon, I know most people think a sweet potato has to be made even sweeter with things like brown sugar and maple syrup and yes, marshmallows. Capitulating to the majority I offer you the following recipes.

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes and Apples

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups peeled cooked sweet potatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch discs

1½ cups tart apples, cored, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch half moons

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

½ stick unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9×5×13-inch baking dish or deep pie dish. Evenly arrange half the sweet potatoes in the dish, then half the apples followed by half the sugar and half the salt; dot with butter; repeat procedure using second half of ingredients. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes, uncover and bake till apples are soft and top is brown. Serve with turkey, chicken or duck.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon and Pecans

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

4 sweet potatoes

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

 2 eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup heavy cream

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup raisins

¼ cup bourbon

½ cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Scrub potatoes and bake until tender, about 45 minutes, depending on size. When cool enough to handle, peel and mash in a large bowl. Add sugar, butter, eggs, cream, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and raisins, and mix until thoroughly combined. Turn into greased casserole and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes; soak pecans in bourbon for at least an hour, then sprinkle them with the bourbon  on top and bake another 10 minutes, until they just start to brown. Serve with turkey and cranberry sauce.

Sweet Potato-Cranberry Casserole

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

6 sweet potatoes, peeled, boiled, and cut into ½-inch-thick slices

1½ cups whole cranberry sauce

¾ cup water

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place potato slices in a 2-quart greased casserole. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cranberry sauce, water, sugar, zest and cinnamon; bring to boil and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in butter until it melts; pour mixture over sweet potatoes. Bake 20 minutes or until heated through and bubbly. Serve with turkey and stuffing.

Roasted Marinated Sweet Potatoes

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup olive oil

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves

2 teaspoons honey or brown sugar

Juice of one freshly squeezed lemon

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large ovenproof skillet heat the quarter-cup of oil. Add the sweet potato chunks and over medium heat let them caramelize on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes; add salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary and toss together. Transfer pan to oven and roast until tip of sharp knife pierces the potatoes easily, about 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to large bowl; add honey, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons oil; toss to coat; let sit and cool to room temperature or serve warm. Serve with meat or poultry and tossed green salad.

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