It was my great pleasure to attend the completely delicious St Patty's day party held by my dear friends Jeff and Robin last Saturday. Given that it's a party, especially one given in honor of a dude who drove snakes out of Ireland a la Samuel L. Jackson, how can one not bring food?I decided from the get-go that I wanted to make something different. Something homey and delicious, but devoid of potatoes since I knew they'd be prevalent (this comment should not in any way be construed as "oh look at me, I don't eat potatoes" because that simply isn't true. In fact, I'm eating a potato right now. Raw). But I still wanted to maintain the ethnicity in some way, which meant that my typical dates-stuffed-with-goat-cheese appetizer (ooooh that's a post all its own!) was out. Eventually after googling Irish side dishes I stumbled upon a recipe for a Sweet Potato Bake. I know I'm not alone in saying "I LOVE sweet potatoes!!!"
You may be asking yourself "how are sweet potatoes Irish?" Well, dear reader .... they're not and I was just as baffled as you are as to what about them would make them Irish. Sweet potatoes themselves have their origins in South America, so my guess is that it's more about the preparation and less about the main ingredient; this recipe calls for butter, flour, heavy cream, milk, all ingredients that one may find in scalloped potatoes, which *may* have an origin in Ireland. That's my most educated guess.
Another neat little tidbit is that sweet potatoes are high in complex carbs, fiber, and loads of other goodies the translation of which is that they are extremely good for you. How good for you they are after drowning them in whipping cream and butter isn't important right now. The point is that the decision on what to bring was made, and delicious consequences ensued.
I found this recipe at littleshamrocks.com. More specifically here: http://www.littleshamrocks.com/Irish-Side-Dish-Recipes.html#IrishSweetPotatoBake
8 c. sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin
6 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. flour
2 c. heavy cream
1 c. milk
1/2 c. brown sugar
Oven 350 F
Place potatoes in 3-4 quart casserole. In saucepan, melt butter, stir in brown sugar until dissolved. Stir in flour, then gradually add cream and milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat until thickened. Pour sauce over potatoes. Place casserole on a cookie sheet and cook covered at 350F for 1 hour. Remove cover and cook for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Yield: 12 servings
I was amazed at the amount of sweet potato it actually took to come to 8 cups; only two huge potatoes! I'd bought and peeled five just to be safe, so I had plenty of extra which I froze until such time as the world (or more importantly my sweet tooth) needs them. The preparation was remarkably and blissfully easy using the blade feature on my trusty food processor (I'm not a fan of chopping...I just don't have the knack!). It got the potatoes to the perfect width and took all of 15-20 minutes including the peeling and cutting pieces to fit through the portal, so I'd say this is definitely the way to go.
I followed the recipe exactly regarding the cream mixture and I would say that constant stirring is essential. There is an odd satisfaction with working with whipping cream since there is a moment when it is liquid, and then suddenly it isn't; the moment of "catch" as it were. I'd say immediately after boiling, it must be removed from heat and poured over the potatoes. I've only done this once, but the burn probability seemed extremely high. At first I was a little concerned since the cream mixture just sort of sat on top, but of course it was all for naught. As it baked, everything sunk in perfectly and away we went.
I had to run for a few hours, so I didn't get to see the initial reaction of the beloved masses as they sunk their teeth into the concoction, but I have it on good authority that it was well received :-) Oh, and it's great for leftovers. It doesn't need much heating up, and it's also pretty good cold!