One of the best parts about tradition is how it evolves through the generations but at its core remains the same. Family recipes can be substituted and altered, but even more important than the specific ingredients is the sentiment and memories that can’t be erased. This sweet potato dish has made regular appearances at our holiday meals, and one of the fondest memories is how we decide to experiment with the dish every time we make it. Whether we’re adding more marshmallows than you’d think physically possible or deciding to use roasted or candied pecans, it’s still the same sweet potato soufflé we associate with family and comfort.
Cooking with Pecans
While pecans may not be Virginia’s cash crop of choice, they have grown here for hundreds of years. George Washington himself was one of the first to grow “Louisiana nuts” (pecans) in Virginia at his Mt. Vernon home over 200 years ago. Pecans have the perfect buttery taste that complements the sweetness of the sweet potatoes in this soufflé. Just simply spread the pecans on top before baking. They roast beautifully without any extra steps. Or, you could even use candied pecans as a topping.
Storing Sweet Potatoes
To keep sweet potatoes tasting their best, avoid keeping them in the refrigerator. While the coolness seems like a good idea, the especially low temperature can actually produce an unpleasant taste and extra hard center. For sweet potatoes, less is really more. If kept in a cool, dark, well-ventilated space, they will be guaranteed to stay fresh and delicious for weeks.
Fluffy Sweet Potato Soufflé
- 3 lbs sweet potatoes (about 6 large or 9 medium size potatoes)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- pecan halves and/or miniature marshmallows (preference)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil then add your washed sweet potatoes for about 30 minutes, or until cooked. You should be able to easily pierce the potato to the center with a fork.
- Immediately after the potatoes are cooked, remove from the hot water and place in an ice water bath. This should make the skin of the potatoes easy to remove with your fingers and simply slide off.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and have your casserole dish on hand. A 9x13-inch pan gives more surface area for topping if desired.
- Using a mixer or some muscle, combine the peeled sweet potatoes, eggs, salt and cinnamon until well combined and fluffy.
- Spread the sweet potato mixture into the pan, then add your pecans, brown sugar and then the melted butter on top. If adding marshmallows, simply spread them on top about three minutes before removing the soufflé from the oven, and keep a close eye on them to avoid burning.
- Bake for 25 minutes uncovered, then serve warm.
What to Pair with Sweet Potato Casseroles?
When pairing a wine with this sweet and slightly savory dish, the wine should have flavors of honey, nuts and candied fruit to help accentuate the flavors of the soufflé. A Petit Manseng would be the perfect pairing. Pearmund Cellars’ Petit Manseng features notes of mandarin orange, honeysuckle and lemon on the nose. Crisp acidity on the palate creates wonderful balance as it combines with flavors of apricot, pear and mango.
JENNIFER BRYERTON, our co-publisher, holds a masters degree in education and grew up in a family of farmers and storytellers. She enjoys visiting exquisite gardens and vineyards, cooking, travel and decor and time at home, where beehives and a chicken coop dot the lawn, and borders overflow with roses, peonies and lavender.
JANINE AQUINO has 30 years of business consulting and entrepreneur experience. Her focus lies in Agritourism—the grower, the producer. Having grown up in the Hudson Valley region of New York, on a small family vineyard, she learned grape growing, winemaking and distribution and is the 4th generation in her family to continue in the wine industry. While in NY, she studied food and wine pairings at the CIA and worked for a couple of wineries lining the Hudson River. She then received an opportunity to buy a boutique winery in Ohio, which she did and ran for 10 years. Opportunities were presented to her in VA to take the reins of a couple startup vineyards and fully develop them. After working with the wineries, she started Aquino Baron Consulting, an agritourism consulting company focused on wineries and cideries. She is a member of the Virginia Wineries Association, Virginia Vineyards Association and Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail, and sits on the Waynesboro Tourism Advisory Board.
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