One of my FAVORITE Thanksgiving memories involves my sister Jennifer, two recovered-alcoholic great uncles, and Sweet Potato Casserole. Does somebody smell mischief?
Much to David’s chagrin, my family has never been fond of encasing sweet potatoes in a crusty tarp of mini-marshmallows. Seriously, it’s a side dish, not a s’more! That idea in mind, my sister set out to create her own take on Sweet Potato Casserole.
Now Jennifer loves Jesus, but she does drink a little. For several years, she had been spiking the butter, brown sugar, & pecan topping of our sweet potatoes with a splash (or eight) of Maker’s Mark. It was a secret we kept from my beloved teetotaler grandmother, who (much to our amusement) always commented, “Well Jennifer, your sweet potatoes are mighty delicious!”
But one Thanksgiving, Jen was feeling a little extra spunky and decided to tip the Maker’s Mark bottle into the actual sweet potato mixture. Now, we’ve all tried to add a dash and gotten a bit overzealous. Sista drowned those freakin’ potatoes in bourbon. We’re talking Bourbon-Sweet Potato Bisque! Of course we were out of sweet potatoes, so there was no turning back. We did the only thing we could do—top them with bourbon-brown sugar-butter, and headed over to grandma’s for dinner.
After ten minutes in my grandmother’s oven, that bourbon-soaked casserole had suffused the entire house with the heavy scent of sour mash. Jen and I were chuckling mischievously, that is until we realized that our two great uncles, Fred and Doyle, were joining us for dinner. Both had enjoyed a bit too much fun in their younger days, and our family mythology spoke whispers of a fondness for the drink. It was too late for honesty, so we decided to just let it ride. Surely it would be fine, we thought.
We cut our eyes at each other during their first helping. We had the outright church giggles for their second helping. But when they rose to get a third, we had to come clean. I mean, surely you can’t relapse from Sweet Potato Casserole, but who knows? Turns out it was no big deal, and we all—including my grandmother—had a big laugh about it. But I’ll tell you this—nobody was quick to get behind the wheel. Those potatoes were like a culinary Jägar Bomb.
So, in honor of Jennifer and in memory of May and Doyle, here’s my take on Sweet Potatoes. Roasted instead of mashed for a little more texture…but I had to keep the whiskey!
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Bacon and Walnuts
(with a Jack Daniels-molasses glaze!)
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large white onion, rough chopped
1 TBSP olive oil
8 slices of bacon
1 cup walnuts, chopped
3 TBSP Jack Daniels
3 TBSP cider vinegar
2 TBSP canola oil
2 TSP molasses
Dash of salt
First, preheat your oven to 425. Get your potatoes and onions oiled and salted, and put them in to roast for 25 minutes. Use a big enough pan so they can spread out and not steam into mush.
Next, get your bacon cooked. I cut mine with scissors, cooked it over medium in a skillet for like 10 minutes, and drained it.
Now, make your glaze. Combine the Jack, vinegar, and molasses, then whisk in the oil. Remove your taters from the oven (after 35 minutes) then douse with the glaze (it’s fun…it sizzles!) Add walnuts and bacon, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with extra salt. Roast for an additional 10 minutes at 350. Then you’re done!
If you want to make Jen’s boozer version, simply top canned sweet potatoes with a mixture (pre-done in a bowl) of a stick of softened butter, half a cup of brown sugar, a cup of chopped pecans, and enough bourbon to make life interesting. Enjoy! 😉