Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Sweet Potatoes for a Crowd

Yesterday my mom's side of the family started the holiday season with our annual Christmas party & Yankee Swap. It's always quite the production and has become so large, in fact, that we have to rent a hall to fit everyone. With 9 aunts and uncles (and their spouses) and 23 first cousins, plus who knows how many second cousins (I think it numbers somewhere in the 30s...), you can imagine it's quite the crowd to feed.

According to the all mighty keeper of the potluck sign-up sheet (aka my mom), my charge this year was to bring "a vegetable." However, squash, potatoes and green bean casserole were all already taken. So my task was to figure out another veggie I could bring and keep warm for a couple of hours in a slow cooker.

At first I thought carrots, but then I figured they'd get mushy sitting in the slow cooker for hours. And corn didn't really seem like a holiday vegetable. Mr. valleywriter suggested sweet potato pie, which I didn't quite think counted as a vegetable (can it be a veggie if it has a crust?).
But I ran with the basic idea and ended making a sweet potato casserole. This recipe nearly filled my 5 quart slow cooker, so unless you're feeding an Irish Catholic family like mine, you'll probably want to cut it at least in half (if not more).

Sweet Potato Casserole
about 5 lbs. sweet potatoes (these may be labeled "yams" at the grocery store, but in all likelihood, they're really sweet potatoes; real yams are rarely sold in the U.S.)
2/3 c. butter, melted
1/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 c. milk

1 c. pecans, chopped
2/3 c. brown sugar
4 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Scrub sweet potatoes, dry and prick each several times with a fork. Place on ungreased baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes until potatoes give when you squeeze them. Let sweet potatoes cool until you can easily handle them. Peel and discard the skin.
Cut peeled sweet potatoes into chunks and mash. (If you want, you can do this the day before and refrigerate the cooked, mashed sweet potatoes until the next day.)

In a large mixing bowl, beat mashed sweet potatoes, 2/3 c. butter, 1/4 c. white sugar and 1/4 c. brown sugar until well mixed. Beat in eggs and milk. Transfer to slow cooker.

In a separate bowl, mix 2/3 c. brown sugar, flour and 3 Tbsp. butter. Toss in pecans and mix to coat. Sprinkle over sweet potato mixture.

Put the cover on your slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours.

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