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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Aunt Shirley's Sweet Potato Casserole

Flipping through a recipe box is a walk through memories. Every Thanksgiving, I love making the sweet potato casserole I first had in 2000, when I ate with my boyfriend Eddie's family in Dothan, Alabama.

The rest of my family scattered that year, and my mom's mom found herself with nowhere to spend the holiday. Eddie and I drove three hours round trip on Thanksgiving to bring Grandmama to his family's feast. Her favorite dish was Eddie's Aunt Shirley's sweet potatoes. Grandmama liked them so much, she had a second helping of them for dessert.

Both Grandmama and Shirley have passed away, and Eddie is now married and a daddy, but every fall I pull out the creased, splattered copy of the recipe Eddie's mom wrote for me to keep. I boil and mash the potatoes, chop pecans for the topping, melt entirely too much butter and remember how another family made me feel right at home.

Sweet Potato Casserole
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 cup to 1 cup sugar
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup oleo
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. butter
2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup oleo
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup to 1 cup chopped nuts

Boil and mash sweet potatoes. Add all other ingredients. Put in a casserole and top with topping. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Notes: I wanted to post the recipe in its original form, as above. Oleo is what most Southerners used to call margarine; I just use pure butter instead. Begin by peeling and cutting sweet potatoes into about two-inch chunks.

Cover with water, bring to a boil, simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender, and mash with butter until smooth.
I typically double the sweet potato mix to have about six cups of mashed potatoes. I use four eggs and 2/3 cup evaporated milk but keep the other proportions about the same. I'm not afraid of sugar and butter, but I just don't think you need quite that much. Be careful when you are filling up your casserole dish; remember this will puff up a bit while baking because of the eggs, so leave yourself some room.
This is a pretty standard Southern recipe, but I think what makes Shirley's version unique is the fact it doubles the topping, so you get lots of nutty, sugary goodness on top.
If you want to plan ahead, you can bake it and cool it, refrigerate overnight, wrap in foil and freeze it until Thanksgiving. Defrost it and bake again on the holiday. While I'm filling my big casserole, I like to spoon a little extra into a smaller dish. That gives me something to enjoy one weeknight with pork tenderloin when I want a special treat.


Page Leggett said...

Thanks to you, Aunt Shirley's sweet potato casserole is now a delicious hallmark of my family's Thanksgiving. I love that my parents began their married life in Dothan and that you've shared a part of your Dothan history with us.

Dee Stephens said...

bringing you a sample of mine tomorrow! Awesome indeed!

tlweeks said...

Shirley started doubling the topping for me, my favorite part! I miss her so much!! I'm so glad you enjoyed that Thanksgiving. Thank you for sharing!!

Sugar Sister said...

That made me cry! Isn't amazing how traditions are started? Shared? Passed Around and Down? I will be making the very same recipe this Thanksgiving, but mine was handwritten by Mamaw. :-) Oleo......gottta love it!
Eddie's cousin Christie