Has anyone noticed that there's no debate this year? To stuff or not to stuff... To brine or not to brine... Yes, you can fast-cook a turkey at high-heat but should you? I think we all have debate fatigue; election fatigue; Washington gridlock fatigue -- and it's all somehow spilled over into Thanksgiving. We're going to the mountains so even the debate about whether we should have a second "fried" turkey (since we're sort of in the middle of the forest), is off the table as we'd probably burn the hills down. Steven Raichlen (the Beer-Can Chicken guy) does have a great BBQ'd turkey recipe, I've been told, but for the above reason we won't be trying that this year either...
Not to start a debate, but Thanksgiving is either the coziest or the most dysfunctional holiday on the planet -- and this year, we're all hoping for peace or at least that the ceasefire holds.
Having said that, here's how I feel about sweet potatoes. Why make sweet potatoes when you can make yams? Yams are so much sweeter and their color is so much more distinctive. Most people want the Thanksgiving of their childhood -- for years I made Evelyn Hall's Yams and Dried Apples -- a yam casserole which involves massive amounts of butter, brown sugar, dried apples and fresh orange juice. Every year my son or my nephew would say, "Can't we have the one with marshmallows?!" and somehow it, too, would find its way to the table. (Neither my son or that nephew will be with us this Thanksgiving, so that request, or debate, if you will is also off the table.)
But a few years ago, I branched out, broke with tradition and invented a very simple recipe that's a lot like mashed potatoes with a twist (or two) depending on your mood. It's elegant. It's refined. And it has endless possibilities. Endless possibilities seems a good idea this year as conversely there's chatter about the fiscal cliff.
Did I mention it's also incredibly simple?
Amy Ephron's Yam Souffle
The first steps are a lot like mashed potatoes. Pick quantity depending on how many people you're serving -- but use at least five yams or the souffle dish won't be full enough to puff.
Cut the yams and boil them (with their skins on), it's really easier to peel them after they're cooked. Drain in a colander, let cool a tiny bit and peel the skins off.
Mash in a bowl with as much butter and milk as you like until the consistency is slightly creamier than mashed potatoes. Add a tiny bit of salt and freshly ground pepper as you mash.
Separate four eggs, discard the yolks and, in a separate bowl, beat the whites until they're stiff. (Tip: Adding a little salt, makes it easier to beat the egg whites stiff.)
Gently fold the stiff egg whites into the mashed yams.
Pour into a souffle dish.
And bake at 375° for twenty to thirty minutes -- until the souffle rises a bit and there are little wisps of brown at the top. (Use the interior oven light and try not to open the oven until they're done, but it's not quite as delicate as a regular souffle, so it's not disastrous if you do...)
Variations -- if you're looking for something a little spicy, or sultry, or smoky, finely dice one chipotle pepper and add it in as you're mashing the potatoes. Or conversely, add a little nutmeg, (or cinnamon), little being the operative word, before you mash.
And in an effort to be bi-partisan, did I mention this is also excellent if you make it with sweet potatoes instead of yams, a little more subtle and a tiny bit paler, but still delicious.
If you've invented anything for Thanksgiving, we'd love to hear about it!