As a child, there was no dish I loved and hated more than candied yams. I expected it on our holiday table, even fantasized about the toasty, gooey marshmallows that covered the slimy, watery yams (which were actually sweet potatoes incorrectly named).
When I became a mother, I included the beautifully loathsome dish in every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and nagged my sons and husband to eat the concoction, not just the marshmallows, just as I had been told, too.
A few years ago, I finally figured out that tradition wasn’t repeating the same saccharin-sweet mistakes of our forefathers, and that I could make any food I wanted, as long as it captured the spirit of our celebration.
So – I started toying with dishes I really didn’t like as much as I thought, starting with candied yams.
One of the first big changes I made was using fresh sweet potatoes and nixing (once and for all) the syrupy canned spuds. I made some mistakes along the way (finding out the hard way you have to cook the sweet potatoes before adding marshmallows, and with great displeasure realizing there IS such a thing as too much fluff, etc.etc.) but in the end, I discovered a new appreciation for the vegetable I once loathed, and came up with a pretty fantastic recipe for the holidays that my entire family enjoys.
The following recipe also combines butternut squash into the fold because I love it and it makes the dish just a little bit healthier.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Butternut Squash with Bacon, Brown Sugar and Pecan Crumble – serves 8-10
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 3-4 cups)
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (about 3-4 cups)
3 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
For the topping:
6 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 400F
Combine the sweet potatoes, butternut squash, cold butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a large baking dish.
Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes or until the sweet potatoes and butternut squash are tender and roasted.
While the mixture cooks, fry the bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels.
In a large bowl combine the chopped pecans, brown sugar and cooked bacon pieces.
Uncover the sweet potatoes and butternut squash and test for doneness. Taste for salt, adding more if necessary.
Cover the sweet potatoes and butternut squash with the bacon brown sugar and pecan mixture evenly.
Place the pan back in the oven, uncovered, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the brown sugar seeps into the dish and the pecans are nice and golden.
Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.