Top | The Christmas Table

Whipped Garnet Yams with a Pecan Praline Crust

(recipe, Diane Morgan)

Introduction

Candied yams are traditional on the Thanksgiving table, but this winter root vegetable is a colorful and welcome addition to the Christmas table, too. For years, I have taught Thanksgiving classes around the country, and every time I demonstrate this recipe and the students sample the dish, they tell me these yams are the best they have ever tasted. They are lightened with eggs and enriched with butter and brown sugar. But the praline crust is what makes this casserole divine. Hot from the oven, the meltingly lush topping is bubbly in the center and browned to a caramelized sugary-crisp at the edges. If time permits, you can make the whipped yams and the topping a day in advance. Cover and refrigerate them separately. Remove the yams and topping an hour before you plan to bake the casserole. Warm the topping and spread it over the yams just before baking.

Ingredients

    Yams
    1. 6 large garnet yams (about 5½ pounds total), scrubbed
    2. ¾ cup milk
    3. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
    4. 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
    5. ¾ cup packed dark-brown sugar
    Topping
    1. 4 Tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter
    2. ¾ cup packed dark-brown sugar
    3. ½ tsp. kosher or sea salt
    4. ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
    5. ½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
    6. ¾ cup heavy (whipping) cream
    7. 1½ cups coarsely chopped pecans
    8. 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

    Steps

    1. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pierce each yam several times with a fork and place them in a baking pan. Bake the yams until very tender when pierced with a fork, 1¼ to 1½ hours. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
    2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk and butter until the butter has melted and the mixture is hot but not boiling. Cut the yams in half, scoop the flesh into a large bowl, and discard the skins. Pass the yams through a ricer or food mill held over a bowl, or mash with a potato masher. Stir the milk mixture into the yams. Whisk in the eggs and continue whisking until well combined with the yam mixture. Add the brown sugar and stir until thoroughly blended.
    3. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, or an 11-inch round oven-to-table casserole dish. Spread the sweet potato mixture evenly in the casserole. Set aside while making the topping. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
    4. To make the praline topping, melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over low heat. Stir in the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cream, and pecans. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick, about 5 minutes. If the mixture begins to boil and splatter, turn down the heat to maintain a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the topping over the sweet potatoes and spread in an even layer with a rubber spatula.
    5. Bake until the topping is slightly crusty and set, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately directly from the dish.