Roasted Sweet Potatoes
November 15, 2016 4:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm an American living abroad trying to cobble together something for Thanksgiving sans oven. I also am an idiot when it comes to cooking. I can buy roasted sweet potatoes on the street, how can I make them like sweet potato casserole or similar? Also, any other easy Thanksgiving-ish side dish ideas would be appreciated.
posted by Trifling to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Depends on what you mean by sweet potato casserole.

I bake my sweet potatoes (about an hour at 350 on a tray with foil - they tend to leak and are super sticky), then peel them while they're warm.

Then I cut them in half and candy them in butter and brown sugar (basically making sure the pan is covered the entire time, so adding more as needed to cover the bottom of the pan) and put them into a pyrex. It takes maybe 3-4 minutes total in the pan, and I turn them every minute or so.

Finally, I cover in mini marshmallows and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Sounds complicated, but it's pretty easy and it's freaking delicious.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:29 PM on November 15, 2016

Would it be possible to use an oven substitute? Plug-in countertop ovens exist, and toaster ovens work similarly although the heating is definitely more even in the bigger units.

When I lived in Hong Kong, where built-in ovens are very rare, I made toaster oven brownies all the time, and a friend made a turducken in a countertop oven for Thanksgiving.
posted by danceswithlight at 4:36 PM on November 15, 2016

Hmmm. How about a slow cooker? Do you have that? I bet you could make an awesome sweet potato casserole in a slow cooker. Here are some more ideas:

Ovenless Chef's blog has Thanksgiving recipes
So does Girl Meets Formosa also has good ideas (the creamed corn and roasted potatoes look especially delish)
Buzzfeed, too!

Good luck!
posted by onecircleaday at 4:47 PM on November 15, 2016

If you have already-baked sweet potatoes, that's 90% of the work. My family's "sweet potato pie" takes peeled baked sweet potatoes, and stirs in brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg (nuts and raisins optional). Put all this in a casserole dish, cover with marshmallows, and brown in the oven. Without the oven...a creme brûlée blowtorch would do the same? Toaster oven? Toast marshmallows over a candle and stick them on the casserole?
posted by instamatic at 5:01 PM on November 15, 2016

Do you have a large cooking pot? The way I made "oven things" in Peace Corps was a large aluminum cooking pot on a gas burner and then on the inside used small old tomatoe tons to hold the casserole/dish/baking pan off the bottom. Lid on top and then you're set.

It does take longer and things don't brown as well (which would be a bummer for the marshmallows) but it gets the job done. Many pies, brownies, stuffing, and quick breads were made this way.

Warning- if you do the same thing of using old food tins to hold the item off the bottom they will put out a weird smoke the first time but will be fine after that.

Good luck!
posted by raccoon409 at 5:07 PM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

For the sweet potatoes, it's going to be a different kind of sweet potato than you think of for the stereotypical casserole, so it won't taste the same but it'll still be yummy! Just keep that in mind.

Just buy some and remove the skins. You can let them cool completely. Cut into chunks and put into a bowl. Mash with a fork or your hands or whatever.

Melt like... a couple tablespoons of butter per sweet potato. Into the melted butter, put in a teaspoon of cinnamon, a tablespoon of sugar, a teaspoon of salt, and any combination of holiday spices you can find where you are, including dried grated ginger, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg. You might find a "pumpkin spice" blend, which would work well.

Stir that all into the butter to combine and then stir that all into the mashed sweet potatoes. Add a splash of milk or coconut milk and mix it up so things get smooth. Here's the trick: taste it! If you want it to be sweeter or saltier or whatever, add more of whatever. If you really think you're gonna mess things up, buy extra sweet potatoes and then add more when you've messed up the spice balance to even things out.

Once it tastes pretty good to you, find a heavy bottomed pan or pot with a lid that can hold it all evenly. Melt a little butter in the bottom. Spread the potato into it with a spatula and set the heat to low. You want to heat it all through and brown the bottom. Stick the lid on so it doesn't dry out. If you're really worried about it drying out, put a little milk on the top. Walk away and let it do its thing.

When it gets browned on the bottom it should release from the pan around the sides and maybe feel a bit loose when you shake it a bit. Put an inverted platter on top and then carefully, with towels in both hands, flip it so the browned bottom is facing up and the platter is right side up. Take the pan off. If it's sticking, you can try to ease it out by poking a knife all around the edges before you do the flippy trick, but just being patient is probably the best.

Okay I haven't done anything beyond that, but if you wanted marshmallows on top, you could probably get to the point where you flip it, and then stick some marshmallows in the still-hot pan, cook them a bit and then flip those on top of the potatoes, or maybe just scoop them out and place them on top. Cover with foil and let the heat of everything meld it together.

Other Thanksgivingy ideas:

Duck is pretty holiday special seeming, you could probably get pre-roasted or smoked duck. Then make a mushroom gravy for it instead of whatever's typical where you are.

Get some mushrooms, whatever's fresh, plain button ones are great, some shitake is tasty but do a combination because they are really distinctive in flavor. Wash and slice them, and cook them in a pan with some butter on a medium heat. They'll release a lot of liquid. Be patient and wait for the liquid to cook off and they'll begin to brown. Once browned, splash some wine on them to help bring up all the yummy brown bits. Let the wine simmer away again. While that's happening, dice up part of an onion or shallot, like, half as much volume of onion as you have mushrooms. Put that in the pan with the twice-browned mushrooms and some more butter, and salt. Let the onions get tender and then repeat the deglazing process with chicken or duck or vegetable stock, and/or more wine. Once it's all cooked down it'll be brown and delicious looking and smell really good. Sprinkle a little flour in the pan, or a teeny tiny bit of cornstarch and stir to combine. Add a couple cups of stock (or just water with extra salt) and bring it to a simmer. Let it bubble for a bit, stirring thoroughly. Taste it and add stuff like salt, fresh herbs, a little sugar, some more wine or another kind of booze (sherry or any herb preserved liquor would be good) and taste it again. When it tastes delicious, take it off the heat. You can do this way ahead of time and fridge or freeze it, just warm on the stove when you want gravy. Spoon onto your duck (and other food!) and be sure to get mushroom slices on there.

If you have roasted chestnuts near you, that's pretty Thanksgivingy. You could just have them as a snack, or chop them and mix them into a salad, or warm them up and serve with your meat, or mix them into your sweet potatoes.

Oranges and other citrus fruits are really good for cutting the richness of Thanksgiving food, so slice some up and just eat them plain, or add to a salad of greens and roasted nuts.
posted by Mizu at 5:34 PM on November 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you have a pot and can boil some potatoes you can make ZOMG the best mashed potatoes of all time, Pioneer Woman's mashed potatoes. They are THE. BOMB.

If you're into cranberry sauce you can take a bag of cranberries + a jar of raspberry preserves/jam, put them in a pot, bring to a boil then turn the heat down and simmer for 20ish minutes and voila, done.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:50 PM on November 15, 2016

Take filling components. Mash. Fry in butter.
Take topping components. Smash. Toast in skillet. Let cool -- that's important. You can pop it in the fridge, if you're in a rush.

Wait from zero seconds to a couple days.
Put topping on top of filling. Voila!

For the filling, may I suggest: salt, pepper, orange flavoring -- zest/oil/juice/all -- and brown sugar.
For the topping, may I suggest: brown sugar, hot paprika, smashed almonds, butter, flour, i.e.: almond streusel.
(Mix everything but the butter in a small bowl. Melt butter in largish skillet over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in flour mixture until moistened and mixture forms small clumps. Return to low heat and cook, stirring frequently, until streusel is golden brown and well toasted, 6 to 9 minutes. Transfer streusel to large plate to cool.)

Plagiarized from above link and also from Bon Appetit November 2001.
posted by feral_goldfish at 5:59 PM on November 15, 2016

Dutch oven + hot coals to make dump cakes?
posted by oceanjesse at 6:19 PM on November 15, 2016

Oranges and other citrus fruits are really good for cutting the richness of Thanksgiving food, so slice some up and just eat them plain, or add to a salad of greens and roasted nuts.

You definitely need something like that -- the orange in the yam casserole really helps. But in my experience salad doesn't play well, texturally, with the traditional thanksgiving side dishes.

What performs this function best and most traditionally is cranberry relish, especially raw cranberry relish. Sadly my recipe has somehow converted itself into an unreadable unix file. But this raw cranberry and orange recipe looks like it, too, is based on ye olde Joy of Cooking (the Depression-era edition with squirrel recipe).

-I've never tried it with ginger. Sounds good, though.
-You definitely don't want that much sugar. No more than half a cup.
-It gets better the longer it sits in the fridge (but we almost never manage this).
-Chopping cranberries is crazy, with or without a food processor. I wind up chopping them each by hand, while chatting or listening to podcast. It takes more time, but is easy, soothing, and somehow viciously satisfying if you've already tried dealing with the buggers while they're skittering around. Once they're chopped, put them in a bowl and mash them with a beer bottle or whatever. Then add the other stuff and stir and mash some more, just to give it a head start on marinating.
-Ideally, you want the inside of the orange and the zest of the orange, but not the pith of the orange, because it's bitter, and not as refreshing as the other bitter things.
-I do not know whether you can find cranberries in Harbin, China. Perhaps it was one of the 20 second-and third-tier Chinese cities where cranberry awareness has recently been measured. In any event, raising cranberry awareness overseas is patriotic, apparently.

(Blah blah US trade deficit, blah blah recent cranberry oversupply, blah blah rural Wisconsin, although frankly ... yeah well nevermind. Happy Thanksgiving! )
posted by feral_goldfish at 6:41 PM on November 15, 2016

Harbin probably doesn't know about cranberries, but can you convince yourself that hawthorn berries are similar enough? The most common format is as haw flakes but maybe you can find them whole, maybe candied, on long skewers.

You could easily do a stovetop stuffing, if you can find sage / thyme / whatever herbs make it taste familiar to you, and sufficiently crusty bread. Maybe you can cube up steamed buns and let those get stale; it won't be crusty, but with broth, it doesn't matter.

As for the sweet potato casserole, I was thinking blowtorch as well, to get the caramelization on top.
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:37 PM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd make this simple recipe for Candied Sweet Potatoes, and just pick it up at step 2.

I'd outsource the chicken / duck / poultry as mizu suggests, and do a stove-top dressing / stuffing to have alongside. Here's one easy stove top stuffing recipe, but there are many more out there! (for the broth in this recipe, if you can't get carton/canned broth, just boil a chicken breast or leg/thigh for later sandwich use, and use the broth for the stuffing.)

Or if you prefer a rice dressing, I usually just make it up as I go along: sautee some chopped onion and mushroom, add some herbs such as thyme, parsley, or sage; toss in a bit of most any kind of dried fruit (like raisins, cranberries, apricot or cherries); and add some small or crushed nuts (such as pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, or pistachios), mix it up with cooked long grain rice (I use a combo with wild rice, when I can get it; brown rice mixes nicely too). Cooking the rice in broth adds some extra flavor, and if you want you can also put cooked ground sausage or giblets in there (I sometimes use boiled chopped chicken hearts, if available).
posted by taz at 12:35 AM on November 16, 2016

We've always had our Thanksgiving sweet potatoes either roasted, boiled, or baked in their jackets. Butter and salt to taste at the table. So, that's definitely an option if you don't have what you need to make them the way that you're used to. You may find you enjoy a little variety.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:47 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

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