Recipe Project #78 & 79: the usual late autumn lovelies

There are two things I love about late autumn farmers markets: brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. (One would also think pie pumpkins, and perhaps that will eventually be true.) We love brussels sprouts straight off the stalk, so much so that for years we’ve only eaten them steamed and then tossed with a bit of good butter and sea salt. We’ve tried them roasted, and Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for dijon-braised brussels sprouts looks amazing, but we always return to the simplicity of steamed brussels sprouts. So it was a departure to try shredded brussels sprouts with pancetta after Shauna Ahern blogged it. It’s a marvelous dish, and very quick if you have a food processor. It changes up the texture in lovely ways, and it’ll be a keeper for us.

Just before Thanksgiving, we decided to drive over to check out the Rochester Public Market, and I came away with a bundle of sweet potatoes, among other things. I had already decided to make cherry pie for the holiday dinner (to use up some of the 15 quarts of sour cherries I froze this summer), but suddenly sweet potato pie was also on the menu. I settled on this recipe from one of my longtime favorite cookbooks, Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen. (I’ve been cooking from it for 25 years now. Lord.) We’ll also be making this again and again. The marriage of sweet potato and pecan is perfect, and the two levels of sweetness balance each other perfectly. The whole thing is just made for a strong cup of coffee or straight black tea.

Paul Prudhomme’s Sweet Potato Pecan Pie
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 of a whole egg, vigorously beaten until frothy (reserve the other half for the sweet-potato filling)
2 tablespoons cold milk
1 cup all-purpose flour

Sweet-Potato Filling:
2-3 sweet potatoes (or enough to yield 1 cup cooked pulp), baked
1/4 cup, packed, light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 egg, vigorously beaten until frothy (reserved above)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pecan Pie Syrup:
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 small eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
3/4 cup pecan pieces or halves

For the dough: Place the softened butter, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer; beat on high speed until the mixture is creamy. Add the 1/2 egg and beat 30 seconds. Add the milk and beat on high speed 2 minutes. Add the flour and beat on medium speed 5 seconds, then on high speed just until blended, about 5 seconds more (overmixing will produce a tough dough). Remove the dough from the bowl and shape into a 5-inch patty about 1/2 inch thick. Lightly dust the patty with flour and wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 1 hour, preferably overnight. (The dough will last up to one week refrigerated.)

On a lightly floured surface roll out dough to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Very lightly flour the top of the dough and fold it into quarters. Carefully place dough in a greased and floured 8-inch round cake pan (1 1/2 inches deep) so that the corner of the folded dough is centered in the pan. Unfold the dough and arrange it to fit the sides and bottom of pan; press firmly in place. Trim edges. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

For the sweet-potato filling: Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed of electric mixer until the batter is smooth, 2-3 minutes. Do not overbeat. Set aside.

For the pecan pie syrup: Combine all the ingredients except the pecans in a mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly on slow speed of electric mixer until the syrup is opaque, about 1 minute; stir in pecans and set aside.

To assemble: Spoon the sweet-potato filling evenly into the dough-lined cake pan. Pour the pecan syrup on top. Bake in a 325 degree oven until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 3/4 hours. (Note: The pecans will rise to the top of the pie during baking.) Store pie at room temperature for the first 24 hours then (in the unlikely even there is any left) refrigerate.

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