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Little White Lab Rat Goes Fruity

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 20, 2011

A continuing series, in which Your Humble Servant tries out recipes from past church sources, to bring you the best and spare you the worst of Mormon culinary heritage …

I like sweet potatoes, baked and with butter and salt. I’ve never cared at all for the gooey sweet potato casseroles made with marshmallows and brown sugar. Still, I like sweet potatoes well enough to have found attractive this recipe in the March 1931 Improvement Era:

Boil sweet potatoes; when cold, skin and slice 3/4 of an inch thick. Butter a baking dish. Put in a layer of potatoes, and over them a layer of uncooked sliced apples. Sprinkle with brown sugar and butter. Place in the oven and bake until apples are cooked.

Sweet potatoes and banana may be cooked the same way.

Ordinarily I follow My Mother’s Law of New Recipes: Try the recipe exactly as written first, then experiment with any changes you think would make it better. I broke the Law again this time: I think the texture of boiled sweet potatoes is nasty. It seemed to me that the basic idea was merely to cook the sweet potatoes before adding the fruit, since the potatoes would take quite a bit longer to soften than either apples or bananas.

Besides, if our sisters of 1931 had had microwave ovens, they would have used them, no?

So I microwaved two large potatoes until they were soft, let them cool completely so they would be easy to handle, and sliced them as directed. (I thought it would be easier to pull a strip of peel from a sliced potato than to handle a naked potato and try to keep it all together for the slicing – Little White Lab Rat really went outlaw this time, breaking the Law in so many different ways.)

I have some single-serving casserole dishes, so I lined up three of them. In the first I layered the potatoes and apples, sprinkled very little sugar, and dotted with butter. In the second, I repeated with bananas. In the third, I used apples and a little butter, but omitted the sugar (see above about my dislike of overly-sweet sweet potato casseroles). All three fit nicely into my toaster oven – am always grateful in July and August when I can prepare real food without turning on the blast furnace of an oven.

The recipe didn’t say how hot to have the oven, but since apples bake nicely at 350, that’s what I used. After about 30 minutes, the butter and sugar was bubbling, a fork down into the apple layers suggested they were soft, and the potatoes were starting to get just toasty enough around the edges that I didn’t want to leave them much longer to have them scorch.

Um, when you try this, let the dishes cool first. You know what molten sugar feels like on your tongue? I remember now, too.

Verdict: Liked ‘em all. I liked the apples without sugar best – the fruit made it all sweet enough – although I suppose most people who like the marshmallow casserole stuff would like it with more sugar, even, than I used in the sugared version. The flavor of apples with sweet potatoes is a natural, familiar combination. The banana version was a little more exotic, and very, very good.

Next time I try it, if my sweet potatoes are especially juicy and leak that wonderful syrup when I slice them, I’ll even forego the butter.

Since many of us are trying to eat more highly colored vegetables today, this is a good way to work in sweet potatoes with their beta-carotene and Vitamins A and C. You might even tempt picky eaters with the bubbling sugar on top. Might even try adding a little cinnamon or nutmeg, too, if that makes this vegetable seem like more like tempting junk food!



12 Comments »

  1. At last, something that actually makes me want to try it.

    (But I don’t understand what it is about the texture of boiled sweet potatoes (yams?) that you find troubling. Maybe I’ve become too liberal when it comes to food texture. Eating sushi made from the reproductive organs of the sea urchin will do that.)

    Comment by Mark B. — July 20, 2011 @ 7:25 am

  2. My sister-in-law does a sweet potato and apple combo at Thanksgiving that sounds a lot like this one. Very tasty.

    Hope your tongue is healing…

    Comment by Paul — July 20, 2011 @ 7:53 am

  3. Boiled yams seem to me to be stringy and dense, when compared to the fluffiness of baked yams. But then, I haven’t had the intensive course in sushi that has trained your palate!

    Yeth, thank you, Paul, my tongue doethn’t hurt near ath muth ath it did yethterday.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 20, 2011 @ 8:03 am

  4. I have a sweet potato casserole I got from a friend that tops with pecans instead of marshmallows. That’s the only way I make it now. Couldn’t stand the marshmallow variety. This sounds good to try.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 20, 2011 @ 8:32 am

  5. BTW, just because I like the sounds of this fuity concoction, it doesn’t mean I don’t love those marshmallows. Bring on the molten sugar!

    Comment by Paul — July 20, 2011 @ 8:43 am

  6. I love sweet potatoes (and I’m intrigued by the idea of sweet potatoes with baked bananas). When you made it, what kind of apples did you use? Sweet or tart?

    Comment by Sam Brunson — July 20, 2011 @ 8:45 am

  7. Pecans would improve just about anything, SilverRain, I’m sure of it.

    Paul, have you noticed the number of sugar ads posted at Keepa? :) I’m a fan of sweet, too — just not on sweet potatoes.

    Sam, I used a Gala apple. Because my dishes were small, I only needed one apple. If I made this in a larger, single casserole, I’d probably mix in some Granny Smith, too. Applesauce and apple pie always seems better with a mix of sweet and tart, and this probably would, too, don’t you think?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 20, 2011 @ 8:49 am

  8. I thought every one knew that when you burn your tongue you put sugar on it to make it feel better and to regain taste! Sounds like a good couple of recipes to try out! Thanks.

    Comment by Cliff — July 20, 2011 @ 9:40 am

  9. I come from a family in which it is desecration to add marshmallows to a sweet potato dish. Right up there with mashing and spicing the cooked sweet potatoes and rebaking them in hollowed-out orange halves.

    There is a sweet potato and apple recipe in the old Lion House cookbook, so I just looked at it and it is similar, but it adds a lemon sauce on the top of the apples and sweet potatoes (or “yams“) before cooking. I made it one time and didn’t care for the texture of the lemon sauce. This recipe sounds easier and better.

    And finally, on the topic of sweet potatoes, for Thanksgiving I always make Candied Yams. Bake a bunch of sweet potatoes, then peel and slice and cook in melted butter and brown sugar until they become one of those marvelous mysteries of the culinary arts in which the sum is greater than the parts.

    Comment by Researcher — July 20, 2011 @ 10:31 am

  10. Yeah, a mix of sweet and tart sounds great to me.

    One of my favorite dishes (we always pull it out around Thanksgiving) is a potato-sweet potato gratin. Basically, you take a casserole dish, thinly slice potatoes and sweet potatoes, and put them in the dish in alternating layers. You boil some milk and cream (probably with salt, thyme, and maybe nutmeg), then pour the hot dairy mixture over the potatoes. Dot it with little bits of butter, cover it with aluminum foil, then cook (probably around 400) for 30 or 40 minutes. Take the aluminum foil off and continue cooking until everything’s soft. It’s absolutely delicious.

    Comment by Sam Brunson — July 20, 2011 @ 11:58 am

  11. This sounds like a great recipe, Ardis. Sweet Potatoes usually are too dry and tasteless for me, and marshmallows too sweet. This will make a “just right” meal of them.

    I wonder how apples/bananas or other fruits would work with regular white or russet potatoes, etc? Hmmmmmm…..

    Comment by Rameumptom — July 20, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

  12. Haven’t thought about the whites, but think pears would be awfully good with sweet potatoes, and some kind of citrus, too, except that I’d probably want to cut the juicy part out of the membranes first.

    I foresee a rise in sweet potato consumption among ‘ninnies in the next couple of weeks …

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 20, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

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