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!