We don’t usually get too, too personal around here, but today, in honor of the upcoming holiday, I want to tell you a very embarrassing story (and also give you a recipe, don’t worry).
Let’s set the scene: it was 2005. My jeans were (tragically) low rise. My (multiple) pastel collars were popped. And my oversized (fake) pearl earrings were screwed on tight. It was freshman year of high school and me and my shockingly dated and preppy outfit? We were ready for the most sought after social event of the era: a boy/girl group hang.
My good friend Mary (all names have been changed for what will soon become obvious reasons) picked me up—well actually, her dad did…we were 14 and licence-less—and chauffeured us to our destination. We’d agreed to meet up with her boyfriend, James, at his friend Ned Russo’s house. Ned and I had been chatting and there was an obvious (albeit 100% virtual. Thanks AOL Instant Messenger!) flirtation. When we arrived, Mary and James and Ned and I spent an obligatory 15 minutes chatting as a group of four before casually (awkwardly) pairing off and parting ways. Why don’t we ever talk about the boy/girl group hang to cringy inevitable make out session pipeline?
Anyway, Ned took me to his room, closed the door, and we made out. At his parents house. While his mom was home. I’m sure you can see where this story is going, but we were 14 and dumb and didn’t yet realize that all moms develop an eerie sense of bat-like hearing and can detect even the quietest indication that a bedroom door might be closed. So yes, needless to say I was mortified when, immediately after Ned had (sobbing emoji) removed my shirt for my very first time going to *second base* Mrs. Russo cleared her throat to alert us to her presence. I wasn’t even positive I was ready to show my boobs to Ned, let alone his mother! And it gets worse. She called my mom. She called my mom! Who promptly arrived at the Russo’s to load me into her minivan for a very, very silent ride home.
Yes, I know you may be thinking, “Erica, that’s truly cringe, I’m so sorry Mrs. Russo saw your boobs, but in what way does this unfortunate story relate to good ol’ Turkey Day?” Well, my pal, when it comes to silver linings, this sad story has a surprising one. After Mrs. Russo ratted on me and Ned, she and my mother formed an unlikely friendship—trauma bonding, perhaps? Their friendship soon became close enough that Mrs. Russo deigned to share a secret family recipe with my mother. And that recipe, dear reader, is called Sweet Potato Soufflé, and ever since it made its way out of Mrs. Russo’s recipe box and onto my family’s Thanksgiving table, it’s been one of my favorites.
And that’s saying a lot. After all, the dish is inherently tinged with my awkward high school memories, but I happily devour multiple helpings every year.
Now comes the part where I tell you why you need this recipe on your Thanksgiving table: First, don’t let the name of this dish fool you. When I hear soufflé, I think of a fussy recipe that might not rise if you’re too loud? How strange. Sweet potato soufflé is the opposite of fussy. In fact, it’s probably one of the easiest dishes that graces our Turkey Day table.
Second, I think most people have some sort of sweet potato casserole-type dish in their side-dish lineup. In my experience, they’re usually comprised of a dense sweet potato filling and topped with some sort of mini-marshmallow topping. Those sweet potato dishes are good, but sometimes feel a little heavy, overly sweet, and lack much textural variation. In short, not as good as the sweet potato soufflé, with it’ slightly fluffy filling and elevated brown sugar topping that adds a perfect little bit of crunch to the dish. Sold? Okay, let’s get into it…
Mrs. Russo’s Sweet Potato Soufflé:
For the Filling
4 large sweet potatoes (about 6 cups mashed)
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla
For the Topping
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
1/2 cup flour (sub with GF AP flour for a GF alternative)
1/3 cup melted butter
1/4 tsp salt (this is my addition! every dish needs salt!)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into 1 inch thick rounds and add to the boiling water. Boil until soft (check every 10 minutes and boil only until just fork-tender).
Drain the sweet potatoes well and allow to cool for 20-30 minutes. Add them to a large boil with the rest of the ingredients for the filling. Use a hand mixer to mix together until there are no clumps and everything is well-combined. Pour into a large casserole or baking dish.
In a separate large bowl, mix all the ingredients for the topping together until they resemble wet sand. Sprinkle over the top of the filling. Add to a 350 degree oven and bake 1 hour. If the topping starts looking too dark, cover with foil.
Serve and enjoy. Thanks, Mrs. Russo…
Okay, I’ll let you get back to whatever Thanksgiving preparations you might be doing, but if you do add this dish to your lineup, please keep me posted! you can shoot me a response to this email, or tag or DM me over on Instagram. Happy Thanksgiving!
With love and a tip of my chef’s hat,