Aunt Susie’s Sweet Potato Casserole
The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Sunday, November 19th 2017 edition. By: Blaise Doubman
Thanksgiving Traditions and Memories
I have such wonderful memories of Thanksgiving growing up and I wish I could share them all with you here in this column but the column would eventually turn into a book and that book is for a later time. Today I am going to talk about my memories of my Uncle Donald and Aunt Susie. Donald Davis, my Grandma Deloris’ brother, and his wife, Mary, “Susie” were always a staple at the Bolinger Thanksgiving. I remember Donald always wanting to shake my hand and Susie always giving the warmest hugs, the very minute we would step through the front door. Susie is also known for her warm and genuine laugh and caring smile. She is a super smart lady too! Every time we would get out the after Thanksgiving games to play, everyone always fought to be on her team! There would be a buffet table lined with anything and everything a person could possibly want to eat, the Christmas decorations would be up and on and music would be playing softy in the background. Things seemed to be so simple back then, nothing ever changed and everything stayed the same. My Grandpa Max would announce his dislike for the dumpings while all of us doubted him in his decision and bets would be made for the upcoming football game. The star of the show and the star attraction of the Thanksgiving table though was, without a doubt, my Aunt Susie’s sweet potato casserole. Every year it was the dish that was most looked forward to and always the first dish emptied. Nobody could ever get enough!
Years passed, and as time does, things changed and “new normal” traditions were created. People seemed to get busier, sometimes people couldn’t make it due to illness or plans created with other family members or friends. Thanksgiving seemed to change with each year that passed and along the way we lost some very special members of the family. Through difficult times it was times like I had described earlier, of times when I was younger and nothing seemed to change and everything was magical and happy, that I held on to, to get me through. Those times are still close to my heart and every now and then I get them out when I need them. Susie’s sweet potato casserole was always on the minds of my family and I with each Thanksgiving. I tried to duplicate the recipe, using lime juice and marshmallows, but nothing ever even came close. Even when planning my cookbook, this recipe was the “one that got away”. Skip ahead to just a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon Donald and Susie’s daughter, Carolyn Sue, in an address book. I took a leap of faith, sent a text and hoped the number was still active. Within just a few hours, she wrote back! That lead to a wonderful reconnection and a memorable phone conversation that brought forth the recipe I have so many memories tied up in. I made it and I was transported back to when times were simpler, the future was still yet unfolding and I could feel the warmth and remembrance of my childhood. I am so happy to share this recipe with everyone here today and a very special thank you to Carolyn Sue Kellams and her sweet family for allowing me to do so. This sweet potato casserole will always have a special place on the Thanksgiving table and in my heart.
Aunt Susie’s Sweet Potato Casserole
Some recipes are meant to be followed to the exact letter, especially family recipes that bring about a certain memory from days gone by, but feel free to experiment with this casserole and top it with your favorite cereal or nuts. Frosted flakes would be a modern twist for the topping, mixed with some sliced almonds. If you are not a fan of coconut, simply leave it off and replace with extra cornflakes and nuts. This recipe is very versatile and can be made ahead and then warmed up right before serving. This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.
For the casserole…
1 40 oz. can sweet potatoes, drained
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup white granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
For the topping…
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter
1 cup crushed corn flakes
1 cup flaked coconut
½ cup chopped pecans
Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees F and by spraying a 9×13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large bowl mash together the drained sweet potatoes with the soft unsalted butter. Add and beat in the large beaten eggs, white granulated sugar and ground cinnamon.
In a glass measuring cup combine the milk with the cornstarch. Add to the mixture and combine well. Pour into the prepared baking pan and place in preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes.
While the casserole is starting to bake, make the topping by combining the unsalted butter, crushed corn flakes, flaked coconut and chopped pecans in a medium sized skillet over medium low heat. Stir often until everything is combined and warmed. The coconut will be lightly toasted, the butter completely melted and the corn flakes slightly brown and crisp.
Once the casserole is out of the oven, top the casserole evenly with the topping. Some of the topping may sink down, that is desirable, just be sure to spread evenly across the top. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees and place the casserole back in to bake for another 30 minutes.
Remove the casserole, allow to cool slightly before enjoying. Leftovers may be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator. To heat up leftovers, place in oven safe container, uncovered, and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Ask and Answer: So many people write to me this time of year asking about what my Thanksgiving plan is going to be. People often feel overwhelmed, frantic and stressed out leading up to Thanksgiving and have no idea how or where to start with their Thanksgiving meal prep work. Let me give you some tips! Write down everything that you want to make for your Thanksgiving meal and then cross out half. There is always too much food prepared and you do not have to stress yourself out by making too many dishes that only a bite or two will be taken from. Second, start your planning backwards, starting at taking the turkey or ham from the oven, and work backwards. This will give you a better idea of when you need to start different dishes and give you a better frame of mind, time wise. Thirdly, make ahead what you can! Casseroles, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, deviled eggs and most desserts can simply be made ahead then warmed and served on Thanksgiving. My website is filled with hundreds of recipes for Thanksgiving and more than half can be made ahead! If you need more tips, suggestions or recipes please email me and I will get back to you right away.