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Elevate a classic side: Maple Candied Sweet Potatoes

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

Political controversies and Black Friday notwithstanding, Thanksgiving ranks right up there as one of my favorite holidays. Any holiday that involves a lot of good food shared with family and friends is number one on my list. Also, who can argue with four straight days off from work and school?

Although the Thanksgiving dinner involves a lot of preparation, the chore of menu planning is largely eliminated. A large bird (roasted, fried or smoked), stuffing, a sweet version of the orange tuber, a token vegetable or two, and cranberry sauce are the traditional fare. How you prepare each of the dishes is where creativity shines.

My mother made her candied sweet potatoes with King syrup, not the traditional brown sugar. Thankfully, she eschewed the marshmallow topping, probably at my father’s insistence. As a child, I couldn’t get enough of them. It was dessert before the end of the meal.

As I have gotten older, my sweet tooth has somewhat tempered. I find myself craving a flavor profile that is more than just sweet. My version of the classic dish includes cinnamon and cloves. For the sweetener, I prefer the more complex flavor of maple syrup. Orange zest and apple cider provide a slight tang to balance the sweetness.

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Cooking the sweet potatoes directly in the syrup saves time. It also allows the flavors to permeate the potato rather than just coat the outside. This is more akin to the southern style of candied yams.

Although maple candied sweet potatoes are not as sweet as the brown sugar version, they are not exactly a diet dish. Think of them as an indulgent side dish that makes the Thanksgiving dinner a memorable feast.

Maple candied sweet potatoes add complex flavors to a traditional Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole. (Julie Falsetti photo/For The York Dispatch)

Maple Candied Sweet Potatoes

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup apple cider
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole cloves
  • Zest of one orange

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch slices. Butter a large baking dish and place the sweet potatoes in a single layer, overlapping the slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a small pot, heat the butter, cider, maple syrup, spices and orange zest. Simmer uncovered for five minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the syrup mixture over the sweet potatoes, and cover the dish with foil. Bake covered for 25 minutes and then uncovered for 15 minutes more, or until the syrup has thickened.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.