Sweet Potatoes, Three Ways

Sweet Potatoes, Three Ways


While I wrapped things up on my Middle Eastern Thanksgiving spread this past weekend, I have one more dish for your holiday table consideration just in cases that the flavors of the Middle East aren’t your cup of tea.  Maybe you prefer Caribbean.  Or French. Sri Lankan?  If any of the those sound more up your alley, I’ve got you covered.

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 As you all know, part of the reason I do what I do is so that I can bring my love of travel eating into my everyday kitchen.  In short, to eat like I am traveling.  It just so happens that I recently met a woman who writes tips on how to live like you’re traveling.  Seemed only natural that the two of us should collaborate, and Thanksgiving as the setting seemed pretty natural.

A friendsgiving!

Mu Hsien asked me to create three different globally-inspired recipes for one traditional Thanksgiving ingredient, and I was more than happy to oblige. 

With the turkey, stuffing and cranberries probably already spoken for, I figured the best place to play a little was with some of the more…superfluous sides.  I wanted to mix it up and reinvent a previously unloved side dish into something that will cause a fight for the last bite.  Today, I’m picking on the sweet potato because more often than not, the marshmallow topped monstrosity is left forgotten to become more and more unappetizing as the night progresses.  My mom makes this every year and honest to God I have no idea why because I don’t think anyone eats it!  In an effort to give it some love, because I really do love sweet potatoes, I’m preparing this sexy spud three different ways-baked, smashed and whipped– with three completely different flavor profiles, in the manners of French, Caribbean and Sri Lankan.

In fact, some of my old friends may think that each of these seems every so slightly familiar.

First, France.  Let’s flashback to Julia Child’s potato dauphinois gratin potatoes.  I’ve remade it with a touch of sage, an addition that permeated the entire house with fall wonderfulness and adapted it more to Thanksgiving.


Sweet Potato Gratin
Serves 6
Sweet potatoes baked with goat cheese and sage
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  1. 2 pounds sweet potatoes
  2. 6 ounces goat cheese
  3. 1 cup boiling 2% milk
  4. 1 TB fresh sage, ribboned
  5. 2 TB fresh parsley, chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 425F.
  2. Peel and slice the potatoes to about 1/8 inch thick.
  3. Butter a baking dish about 10 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep
  4. (no shallower).
  5. Spread half of the potatoes in the bottom of the dish. Divide half of the
  6. cheese and sage over them, and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Arrange the remaining potatoes over the first layer, and season them.
  8. Spread on the rest of the cheese and sage, and pour on the boiling
  9. milk. Bake 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender, milk has been
  10. absorbed and the top is nicely browned. Garnish with parsley
Adapted from Julia Child
Adapted from Julia Child
The Hungary Buddha Eats the World http://thehungarybuddha.com/
Next, Sri Lanka.  Like the other dishes I’ve made so far from this country, the ingredient list is rather long, but I promise (pinky swear) that it’s totally worth it.  Simply whipped with a touch of coconut milk, these silky smooth potatoes will give your standard mashed a run for its money.


Whipped Sri Lankan Sweet Potatoes
Serves 6
Silky sweet potatoes flavored with the tastes of Sri Lanka
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  1. 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  2. 4 curry leaves
  3. 2 cardamon pods
  4. 1 1/2” cinnamon stick
  5. 1/2 tsp turmeric
  6. 1/2 tsp coriander
  7. 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  8. 1 tsp chili powder
  9. 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  10. 6 TB coconut milk, more or less for desired consistency
  1. To a medium pot over medium high heat, add the potatoes and cover with water. Boil and cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes, time depending on the size of the dice.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, grind the spices, cinnamon stick and curry leaves to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
  3. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them and return them to the pot and add the spices. With a hand mixer or potato masher, mash until smooth and creamy, adding the coconut milk as necessary until you reach the desired consistency.
The Hungary Buddha Eats the World http://thehungarybuddha.com/
Finally, as the weather cools (snow this weekend!) let’s head back to the Caribbean.  This smashed version borrows flavors from the Chicken Pelau and gets textured by some peas and onions and brightens from citrus and herbs.  Of course.


Smashed Caribbean Sweet Potatoes
Serves 6
Smashed sweet potatoes with the flavors of the Caribbean
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  1. 2 pounds sweet potatoes
  2. 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  3. 1 tsp olive or vegetable oil
  4. 2/3 cup onion, diced
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  7. 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  8. 1 tsp cumin
  9. 1 tsp smoked paprika
  10. 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  11. 3 sprigs thyme
  12. 1/4 cup chives, diced
  13. 1/4 cup cilantro, diced
  14. 1 tsp salt
  15. 1 tsp coarse ground pepper
  16. 1 lime, juiced (about 3 TB)
  1. To a medium pot over medium high heat, add the potatoes and cover with water. Boil and cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes, time depending on the size of the dice.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saute pan, add the oil, onion and garlic, and cook until soft and translucent. Set aside.
  3. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them and return them to the pot. With a potato masher or fork, slightly smash the potatoes until chunky, but not creamy. Add the rest of the ingredients and fold until completely incorporated.
The Hungary Buddha Eats the World http://thehungarybuddha.com/
As Mu-Hsien and I sat and sampled and sampled and sampled all three of these varieties, I have to say that the French was my favorite, but barely.  Mu-Hsien’s pick was Sri Lanka…all those spices!


Whichever you pick, any would be a welcome addition to any Thanksgiving table, and turn an American tradition into a global affair.

Written while watching my fairy tales, Once Upon a Time.

All photos by  Mu-Hsien Lee

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