Sunday, April 27, 2008

Round One - my first try, with sweet potatoes

I'm trying to devise a good way to use canned sweet potatoes. The operative word in that sentence is canned. Fresh sweet potatoes are easy and delicious. Roasted, mashed, french fried, they are really tasty. Canned, on the other hand, is a bit of a challenge. They are soggy and generally of a mushy-and-not-that-tasty variety. My first contest however requires using canned sweet potatoes, so I picked up 29 ounces and tried to figure out what to do with them.

In the end, without meaning to, I disguised them. They were part of a stuffing, but other flavors overtook the sweet potato, which, depending upon your opinion of canned vegetables, might be a good thing. It reminded me of one of those "trick your kids into eating brussel sprouts" kind of recipe.

I tested the recipe for my folks, my grandmother, my sis and her family, NR and hubby. It was great getting feedback and the best part was hearing their thoughts beyond "that was good". You know when you make something, most of the time, people will say they liked it or it was tasty, but you don't get specifics. Because this recipe is for a contest, people felt free to give some real feedback. When asked if I should have chopped the pecan halves up instead of leaving them whole, Dad said no, the pecans were a nice surprise. Sis liked that the sweet potatoes were hidden; she's not a fan. Mom came up with a last minute ingredient that really made a difference. Grandma commented on the color and texture. NR (and Hubby) didn't like it, but neither are fans of nuts.

This experiment reminded me of high school poetry class; my teacher had given out a list of words that needed to be incorporated into the assigned poem. At first, we all balked and said snotty things, full of teenage revolt, about being stifled and boxed in. But gradually, working within the list, some of the best poems of the class were created. That's not to say that paint-by-numbers portraits are in the same class as Edward Hopper, but sometimes having a framework or a required ingredient is helpful in creating something new. Without this contest, I never would have experimented with canned sweet potatoes. I never would have learned what it can do for moisture and texture, how it bakes, what flavors conceal it, what flavors go well with it.

I'll be making up another batch for testing, changing out some ingredients and keeping some others. I'll also be making this version again for eating, as is, because I liked it. But the best part of this first round, I liked getting the support and the advice from people I respect an awful lot.

1 comment:

CookinsForMe said...

Canned sweet potatoes aren't my favorite thing to use but they make a pretty good sweet potato casserole. They're also good for making mashed sweet potatoes or fried sweet potato patties. For patties, just add a little flour (I use whole wheat), a smidge of salt and pepper, shape into patties, and fry in a small amount of oil. Drain on paper toweling and serve hot.