I prefer using fresh sweet potatoes over the canned variety. However, not everyone feels this way. Around the fall holidays, towering mountains of canned yams are constructed in grocery stores throughout the South. Truth is, the contents are not yams at all. What are often labeled and sold as yams are actually sweet potatoes. Botanically speaking, yams are tubers and members of the lily family; sweet potatoes are the root of a member of the morning glory family. There are many varieties of both that differ in size, taste, shape and color.
When I doubted Mama about the amount of butter and sugar in this dish for a mere four sweet potatoes, she laughed and said, “Y’all always like it this way.” Feel free to reduce the amount of sugar and butter in the sweet potato base as your conscience or waistline see fit.
- 4 sweet potatoes, scrubbed
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided, plus 1 tablespoon, melted, for greasing the baking dish
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ⅓ cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush an ovenproof casserole with one tablespoon of the melted butter.
Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and roast until very tender, about 1 hour. Cool to room temperature. Peel the potatoes and discard the skins. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and mash until smooth.
To the sweet potatoes, add ½ cup of the melted butter, the granulated sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining ½ cup of melted butter, light brown sugar, flour, and pecans. Stir until combined and sprinkle over the casserole.
Bake the casserole until bubbly and heated through, about 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly before serving.