It’s not Thanksgiving dinner without sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are one of my very favorite side dishes. They, with the cranberry sauce, provide my Thanksgiving meal with the sweet and savory balance that my palate craves. I grew up, like many of you, with the toasted marshmallow topped version. How could any kid resist that? (Hmm, I just realized that my kids have never had that version…I think I’ll have to make it for them at least once to insure their childhood is complete ;) Then, I graduated to a more “grown up” version that was mashed with brown sugar, butter and spices and topped with candied pecans. Just last year, I decided to try something new (you can see my loyalties last forever with these dishes since I’m only on my third iteration.) Let’s give a big welcome to Orange Vanilla Glazed Sweet Potatoes topped with candied pecans.
As you can see, I carried over the candied pecans from my last recipe tradition because they were too good to leave behind. They are so easy to make and smell so good when they’re cooking; they really are their own “thing.” I mean, they make a great snack, and trust me I had to keep telling everyone to stop taking samples every time they walked by or I wouldn’t have enough to top my potatoes. Actually, that really wouldn’t have been an issue. I made a full batch of the pecans and only a half batch of potatoes since it wasn’t really Thanksgiving the day I made this recipe (and that delicious stuffing I posted earlier this week.) That’s why it looks like the pecans go on for miles in the picture but there’s clearly only a generous handful on the potatoes.
Okay, now that we’ve got that explained, let’s chat more about the pecans. They would be great on a salad, or on top of oatmeal (yum!) and of course on top of ice cream…yep, plenty of uses for those pecans. I snapped a photo before they got chopped up just so you could see them in all of their yummy glory. You might want to make a double batch so you have extra.
The potatoes are baked, peeled and sliced, then bathed in a delicious glaze. The orange juice and zest give this dish a wonderful freshness and help balance the sweet vanilla bean, brown sugar and butter in the glaze. I used vanilla bean paste, but you can use regular vanilla extract. If you happen upon the paste, pick it up. It won’t go to waste. You can use it every where you use vanilla and especially in recipes where you want to see those lovely little flecks of vanilla bean.
I know I said in the stuffing post that we were over some of the Thanksgiving food I made early for the blog. But, a few more days have passed and looking at all these orangey glazey potatoes and writing about how good they are…
Well…I think I’m not so over them now.
Orange Vanilla Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Candied Pecans
For the potatoes:
- 7 medium sweet potatoes about 4 lbs.
- 1 cup orange juice
- 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons orange zest optional, but wonderful if you want more orange flavor
- ground cinnamon
For the candied pecans:
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Set aside.
- Wash and dry potatoes. Pierce several times with a fork. Place on foil lined baking sheet and bake for 1-1/4 hours or until done. You want them tender but not mushy. Set aside until cool to the touch.
- While potatoes are baking, make the pecans. Line a small baking sheet with foil and spray or grease. Set aside. Cook and stir the pecans, sugar, butter and pinch of salt (or use salted butter and skip the salt) in a small heavy skillet for about 6-8 minutes. Don't walk away from the pan, you need to keep an eye on this step. The sugar will melt and coat the nuts and will look grainy for the first few minutes. Continue stirring until it becomes a golden brown caramel syrup and you just begin to smell the pecans toasting, Do not over cook or you will end up burning them. It can happen quickly, so watch carefully.
- Immediately pour the syrupy nut mixture onto prepared foil, spreading the nuts out into one layer. Cool completely; it will become brittle. Then, chop into pieces.
- Peel cooked sweet potatoes and slice into 1/2" thick slices. Layer them in a sprayed or buttered 13x9" dish or 3 qt. casserole dish overlapping the slices for a decorative effect. Set aside.
- Make the glaze. Combine orange juice, brown sugar, butter, cornstarch and salt in a small sauce pan, stirring well. Bring glaze mixture to a boil and cook for 1 minute or until glaze thickens.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and orange zest. Pour or spoon glaze evenly over the layered potato slices.
- Sprinkle top of layered potatoes with cinnamon, then sprinkle with chopped up candied pecans.
- Bake, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes until glaze is thick and bubbly and potatoes are fully heated through.
*Use regular orange juice or use the juice of fresh oranges after you've zested. Be careful of using mixed fruit flavor orange juices as they are generally sweeter than plain orange juice and may add more sweetness than you desire in this dish.
*Make ahead tips: The dish can be assembled the day before up through pouring the glaze over the potatoes. Cover and store in refrigerator until ready to bake. Add the pecans just before baking. You may need to extend the baking time by 5 or 10 minutes to get the dish fully heated through. You MUST be careful to use a dish that can go from refrigerator to oven without issue or you may end up cracking the dish. If you are worried about this, just get a head start by baking the potatoes the day before, then peeling and slicing them the day you will serve them, continuing with the recipe as written.
Recipe adapted from My Recipes
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