Thanksgiving Test Drive: Sweet Potato and Sage-Butter Casserole

Posted by Brette in Food

Thanksgiving still seems a long way away, but that didn’t stop me from test-driving a Thanksgiving side dish from Martha Stewart Living (Nov issue), Swsweet poteet Potato and Sage-Butter Casserole. I am a big potato fan. I must admit I have not cooked a lot with sweet potatoes. First of all, I find there is some confusion about them. A lot of people refer to yams as sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a separate item, with a whiter flesh than yams. Since I’m assuming Martha knows the difference, I used actual sweet potatoes, not yams for this (although I think a lot of people make yams for Thanksgiving and call them sweet potatoes, so I don’t know what she was doing).

This dish is really very easy to make and it’s possible to assemble it and then stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to make it, so in that sense it is a convenient thing for Thanksgiving.

First you boil the potatoes. Martha says to boil the sweet potatoes and the Yukon Gold potatoes together, but I found the sweet potatoes cooked faster. If you make this, I recommend boiling them separately.

Next you’re supposed to rice your potatoes. I don’t have a ricer. I tried a couple of alternatives. First, I tried to press them through a strainer. That did not go very well. It took a lot of effort to get any to go through. I gave up on that. Then I had the idea of using the grater attachment for my Cuisinart. It wasn’t a bad substitute, but some of the potato didn’t go through and sort of sat on the blade all mushy. Next I tried using a pastry cutter. That worked the best. It may not have been exactly like a ricer, but I think it was pretty close.

There aren’t many other ingredients – butter, milk, sage, salt and pepper and some breadcrumbs for the top. I got it all together and then baked it for about 35 minutes.

As for taste, I would much rather have regular mashed potatoes than this, but I can see how this would a nice dish to make for a big Thanksgiving dinner where you need to get things done in advance. It was a little bland and boring and I’m not sure I would want to put gravy on it. No one in the family was wild about it at all, so I won’t be making this again. Now, that being sad, it wasn’t a bad dish, just something that was not really to our liking.

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19 Responses

  • Since you didn’t like it, I do not think I will try. First off, no ricer. Second, I like yams better than sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving. But I do appreciate your trying all these recipes for me so I know which ones to actually make!

  • I ate some as leftovers twice – once with gravy with some Salisbury steak. The gravy pretty much disguised any taste. Then I had some with sour cream on top. Again, it just tasted like potatoes and I didn’t notice the sweetness. Still, I wouldn’t make it again.

  • I wonder what would’ve happened had you used yams? I’ve found that unless the header to the recipe explicitly explains the difference betw yams & sweet potatoes, they usually do mean regular yams when they say “sweet potato.” True sweet potatoes are too hard to find in most of the country, so there’s usually not any confusion.

    Sounds like you didn’t like the recipe enough to try it again, though!

  • I don’t know- Martha is usually very specific. And the photo in the magazine did not show it as having any orange-ish color to it at all.

  • we usually have both sorts of potatoes, served separately — though people often mix them up when they hit the individual plates. based on your experience I think we’ll stick to that, though I do agree with your thought that this sounds as though it might be a good dish to take for a big gathering.

  • Oh, this looks so good! I have a casserole thing. I’m a total 70s baby.

  • I have a hard time finding casseroles I actually like – I’m too picky I guess

  • I think I’d rather go with old-fashioned mashed potatoes. We have a tradition on Thanksgiving of making handmade potato gnocchi. SO DELICIOUS, and special, too, since we only do it once a year.

  • You can’t beat mashed potatoes. They are a special treat for me since my mom never made them when I was a kid. The homemade gnocchi sounds like a wonderful tradition. I’m coming to your house this year. Set a place for me.

  • I’m glad to read your commentary on this dish…it’s the kind of recipe that sounds really promising (and quite gourmet) that, it seems, turns out not to be as special as its name. Like you, I’ll stick with the mashed potatoes. Thanks for doing the test run so I don’t have to!

  • Dorothy says:

    I made this dish yesterday for a dinner party and it was a big hit. In fact I stumbled upon this because a few people asked for the recipe and I googled it hoping to find it online so I don’t have to type it up.

    I don’t think this is meant to be a replacement for mashed potatoes (I also had those) but a new twist on sweet potatoes (the marshmallows on top is a little getting a little old).

    The dish was very easy to make – I have a ricer. It was bland before I seasoned it with salt/pepper. But that’s the same with all potato dishes.

  • I used the white sweet potatoes and I don’t know if that was what was intended. Aren’t most sweet potato side dishes made with the orange yam kind? I don’t know – I’m not well versed in sweet potatoes! I’m glad it was a hit for you.

  • I probably wouldn’t have tried it because the idea of sage in any potatoes doesn’t appeal to me. Almost all mashed potato type dishes can be made a day or two before. If I did try it I would use yams, put in less sage, put them in my mixer and mash them that way as I’ve never noticed any particularly wonderful benefit of taking the extra time to use the ricer. Putting it in the mixer you can do it all with less dish washing and the result for me would be the same. I’m from the South and I’ve never like “real” sweet potatoes.

  • Karen says:

    Martha did this dish on Tuesday, and she used orange sweet potatoes, along with the other potatoes. I never knew there was a white sweet potatoes. I always thought yams, and sweet potatoes were the same!

  • Thanks Karen – that clears it up!

  • I agree – I’m a fan of the mixer.

  • Tyra says:

    Hi Ladies and Gents: FYI I did the research and Yams are an African root veggie and got mixed in with our Sweet Potatoes and the rest is history. Yams are lighter NOT orange, Sweet Potatoes are orange, that may be why yours was not sweet. You most likely used Yams. Martha lists this in the Yams or Sweet Potatoes slide show so its optional. BTW try baking a sweet potato and a yam… you’ll know the difference by the tastes. I bake sweet potatoes all the time (curt. Trader Joe’s) and they are as sweet as “Candied Yams” on the holidays but I add NOTHING.

  • Sally says:

    In the United States we call sweet potatoes “Yams.” There are also a lighter version of sweet potatoes you will see in the store labeled as just plain “sweet potatoes.”

    “Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term ‘yam’ to be accompanied by the term ‘sweet potato.’ Unless you specifically search for yams, which are usually found in an international market, you are probably eating sweet potatoes!”

    “Yams in the U.S. are actually sweetpotatoes with relatively moist texture and orange flesh. Although the terms are generally used interchangeably, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that the label “yam” always be accompanied by “sweet potato.””

    Yams and sweet potatoes are the same thing in the U.S.

  • Hi Sally. I am in the US. There seems to be some regional differences about this from what my readers have told me on this and several other posts where we’ve discussed it, despite what the USDA rules are. Some people consider only the very dark orange ones to be yams and the lighter ones to be sweet potatoes. Other people don’t distinguish as much. In my grocery store (here in Buffalo, NY) for example, the dark ones are labelled yams and the light ones are labelled sweet potatoes. The two words do not appear together on any signage or labeling in the store.