There is no other meal I can think of, where we hold tighter to our sacrosanct traditions than Thanksgiving. For every person who partakes, I find there are one or two dishes that must be on the table for the meal to feel and taste like this uniquely American holiday. And it doesn’t stop there, but extends to technique. Stuffing inside the bird or out. Jellied cranberry relish or cranberry sauce. Sweet potatoes or yams. But maybe the one that is most important to palates large and small is marshmallow vs. streusel. As a topper for Sweet Potato Casserole, that is. For my friend Sandra who moved to this country as a 9 year old child, Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving if not for oozing, gooey marshmallows.
I, on the other hand, am a devotee of streusel. I’ve tested both for this recipe and for me, the hands down winner was streusel. Happily, this recipe can be adopted for either. I find the streusel has more depth of flavor and less fluff. I have a hard time with marshmallows, the food product that brightly boasts “Naturally Fat-Free” on its package. I can’t seem to qualify them into any particular food group, which leaves me wondering if they really ARE part of any food group. But Thanksgiving is once a year, and typically, so are cookouts where you can press one onto a skewer and sandwich it between graham crackers and chocolate. I am not about making my kids resentful sneakers of food, so I choose my battles and every so often, this infrequent visitor to my pantry wins a round.
A note about using marshmallows. I tested this recipe using the mini marshmallows, but Sandra swears by the standard sized ones, loading her casserole pan full so that there is no hint of actual yam below. She also wisely bakes the casserole on a foil lined cookie sheet to catch the goo.
You can use either yams or sweet potatoes for this quintessentially Thanksgiving dish. But whether it’s marshmallows or streusel, remember that a bit of dessert masquerading as a side dish is always a good idea.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: 8–10 servings
Special equipment: 8×8 or 9×9 casserole dish
8 c. skinned yams or sweet potatoes (3–4 large), cut into 1″ cubes
2 eggs lightly beaten
3 T butter or butter substitute
3 T agave or pure maple syrup or brown sugar - all three work great
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. rice flour
1/3 c. melted butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
about 2 c. mini or standard sized marshmallows*
- Set oven to 350.
- Skin yams, cutting out any dark spots. Cut into 1″ cubes and add to salted water, set to boil. Reduce and simmer until fork tender, about 15 minutes.
- Mash (by hand) or with the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, mix yams with eggs, butter, agave, salt, vanilla and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon for about 45 seconds, until smooth. Don’t worry about a few lumps.
- Spread mixture into the casserole pan, smoothing the top. Mix pecans, brown sugar, rice flour and melted butter together until thoroughly combined. Sprinkle evenly on top of yams (or substitute marshmallows or a combination of both) and bake for 15–20 minutes. If using a 9×9 casserole pan, bake a few minutes less.