A New Thanksgiving Tradition

sweet-potatoes-ts.jpgIn our house Thanksgiving is the one day a year my wife is in charge of the cooking.  Because I work at home, part of my day-time ritual is to shop for and cook our dinners.  But for Thanksgiving, I’m her sous chef.  She tells me the menu and I prep the mise en place, so everything is ready for her.

Besides corn bread stuffing with Italian sausages, dried apricots, and pecans, a 24-pound organic turkey with mushroom gravy, home made cranberry sauce, string beans sautéed with almonds, oven roasted Brussels sprouts, and an arrugula salad with persimmons, pomegranate seeds, and roasted hazelnuts, she makes garlic mashed potatoes. 

This past year I’ve been experimenting with sweet potatoes.  I made them for her to see what she thought. With a light dusting of cayenne, after you’ve enjoyed the sweetness of the sweet potato, your mouth is surprised with a hint of heat that drives you back for more.  She agreed that the yams are delicious: sweet, salty, savory, “meaty” (from the mushrooms”), and buttery from the butter.  For Thanksgiving they’ll be added to the menu.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Sautéed Shallots, Garlic, and Mushrooms
David Latt

I prefer sweet potatoes that have a bright orange flesh.  Whichever you use, find ones that are slender, appropriate as a single serving.  For a dinner party, pick ones that are about the same size.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 2 1/2 hours


4 sweet potatoes, washed, skins on
2 teaspoons sweet butter
1 cup shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
1 cup brown or shiitake mushrooms, washed, dried, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves only, washed, finely chopped
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
Cayenne (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wrap each sweet potato in tin foil, place in the oven, turn every 30 minutes.  Depending on your oven and the size of the sweet potatoes, they can take anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours.  When the sweet potatoes are soft to the touch, they are done.

While the sweet potatoes are in the oven, drizzle olive oil in a frying pan, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and sauté the shallots, garlic, parsley, and mushrooms until lightly browned. 

Remove and discard the tin foil.  Take a sharp paring knife and slice each sweet potato open the long way.  Using your fingers, push the sweet potato in from the ends so the cut section opens like a flower.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of butter and a light dusting of cayenne (optional).  Top with the shallot-mushroom sauté and serve.


David Latt is an Emmy-award winning television producer who turns to cooking to alleviate stress. He shares his experiences with food and his favorite recipes on his blog Men Who Like To Cook.