The influence of African-Americans on Southern food cannot be ignored. From greens to okra to ham hocks and more, many of my favorite dishes originated from a culture that is not my own. And Thanksgiving always features something that is extremely prominent in traditional African-American food — the sweet potato.
I love sweet potatoes. You can bake them and just eat them plain with a little butter. Cook them in sugar syrup with a few slices of lemon for candied yams (and yes, I know that our sweet potatoes are not technically yams). Roast them in the oven with salt and rosemary. Make sweet potato “puff” with nuts or marshmallows or both. No matter how you cook them up, the result is always delicious.
But there’s one way I especially love this noble tuber, and that’s in Sweet Potato Pie, a Southern Thanksgiving favorite. Now I know what you’re saying, what about Pumpkin Pie. Well, it’s good and all. If you can open a can and read the Libby’s label, you can make a good pumpkin pie. But before Libby, pumpkins weren’t very prevalent in the South. Sweet potatoes were.
Bursting with natural sweetness, when mixed with eggs, milk, and a little sugar, sweet potatoes make a silky custard pie filling. This dessert is very simple — and simply delicious. And don’t insult this pie with Cool Whip. Take an extra 2 minutes and make real whipped cream with a little sugar and a shot of bourbon.
The recipe I use is based on one from Southern Sideboards, published by the Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi, which is one of my favorite cookbooks and the one I probably use more than any other.
Sweet Potato Pie
- 1 refrigerated pie crust
- 1 sweet potato
- ½ cup butter
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1 Tbsp sifted flour
- 1 Tbsp vanilla
- 3 eggs
- ⅔ cup evaporated milk
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Blind bake your pie crust. If you don’t know what that means or how to do it, check out this Epicurious video.
- Peel the sweet potato, cut it into chunks and boil it until you can pierce it with a fork.
- When it’s done, drain the water off, and mash the sweet potato up with the butter.
- Add in the sugar, flour, and vanilla, and beat it all up with your electric mixer.
- Mix in the eggs one at the time, beating them in really good after each one.
- Beat in the milk.
- Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 45 minutes or until it’s done.