Melissa’s Sweet Potato Casserole

The morning after my mother died a few months ago, my family and I were sitting around the table drinking coffee, still stunned, looking at our iPads and laptops, when one of my brothers said, “At least now Mom can go to Steve Jobs with all of her iPad questions.” We all burst out laughing. I still smile just thinking about it. We had a close relationship with our mother and embedded in that relationship was the job of answering her computer questions. Well, every year, a few days before Thanksgiving, I could expect an email from my mother that went like this, “Judy, could you send me the recipes?” I knew which ones they were: Mom’s Pumpkin Pie, Micky Kohn’s Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie, Grandma’s Cranberry Chutney and this one, Melissa’s Sweet Potato Casserole. Mom did not have a clue how to search her computer for them. In honor of Mom and to help my family get through the holidays, I plan to post the rest of Mom’s Thanksgiving recipes over the next few days. If there is a kitchen in heaven, she and Steve are by now best buds, and he’ll be stopping by her table that will be full of the family and friends who have gone before us. My brothers and I will be thankful we have her recipes and that we had the privilege of calling her Mom.

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I’ve been making this sweet potato casserole every Thanksgiving since 1994 when my children’s fabulous babysitter, Melissa, first gave it to me. Little did I know I would be making it every Thanksgiving for the rest of my life.

Yield: serves 12 as a main side dish or 20 as one of many side dishes

Ingredients:
4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled
5 large eggs, beaten
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup (12 tablespoons, or 1-1/2 sticks) butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
²/3 cup milk
½ cup orange juice
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Mise en Place:
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Directions: 
Preheat oven to 350º
Wash and peel sweet potatoes. Cut into 2-3 inch chunks and place in a large saucepan.
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Cover potatoes with cold water. Add two tablespoons of salt to the water.
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Bring water to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender.
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Drain in a colander and allow to cool for about 30 minutes.
Place sweet potatoes in a mixing bowl and mix until mashed. Do not whip.
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Add eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, milk, and orange juice and mix until well blended on medium-low speed. Do not whip.
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Transfer sweet potato mixture to an oven-safe 9x12x4 casserole. At this point, you could put the uncooked casserole into the refrigerator for up to one day as a make-ahead dish. Just be sure to allow it to come to room temperature before baking. Do not add toppings until after it has baked.
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Bake until the top starts to turn light brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. This usually takes about an hour in this deep casserole dish. If you are using two shallow casserole dishes, it could be ready in 30 minutes.
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The toppings below are optional. Because some of our guests may have a nut allergy, I generally opt for the marshmallow topping, but the nut topping is equally delicious.
Optional Marshmallow Topping:
When finished cooking, remove casserole from oven and add a layer of miniature marshmallows. Bake for another 10 minutes or until marshmallows become lightly browned.
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Optional Nut Topping:
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ stick butter (4 tablespoons)
1 cup chopped pecans
Mix until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of cooked casserole. Bake for 10 minutes at 400º.
This casserole is good cold the next morning, and if you are anything like me, you’ll be thinking about grabbing a spoonful of it every time you walk by the refrigerator.

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.