Whenever someone is about to dig into one of my dishes, my hope is that there will be one element, one flavour that will take him back to his childhood. I have a very Proustian approach to desserts – if you will allow me to be so blasphemous as to couple Proust and desserts without evoking any madeleines.
There should be a playful element to everything sweet: after all, cookies and puddings were the “treats” when we were little, the food we would be allowed if we finished our broccoli or behaved well. Or, in my case, the one I got to make because my mother, wonderful cook that she is, has a repertoire of only three desserts. By age 8, I was already bored with them and started exploring pastry cream in all its different varieties that I would make and serve to whomever happened to be at my house for homework. It took me over 30 years to go back to my original passion – go figure.
Despite having travelled the world and subjected my palate to unknow flavours and ingredients, let’s face it, what makes me really content is what I know, even when disguised into unfamiliar fare. And I assume the same goes for everyone else. Not having grown up in the US, I cannot really relate to sweet potato or marshmallows but many Americans would recognize canned sweet potato dumped in a casserole, topped with marshmallows and shoved in the oven. The first time I heard of it, I thought it disgusting. But I have to concede it’s a comfort food that satisfies the inner child and I moved to refine it a bit.
If you have time, by all means, roast your potatoes in the oven and scoop the flesh out but if you need a shortcut, canned sweet potato puree from the market will do. As for the pie crust, I will dedicate a whole post to it tomorrow but, again, if you need to buy a crust choose one that is all butter. Finally, I wouldn’t suggest you go as far as making your own marshmallows but if you have kids, it’s a fun and easy project and somewhat foolproof -www.epicurious.com provides an excellent recipe or you can e-mail me and I will send you mine.
The visual of this pie always makes me smile – I guess it appeals to the American inner child I never was.
SWEET POTATO PIE WITH MARSHMALLOWS
1# Sweet Potato Puree
7.5 oz Butter
3/4 C Sugar
3/4 C Milk
1 ts Vanilla Extract
1/2 ts Cinnamon
1/4 ts Nutmeg
1/4 ts Salt
1 ts Rum
1 ts Flour
1 9 ” Pie Shell (baked half way through)
1 bag Large Marshmallows
1. Melt butter and sugar on the stove and add them to the sweet potato puree together with milk and eggs. Whisk until smooth (you can use a mixer or do it by hand)
2. Whisk in the remaining ingredients until smooth.
3. Pour filling into the prepared crust and bake at 350F until the filling is set (20 mins to half an hour depending on oven). If the crust starts browning too much, cover it with strips of foil.
4. Let the pie cool slightly and then cover it with marshmallows, working in concentric circles. Put back in the oven for a few minutes until the marshmallows start to brown slightly. I wouldn’t use the broiler unless you want your marshmallows charred.
5. Let cool completely and serve.