The Marshmallows of Thanksgiving

I am excited to introduce you to my brand new friend Kelley. She lives, according to her own words, a bi-continental life, between the USA and Burundi.  She has the best smile and it is a clear reflection of her heart. She has a deep love for God, family, people, and food and it shows in everything that I have experienced through her.  I met her through SheLoves Magazine, where she blogs weekly, and got to finally meet her earlier this year. She also has her own blog and you can find it just by clicking on her name below. Please help me welcome her today as she shares some of her Thanksgiving faves.

By Kelley Nikondeha

 I reach for my collection of favorite recipes, already dreaming of fall and feasting. I envision the shopping, a grocery cart overflowing with pears, apples, bulbs of garlic, bunches of herbs. My daughter looks for one thing – marshmallows.

I’ve hosted Thanksgiving Dinner for many years, enough to have some culinary traditions like roasted garlic mashed potatoes (full butter, full crème), a brined and roasted turkey and pear crisp for the finale. But for my daughter the dinner is all about one thing, one recipe – Smashed Sweet Potatoes.

I used to make a lovely pureed sweet potatoes dish fragrant with brandy, rich with crème and topped with caramelized apples. For years it was part of the holiday pantheon. And Emma liked it, but she never asked for seconds. My dad ate copious amounts, but still recalled like clockwork ‘those sweet potatoes mom made with the marshmallows on top.’

So one year I caved in and made a new variation on the theme of sweet potatoes… one I found in the pages of Food & Wine Magazine, one that had the star ingredient – marshmallows.  The instructions were simple enough – roast sweet potatoes (I prefer yams for the saturated orange-ness), add some flavors and smash (I like using an old-fashioned hand masher leaving some subtle texture) and smooth into a casserole pan. 

And then… open that package of marshmallows. But wait, before throwing them over the mash, toss them with some Chinese Five Spice. Once the warm spices of ginger, star anise and cinnamon coat the white cubes, spread them evenly over the mashed orange vegetables. Then bake.

When the dish emerged from the oven, the marshmallows were browned and even crisp round the edges. Cut into them with a serving spoon and I noticed that the spice layer helps hold the shape of each marshmallow allowing for more crunch, more ooze from each center, more spice unlocked with each bite. It’s a bit magical, even an anti-marshamallow girl like me had to admit.

Emma ate little else once she tasted these sweet potatoes. She turned her nose at the offer of my beloved pear crisp and wanted her third heaping helping of the now cold smashed potatoes. She cleaned the dish with her brown fingers, licking each bit.

My dad beamed, and now when they come to the table he says something like ‘these are my favorite sweet potatoes.’ I had hoped they would be, as he loves sweet potatoes, marshmallows and Chinese Five Spice. Bingo!

So this recipe is more than just a new family tradition. It is my way of showing some culinary love to my daughter and dad, who crave smooth sweet potatoes smothered in marshmallow sweetness. This dish satisfies their longing, not mine. But as I give them what they crave, I do so with hints of me folded into the dish. The addition of bright yams, a spice coating and mashing with an old hand tool allow me to stamp the dish with a kiss.

I’m reminded that we love best when we give love in the language others hear (and taste), but with our own self folded mysteriously into the gift.

P.S. I do the same with cranberries… I make a cranberry compote (which everyone demands) but add fresh ginger, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. I serve in poached pears (my favorite) to add elegance but also sweetness to each helping.

I hope you serve up great food and great love on your holiday table this year!

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