Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Kentucky Bourbon and Bacon
By Heidi Allison
This recipe is a new twist on the time-honored holiday fave, Sweet Potato Casserole. Not as cloyingly sweet as traditional recipes, this rendition is a complex play of sweet and savory, with the flavor notes of vanilla, roasted nut, cajun spice, orange, herbs and smoky bacon taking center stage, rather that just the single flavor note of “sugar”.
While any good quality Kentucky Bourbon will do, I prefer the taste of Kentucky Woodford Reserve Bourbon, which is made by hand in small batches and aged for 6 years in oak, creating a gentle, smooth-tasting bourbon (no harsh burn) with complex flavor notes of vanilla, caramel, toffee, honey, roasted nuts and oak – great complementary flavors for the sweet potatoes!
Another switch-out in this cutting-edge casserole is the topping: overly sweet and soft marshmallows are replaced with the smoky /salty taste of crisp bacon – a much more mature texture and flavor juxtaposition! While this recipe calls for rosemary, I also love it with fried, fresh sage, which adds a nice bottom note to the dish. If you like the flavor of sage, just be sure to use fried, fresh sage, not powdered, pre-packaged sage, which can leave a medicinal note in the finished dish.
This recipe is best done the night before serving, which not only allows the flavors to “marry”, but also frees up your time and counter space for other holiday dishes.
Serves: 5-6 as a side
4 pounds of Sweet Potatoes
(about 5 medium)
4 tablespoons of Unsalted Butter, softened to room temperature
1 Vanilla Bean
, seeds scraped out (can substitute with 1 teaspoon Good Quality Liquid Vanilla)
1 teaspoon Fresh Chopped Rosemary
(can substitute with 1 Tablespoon Crumbled Flash-Fried Fresh Sage)
1 ounce Best Quality Kentucky Bourbon (I prefer Woodford Reserve)
1½ tsp. Cajun Seasoning
¼ cup Thawed Orange Juice Concentrate
1 teaspoon Orange Zest (about 1 medium orange)
½ cup Dark Brown Sugar
2 cloves Garlic
, peeled and microplaned (about 1 teaspoon)
¼ teaspoon Smoked Salt
4 strips of Bacon, fried and drained
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork 4-5 times. Line a baking pan with foil, and place sweet potatoes in baking pan. Cook for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or, until sweet potatoes are soft in the center when pierced with a knife. Remove sweet potatoes from oven and allow to cool.
Scoop out sweet potato flesh and place in a large bowl. Add butter, vanilla, bourbon, herbs, (fried sage or fresh, chopped rosemary), Cajun seasoning, orange juice concentrate, orange zest, dark brown sugar, garlic, smoked salt and whip with a hand mixer until all ingredients are blended. Cover with foil and place in the refrigerator overnight to allow the flavors to “marry”.
To reheat: preheat oven to 400 degree and place sweet potatoes into serving casserole dish. Cover with foil and heat for about 15 minutes, or, until sweet potatoes are warm.
Top with crumbled bacon and serve.