Art Smith has cooked Southern comfort food around the world--from a school in South Africa to Oprah's home kitchen. "Southern food has a home-base to it," Smith says. "You can taste home in it no matter where you come from." This sweet-potato casserole from his Atlanta restaurant Southern Art and Bourbon Bar harks back to his mother's Thanksgiving table, where the combination of sweet potatoes, marshmallows and candied pecans echoed the sweetness of life. Whether you are a celebrity (Smith mentioned he plans on making it for Lady Gaga in the near future) or not, this dish might whisper of home-wherever that may be.
Recipe adapted from Art Smith, Southern Art and Bourbon Bar, Atlanta, GA
Yield: 12 servings
Cook Time: 25 minutes
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
1 cup raw pecan pieces
6 large sweet potatoes, cleaned and dried
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cane syrup
1 bag jumbo marshmallows
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the water has reduced slightly, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the pecans and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. Add a pinch of salt; using a spoon, transfer the pecans onto a baking sheet. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
2. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and rub with the oil. Season with salt and white pepper and place in the oven. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 1 hour. Remove the potatoes and set aside to rest until they're cool enough to handle, about 7 to 10 minutes. Carefully peel off the skins.
3. In a food processor, combine the sweet-potato flesh, butter, vanilla extract and cane syrup and purée until smooth. Season with salt and white pepper. Spoon the mixture into an 8- or 9-inch round casserole dish and top with the marshmallows. Use a torch to caramelize the marshmallows. (Alternatively, turn on the broiler and broil the marshmallows for a few minutes until they've caramelized.) Top the casserole with the reserved candied pecans and serve immediately.