Saturday, December 11, 2010

Elegant Apricot Sweet Potatoes

“The Gourmet Foods Cookbook” by Chicago’s Culinary Arts Institute, 1955

Most of the recipes in this adorably illustrated little pamphlet call for things I don’t use, (and when I say “I don’t use”, that is a euphemism for, “they make me gag”) like lard and MSG, and call for nothing but canned fruits and vegetables, so I thought for the most part I would just enjoy it for the delightful drawings. But I came across this recipe that looked almost like a modern side-dish, and decided to try it out for Thanksgiving.

The recipe called for pre-baking the yams, and boiling dried apricots to re-constitute them, and then to slice them all up and lay them in beautiful strie, to be covered with orange-zested melted butter and sprinkled with brown sugar before baking the whole thing. However, both my yams and apricots ended up looking ugly and a bit too broken up when sliced. I decided to remedy the situation by turning the whole mess into a puree, which I then topped with crisped bacon bits and walnuts (instead of pecans, which are too sweet). The overt saltiness of the bacon (which was perfect in such a teeny amount) cut the sweetness of the apricot/yam puree, and it ended up a delicious dish! I fully intend to make this again beyond the holidays. (Actually I made so much I put some in a seperate container to freeze for later!) Note to self: Yams can be yum!

I should also point out that this recipe is written in a style once quite popular: paragraph form, (but with random punctuation). Here, ingredients are introduced as needed, rather than all in a top section, and steps are listed out as if a story were being told. Good luck with that – see if you don’t find it as maddening as I do!

Elegant Apricot Sweet Potatoes

A shallow 1-qt. baking dish will be needed.

Wash thoroughly and put into a saucepan ½ lb (1 ½ cups) dried apricots

Add 2 cups hot water

Allow apricots to soak in covered pan for 1 hour. Cook in water in which they were soaked, simmering, 40 min., or until fruit is plump and tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from heat. Cool and drain all, reserving the liquid.

Meanwhile, wash and scrub with a vegetable brush 6 medium sized (about 2 lbs.) sweet potatoes or yams
Cook 30 to 35 min., or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain potatoes and peel; cut into lengthwise slices about ½ in. thick.

Lightly grease the baking dish.

Set out 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar. Arrange a layer of the sweet potatoes in the baking dish. Cover with a layer of apricots. Sprinkle with one-half of the brown sugar. Repeat layers of sweet potatoes and apricots and sprinkle with remaining sugar.

Blend thoroughly ¼ cup of the reserved apricot liquid and 3 Tbsp melted butter, 2 tsp orange juice, 1 tsp grated orange peel; Pour mixture over the layers.

Bake at 375 F about 45 min., basting occasionally with liquid in bottom of baking dish.

About 5 min. before sweet potatoes are done, top with ¼ cup (about 1 oz.) pecan halves.

(6 to 8 servings)

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