Friday, September 17, 2010
A Sweet (Potato) New Year
The beautiful thing about a break fast is that you can have all your friends over for a dinner party and no one expects you to cook. With Yom Kippur falling on a Saturday, I figured we could invite over a bunch of friends and relatives, spend the day fasting and praying, and then come home and have a break fast that would double as a dinner party.
I didn't grow up particularly observant, never had a bat mitzvah and despite planning our older son's bar mitzvah last year, still can't read or write Hebrew. We went to Israel for two weeks this summer, and I still can't say much more than "shalom," "boker tov" (good morning) and "chamesh" (five). I've been reading Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews, and am beginning to know a bit about Jewish history, but other than growing up in the town Philip Roth satirized in Goodbye, Columbus, the only parts of Judaism that I have really mastered are the parts that emphasize socializing and eating.
With that in mind, I emailed a bunch of friends and relatives and ordered platters of bagels, lox, white fish, herring, egg salad, tuna and chopped liver from the deli that catered my younger son's briss. I made sure there was white wine in the fridge and red wine in the cup board, and said, "Yes!" when various people asked if they could bring dessert, fruit salad and kugel. I sent out an email confirming the time we would eat and decided it was actually okay to have people over and not do any cooking. My logic was that if I did cook, I would have to factor in a lot of dietary restrictions--we had two people coming who had peanut allergies, one person who was allergic to walnuts, two people with celiac, and one with diabetes. Except for the bagels, everything I had ordered from the deli could be eaten by everyone. Why start cooking and complicating things?
But then I got home from teaching yesterday afternoon, and had this urge to create. Actually, I was exhausted and looking for a sugar high so I decided to make my mother-in-law's sweet potato casserole.
This casserole has been a favorite of my husband's since childhood. I used to be one of those wives who strove to make all her husband's favorite foods (this included apple and pumpkin pies made from scratch, with grated cheddar cheese rolled into the homemade dough). I would ask my mother-in-law for her recipes and she would kindly take out her recipe folder and copy them out for me. But that all went out the window once we had our second child, and now I just basically make food my kids like, and hope my husband likes it when he heats it up.
My husband and kids all love this casserole. There's nothing particular religious about it. It works just as well for Thanksgiving as it does for the conclusion of the Day of Atonement. It is decadent, old fashioned, fattening, easy to make and pleases multitudes. It may not be the key to peace in the Middle East, though who knows, it might. It's delicious and puts everybody in a good mood. You can make it with a graham cracker crust, or without. Both ways are divine.
DOROTHY'S SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE
2 cups (one large can) of sweet potatoes
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
3/4 stick butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 stick melted butter
3/4 cup mashed graham crackers
Set oven for 400 degrees.
Mash sweet potatoes in food processor. Mix together sweet potatoes, butter, milk, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon. Grease a casserole dish and pour in filling. Cook for twenty minutes.
While casserole is cooking, make the topping. (If you don't want to use graham crackers, just mix the brown sugar with the butter and pour it on top of the casserole). Mix the graham crackers with butter and brown sugar, take casserole out of the oven and cook for 10 more minutes.