I came late to the sweet potato party.
No matter how hard I tried to love the sweet potato, I could not get over the sickly-sweet preparations for it. Cruelly candied and covered with horrible amounts of marshmallows sweet potatoes were relegated to the list of foods that looked good and were probably a good idea but which failed miserably at actually being edible.
It’s not that sweet potatoes are a vegetable either. I am the person who has absolutely no compunction against covering pickles in chocolate sauce (this while never having been nor ever planning to be pregnant). Nor do I have issues with eating avocado pudding. Fruit in savory dishes? AOK by me. Vegetables in sweet breads? Bring it on.
But sweet potatoes, which are already endowed by nature with quite a bit of sugar, do not need additional sweetness. Over the years I had tried several different recipes. I had tried adding orange juice, reducing the sugar, using maple syrup instead, and just plain folding in a little bit of marshmallow cream. But any additional sugar added to the sweet potatoes evoked the worst qualities in those tubers. So after years or experimenting I had plain given up on making sweet potatoes edible.
But it wasn’t until I tasted sweet potatoes prepared as a vegetable that I fell in love.
My general rule when presented with a food I generally don’t like prepared in a way different that I have ever tasted is to go ahead and try it. The worst that could happen is that my opinion remains unchanged. And the best that could happen is that a long loathed food is redeemed in my eyes.
This is what happened with the sweet potato. It was at an office Christmas party. Because I was on lent there was not much at the party that I could eat. So when it came time to eat dinner, I did my usual thing and nibbled on sides. One of which was a most exquisitely tasty mashed sweet potato. I took a little bit at first, given hope by the utter lack marshmallows and further heartened by the complete absence of that dark caramely color that signals way too much sugar. This was a simple orange mash decorated with just a wee bit of parsley on top.
And it was just about the tastiest thing I had eaten in years. Smooth and creamy it was none the less sophisticated. Creamy with just a hint of spice, only enough to highlight the lovely natural flavor of the sweet potato without overwhelming it. I had three helpings, forsaking all else.
Alas I did not get the recipe and after years of failures I have not even come close to capturing that particular flavor. But I did come up with something better.
My first thought was to bake the sweet potato with the logic that roasting always concentrates flavor. Alas, roasting the sweet potato merely dried it out, yielding a sticky dry mash. Boiling the sweet potato in water had the exact opposite effect. The tuber came out soggy, watery and too loose.
I was getting desperate when something on a cooking show caught my eye. This was so many years ago now that I don’t even remember the show any more. Though I am certain it was one of the Saturday morning PBS shows… and if I know myself it was probably “America’s Test Kitchen.” I don’t even remember the recipe, but what I do remember was that it called for cooking the sweet potatoes in cream.
That was it! That was the trick! Cooking in cream unlocked all of the sweet potatoes secrets, opening the door to spotlight its subtle taste. Softly sweet, the puree is velvety smooth, lightly sweet and utterly delectable. It is utter pure decadence in a puree. An indulgence for the tongue. Wonderful on its own or the perfect stage to shine the spotlight on a single spice. The variations are endless.
And the best part is that since the potatoes cook in the mashing liquid this is a one pot dish. No muss no fuss, just cool and mash!
Ockam’s Razor. Simplest is best
Savory Mashed Sweet Potatoes*
3-5 sweet potatoes 
½-1 cup of heavy cream
Peel the sweet potatoes and slice thinly. No more than a quarter inch thickness. This is best done by halving each potato then placing the cut side down, halving again and then slicing thinly.
Place the thinly slices potatoes into a pan large enough to hold them. Shake the pan to evenly distribute the potatoes. Add enough cream to come just under half way up the potatoes. They will not be covered. Do not use regular milk because it will curdle.
Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are very tender. Remove from heat, season with salt and spice of choice and mash until smooth.
For a smoother creamier puree, put into the food processor and pulse just until smooth.
 This calls for sweet potatoes. Orange fleshed with a dark reddish-range skin. Not the lighter yams.
 I have tried a lot of variations in this but I tend to like a sprinkle of cinnamon, though nutmeg, thyme is also very good. But if you are feeling particularly adventurous add a single chipotle pepper in some adobo sauce. The smoky chipotle plays off the sweetness of the potatoes beautifully. The result is a mildly spicy puree with an irresistible smoky-sweet flavor.
* Sweet potatoes are excellent sources of Vitamins A and C which was both powerful anti-oxidants. They are also good sources of B6, manganese, copper, fiber, potassium, and iron. And as a bonus they have been shown to stabilize blood sugar and reduce insulin resistance making them a very healthy choice for diabetics. To get more information, click here.