Deep South Dining


Deep South Dining | Giving Thanks

The countdown to Thanksgiving is winding down and final preparations are happening. Today Malcolm and Java are without their skillet buddy Carol but get a very special call-in guest to help with the show. Also, Malcolm schools Java on the particulars of a wet salad and why adding a little something extra to your traditional Thanksgiving dressing won't hurt. From pillowcase turkeys to macaroni & cheese and everything in between, the table is set for a very thankful Thanksgiving. Let's eat y'all!

"The Best Sweet Potato Casserole" courtesy of Bob Yarbrough (Charlottesville, Virginia)

All good Southern cooks (and even those not so good) and eaters have a favorite sweet potato casserole recipe. Below is mine and this will mark the 30th consecutive year I’ve baked it for our Thanksgiving celebration. This year I’ll make a half recipe. I’m afraid if we don’t have this dish, I’ll hear from Stacy’s attorney. For those of you who need the fluffy white things on top of your sweet potatoes, I’m sorry. This recipe is marshmallow-free.
The recipe is found in a wonderful cookbook given to me as a Christmas gift by my sister and brother-in-law. It’s “A Taste of the South” by Terry Thompson and if I place the book on my kitchen table, it falls open to a sweet-potato, brown-sugar-smeared page 117. A woman named Alma Smith created this recipe. It may be prepared ahead and baked just before serving; it tastes even better the next day. Ms. Smith, I bow down before you in honor. A final note…this recipe is not for the faint of heart and there will be absolutely no attempt made to calculate the caloric and/or fat content therein.


  • 4 large sweet potatoes (about 3 lbs. total), peeled, cooked and hot
  • 1 cup unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature (set the butter out overnight)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  • 2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2/3 to 1 cup unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature (same thing, overnight)
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chopped pecans


  1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C).
  2. Lightly butter a deep-sided 13” x 9” baking dish; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mash hot potatoes thoroughly. (There are no instructions in the book on how to arrive at the hot sweet potato stage. I always bake the sweet potatoes. Just rub them down in oil, slap on a foil-lined cookie sheet and throw in a hot oven until the caramel starts oozing out. Maybe 400F for 45 minutes or so. I have heard tell of others achieving satisfactory results from peeling and boiling the potatoes.)
  4. Add butter or margarine (I have never used margarine, by the way, so I can’t testify whether it makes the recipe better, but given the option, butter damn near always trumps margarine in my kitchen), sugar, eggs, evaporated milk and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until blended and smooth (3 to 4 minutes).
  5. Spoon mixture into buttered baking dish. 

To Prepare Topping

  1. In a bowl, beat together brown sugar, butter or margarine and flour until smooth and fluffy. Fold in pecans. The original recipe calls for 2/3 of a cup of butter, but I’ve found that the whole cup works as well. What the hell, it’s Thanksgiving!
  2.  Spread over potato mixture (spread isn’t exactly the best descriptor of how to get the topping on the potatoes; you have to glop and very lightly attempt to spread it on in small forkfuls. Distribute the mixture as best you can, secure in the knowledge that the topping melts together to cover any exposed potatoes.).
  3.  Bake in preheated oven until set and lightly browned on top (about 35 minutes or so). Then let it cool for a bit. This puppy gets all kinds of hot.

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