We eat a ton of fresh Louisiana sweet potatoes around my house. My mother-in-law just dropped off a box she’d procured from a farmer near the Avoyelles Parish town of Hessmer and it came with the same edict it does every time she brings us a batch. “Leave them dirty. Don’t wash them until you cook them.” It’s a sacred procedure among many in the Bayou State. More about that here.
On busy weeknights, I often cube sweet potatoes, toss them in olive oil and chopped rosemary and roast them on a cookie sheet. But during holidays my favorite version involves a simple mash of sweet potatoes blended with just a few ingredients and baked in a fresh orange shell.
My family has served sweet potatoes like this for ages, and I still remember my maternal grandmother painstakingly removing every bit of pulp from the orange shell to create a smooth and flawless vessel. Perfection was her aim, but the truth is, leaving pulp and orange bits behind is the way to go. It only adds a fabulous layer of citrus flavor. The oranges in my backyard are almost ripe, and I can’t wait to use them for this recipe (along with those dirty spuds!) throughout the holidays. Topping them with pecans also gives me a chance to work in another southern ingredient.
Slice fresh oranges in half, remove the flesh and reserve for another use. (You can even add orange sections to the puree). Use any formula you like for the potatoes. Mine is super simple and not too sweet.
4 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1 generous tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
Fill eight orange pockets with potato puree and top with mini-marshmallows or a combination of chopped pecans, brown sugar and cold butter cut into tiny pieces. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and browned.