Monday, November 24, 2014

Fresh Takes on Old Friends – Day 2 in a Marathon of Sides
What’s cooking? Sweet Potato-Ginger Soufflé

I think most people, when they look at the menu in a restaurant, focus on the entrée item. But increasingly, I find that I choose my entrée by what comes with it: the wild mushroom risotto, or the spiced quinoa, or maybe the baby onion compote. I call it “getting sidetracked,” in the sense that sometimes, I can’t even remember what I ordered. The right sides – or maybe just the most interesting ones – are what appeal to me.

This particular side could be the whole meal, as far as I’m concerned. I found it in an ancient little cookbook put out by Williams-Sonoma – the publication date is 1993 – and you can only now get it through resellers. It’s Chuck Williams’ Thanksgiving & Christmas, and what I like most about it is its simplicity. A handful of instructions on equipment and carving techniques, then six full menus for those two holidays. A photo of each item, and never more than a page of directions. For such a small collection, I’ve enjoyed many of the recipes.

I’ve made this soufflé for groups large and small, and there’s never any left over. And for my money, this beats the marshmallow treatment for sweet potatoes by a mile. It’s lighter and more savory, with the occasional tiny burst of sweetness when you bite down on a sliver of candied ginger.

Kitchen Goddess note on candied ginger: The KG flat-out loves candied ginger, and has even been known to eat it straight. But she learned the hard way that the taste can vary widely. And it’s not cheap, so she recommends that you buy just a little and taste it before you plunge in for a big package. The Kitchen Goddess buys only from either Penzey’s or Spice Island. Generally speaking, the ones she doesn’t like come in large lumps.

My chopped ginger. The pieces in the upper left corner are the size I buy.

By the way, Chuck Williams calls this a pudding, but it’s much more in texture like a soufflé, so that’s how I refer to it. Also, you should know that you can boil and purée the sweet potatoes ahead of time. If you are not boiling the potatoes ahead of time, use that 30 minutes to get your mise en place, if you know what I mean. Grate the zest, chop the ginger, separate the egg whites. There’s a lot to do, but the results are soooo worth it.

Sweet Potato-Ginger Soufflé

Serves 8.

2 pounds sweet potatoes, not peeled
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
⅓ cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg whites

Put the sweet potatoes – whole and unpeeled – in a large saucepan with a tablespoon of salt and cold water to cover. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer the potatoes, covered, for 30-35 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain the potatoes and let sit until cool enough to handle.

Preheat the oven to 350º. Butter a 2-quart soufflé dish.

Peel the cooled potatoes (the paper-thin skin will come off with amazing ease) and process to a smooth purée using a food processor. Transfer the purée to a large bowl and stir in the lemon zest, ½ teaspoon of salt, and the crystallized ginger. Add the cream and nutmeg, and stir until well combined. Adjust seasoning (salt and nutmeg) to taste. (This is where I invariably add more fresh nutmeg. You can rarely have too much fresh nutmeg.)

In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg whites on high until they form soft peaks. Lighten the sweet potato mixture by gently stirring in several tablespoons of the whites, then use a rubber spatula to gently but thoroughly fold the remaining whites into the mix. (You want the combination to be consistent without deflating the whites any more than is necessary.) Spoon the mixture into the buttered soufflé dish.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 60-70 minutes, until the top is relatively firm and slightly golden in color. Serve as soon as possible.

 Kitchen Goddess note: As with any soufflé, this one looks best right out of the oven. But the heaviness of the sweet potato mixture will keep the soufflé from rising much, and it won’t deflate the way a standard soufflé will. Which means there’s no cause for panic –  it’ll still look pretty good even if it has to wait a few minutes.


  1. This looks divine. I'm thinking it will be a nice change from the usual. Thanks! Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Thanks, Kristina. It really is a terrific alternative. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!