Try a makeover for holiday leftovers

Sweet Potato Savory Soufflé is light, fluffy and not at all cloying as one might expect sweet potato to be. BY JACK CLEMONS
November 23, 2012

By now you’ve recovered from your Thanksgiving traditions. Whether you spent the day watching football or planning your holiday shopping, you most likely shared a turkey dinner with family and friends. Although we sometimes refer to yesterday as turkey day, so many of our menus are more about the variety and quantity of side dishes than the bird itself.

Over the years, I’ve learned that no matter how accurately we estimate of the amount of food to serve, there always seems to be more left over than before we started eating. This isn’t necessarily a negative, especially when it comes to the first bite of a leftover turkey sandwich. Mine are made from granary bread, thinly sliced turkey and too much mayonnaise.

From a leftovers standpoint, the turkey has many opportunities for a satisfying repeat performance, but not all the accompaniments have the same skill. Oyster dressing, for example, isn’t quite as appetizing the next day. The same is true for the congealed green bean casserole made with mushroom soup. Sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows become cloying overnight (unless you have enough children at the table to make the marshmallows disappear).

There are two ways to serve leftovers at another meal, either treated to resemble their original condition or transformed into another dish altogether. Mashed potatoes are a good test case. Heat them in a skillet or the microwave and whisk in some warmed milk and melted butter so they appear just as fluffy as the day they were mashed. Or, thin them with a beaten egg and season them with onion to create a batter for potato pancakes.

Cranberry sauce is a surprisingly versatile leftover. This sweet-tart condiment can be used as a surprise substitute for grape jelly on your peanut butter sandwich, or swirled into yogurt for a colorful snack. Consider using a combination of cranberry jelly melted with orange juice to marinate pork tenderloin, or heat it for pancake syrup.

My favorite leftover transformation is the creation of sweet potato soufflé, which can be made in versions both sweet and savory. The most daunting aspect of soufflé is its undeserved reputation for difficulty. We’ve all seen the situation comedy episodes with slamming ovens or heavy footsteps causing the top of the soufflé to come crashing down. This is just a humorous urban legend; in fact, one of the ways to test for doneness is to gently shake the soufflé pan.

There are also lots of recipes called soufflés that are really casseroles. A true soufflé has two components: a base that provides flavor and beaten egg whites, which provide loft. For a main course or savory side, the base will start with melted butter and flour cooked into a roux, then extended with main ingredients to form the flavor profile. Sweet soufflés begin with a pastry cream or mixture of eggs, milk and sugar, then are flavored. Because the whipped whites add so much air, the base needs to be strongly flavored or the soufflé will taste bland.

A few tips help the cook make soufflés more easily: eggs that have reached room temperature will whip better than cold ones; a copper bowl provides ions that react with egg proteins to produce a higher, sturdier froth; you’ll need to generously coat the inside of the soufflé pan with butter and dust it with a dry ingredient (sugar or grated Parmesan cheese) to give the rising batter a scaffold for its vertical climb; test for doneness with a gentle shake – if it jiggles just slightly the soufflé is ready, but if the surface really wiggles, it’s still too wet inside.

Timing on a soufflé is far more forgiving than you may have been led to believe. It isn’t necessary to do everything at the last minute. You can assemble the batter in the prepared soufflé pan and keep it in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap until a few minutes before baking. If you’ve whipped and folded everything together properly, the batter will be fine for up to several hours. The soufflé in the photo combined minced shallots, Swiss cheese and sweet potato puree with whipped egg whites. The texture was airy, light and moist with a delicate flavor – perfect for breakfast or brunch and nothing like the marshmallow-topped mash we had yesterday.

Savory Sweet Potato Souffle

1 t softened butter
1 1/2 T grated Parmesan cheese
1 T butter
2 minced shallots
1/2 t thyme
1 T flour
1/2 C milk
1/2 C grated Swiss cheese
1/4 C grated Cheddar cheese
1 C sweet potato puree
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
3 eggs, separated
pinch cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 425 F. Coat the inside of a soufflé dish with 1 t softened butter. Dust the inside with Parmesan cheese, shaking out any excess; set aside. Melt the 1 T of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the shallots until softened. Stir in thyme and flour; cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Stir in the milk and cook until thickened, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add Swiss cheese, stirring until smooth. Add the sweet potato puree, salt and pepper; stir to combine. Add the egg yolks and stir vigorously until incorporated; set aside. In a scrupulously clean glass or copper bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the sweet potato mixture. Add the remaining beaten egg whites and gently fold into the batter. Pour batter into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the Cheddar cheese. Place pan in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 375 F. Bake until puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Yield: 6 servings.

Potato Pancakes

1 1/2 C mashed potatoes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 sliced green onions
2 t parsley
salt & pepper, to taste
1 T butter or oil for cooking

Whisk together all the ingredients to combine. Heat butter or oil in nonstick skillet. Spoon batter into the skillet in 2-inch circles. Cook until browned; turn and cook the other side. Yield: 8 small pancakes. Serve with sour cream or applesauce.

Sweet Potato Souffle

3 eggs, separated
5 T sugar
pinch cream of tartar
2 T milk
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ginger
1/2 t allspice
1 C sweet potato puree

Preheat oven to 400 F. Butter and sugar six individual soufflé cups or ramekins; set aside. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with 3 T of the sugar until light in color and thickened. Stir in the milk, spices and sweet potato puree; set aside. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until firm; add 1 T sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the sweet potato mixture. Spoon the batter into the cups and dust with the remaining 1 T sugar. Bake until golden and puffy, 10 to 15 minutes.

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