My obsession with food began at an early age. When I was about four, I ran away from home…to a neighbor’s house…because my friend’s mother was letting her have ravioli for breakfast. Some of my best memories (and most of the reasons I date) revolve around food. So when I saw the latest Cookthink: Root Source Challenge ingredient was bourbon, I immediately thought about my food filled childhood and my friend Samantha’s crazy ass grandmother Nola…
Nola was from a very small town in Georgia and had a laugh that would scare small children (I know because it scared me). She also talked to herself a lot and insisted on wearing these huge crocheted ponchos, even in July…in Southern Georgia. But Nola was a genius in the kitchen, even if she did wear what was essentially a parka while cooking. One of my favorite dishes of hers were these bourbon glazed sweet potatoes. Even though she served them to us for dinner, they could easily be dessert. When I asked her how she made them, she said she drank half the bottle of bourbon and then started on the sweet potatoes. I’m still not sure what the hell she was talking about (which was probably due to the whiskey…her drinking it, not me), but the thought of those sweet potatoes in a phyllo dough are enough for me to try and recreate Nola’s dish (sans the partaking of enough whiskey to make Williem Defoe attractive).
3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup Bourbon
Approximately 60 sheets phyllo dough (four sheets per tart)
1/2 cup butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Wash and peel the sweet potatoes and them whole in a pot of boiling water. Boil them until tender (about an hour). With a slotted spoon, carefully remove the potatoes (trying to preserve their shape) and place them in a bowl to cool. While the potatoes are cooling, combine the butter, maple syrup and brown sugar in a sauce pan, along with half of the cinnamon, half of the ground cloves and half of the nutmeg. Cook at medium heat until the mixture starts to thicken. Add the bourbon and immediately remove from the heat.
Cut the cooled potatoes into large slices and place them in a greased baking dish. Pour the bourbon glaze over the potatoes, being sure to cover all the potatoes completely. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until most (not all) of the glaze has evaporated. Take out the potatoes and allow to cool.
While the glazed potatoes are cooling, prepare the phyllo dough. First, combine the remaining spices into a small bowl. Place one sheet of the dough on a parchment covered, clean surface. Brush the sheet with melted butter and then sprinkle some of the spice mix over the dough. Place another sheet over this sheet and repeat the process. Repeat this step until you have a layer of five sheets. Cut the sheets into six even squares. Working with one square, line a small tart pan with it, molding it to the shape of the pan. Repeat this step with the remaining squares. Repeat this entire process until you have 12 phyllo dough lined tart pans.
Once the potatoes have cooled, place several slices at a time in a potato ricer and mash the potatoes into a bowl. After placing all of the sweet potato slices through the ricer, give the mash a good stir. Spoon some of the mash into a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip (I used the wide star tip). Make a swirl pattern with the mash into one of the phyllo lined tart pans. Only fill the tart half way to avoid turning the delicate phyllo dough to mush. Trim off the excess phyllo and place on a baking sheet. Repeat this process for all of the tart pans. Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the phyllo dough is golden brown and no longer fragile. Feel free to top with either walnuts or pecans!
In case you’re wondering, there was plenty of bourbon left after I made these tarts (even though I bought the smallest bottle at the liquor store). Unlike Nola, however, I didn’t turn up the bottle and drain what was left…and Williem Defoe is still unattractive.