Written and Test-Kitchened by Stephanie Siam
Being from the Southern United States, I grew up on certain staples that can be difficult to replace after converting to Islam: lots of processed junk food, questionable meat products and, of course, Lucky Charms. While my heart and gut are thankful for my (slightly) healthier diet now, it’s often hard to please my nostalgic taste buds when it comes to traditional family favorites.
Moving to the Middle East made it even trickier to reproduce these dishes due to lack of necessary ingredients. Sure, I can find halal items easily, but now I have limited access to brands I’ve grown up on.
Of course, the times when I get most foodly-sentimental are when I a) see a long-loved favorite in the grocery store that imports American items and b) around Thanksgiving. Sure, lots of expats (Americans living abroad) celebrate Thanksgiving over here in Oman.
They even have a traditional dinner at the American Club. However, I don’t attend because the tradition extends to other things many Americans miss while living in the Middle East (use your imagination). So, I usually have to hold out until I return home and then gorge myself on my mom’s cooking.
This year, however, I noticed a particular item in the grocery store that had me all up on Memory Lane: Bruce’s Yams. And my heart skipped a beat as I thought of the greatest dish ever to grace my family table on Thanksgiving: sweet potato casserole!
Here I was, in Oman, and I had access to the TWO primary ingredients to make my favorite family tradition — canned yams and halal marshmallows!
Best of all, my mom was coming to visit in January, so I’d have the trifecta of sweet potato perfection!!
Therefore, without further ado, I present…….
Halalified Southern Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows
For this recipe, you will need the following items:
*9 in x 11 in glass baking dish, spraying with non-stick cooking spray
*hand or stand mixer with beater attachments
*large mixing bowl (if not using a stand mixer)
*small microwave-safe bowl
*2 large cans of yams
*1/2 cup brown sugar
*1 small can of evaporated milk (approx. 5 oz.)
*1 stick of unsalted butter (those are small sticks in the picture below)
*2 tsp ground cinnamon
*1 bag of unflavored marshmallows (any size you like or can find…..or Corbin’s Halal Marshmallows)
Produce Placement Overload: Yes, I know those aren’t Bruce’s Yams. By the time my mom arrived, they were gone (danger of living overseas!). These were just as delicious.
Step 1: Preheat oven to 450F.
Step 2: Spray 9 in x 11 in glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
Step 3: Open yams and pour off the liquid. Place in mixing bowl.
Step 4: Place butter in microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 20 seconds at a time, to soften. (Note: You don’t want to melt the butter.)
Step 5: Add the softened butter and cinnamon to the yams. Mix on medium speed until ingredients are combined.
Step 6: Add the brown sugar and mix until completely combined.
Step 7: Add the evaporated milk and blend until completely smooth.
Step 8: Place contents into prepared baking dish.
Step 9: Bake on the center rack at 450F for 1 hour or until the top is brown and bubbly. Remove potatoes from oven and cover with marshmallows.
Step 10: Bake for another 15 minutes, or until marshmallows are melted.
Step 11: Place under broiler for 5 minutes to brown the top of the marshmallows. (Note: Make sure to keep an eye on the oven, so they don’t burn!)
Step 12: Enjoy as a side dish or dessert!
A final suggestion: the flavors in this recipe seem to meld better as time passes. I would suggest preparing the potato part of the casserole the day before you want to serve it. Then, pop it in the oven an hour or so before you’re ready to eat. The extra time gives the brown sugar and cinnamon a chance to bloom and makes a MAJOR difference in flavor.
Endnote: You probably notice the difference in presentation of the two photos above. I have a confession: we were so excited to eat the sweet potato casserole at dinner that I forgot to take a picture. Therefore, this picture is of the second-day leftovers, after reheating them in the oven. They’re not too pretty, but they tasted even better than the first day.
For better representation, I have borrowed the picture on the right from user Tangie over at AllRecipes.com. Please forgive me forgetting to snap a final shot, but they were just too enticing to wait a moment longer!
Insha’Allah, you will agree! Sa7tain wa afiakum!
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