How Sweet It Is...

I can't deny it any longer: I've been involved in a long-simmering love affair beyond the confines of my relationship with Justin. You can relax though, the object of my affection is not another man, but rather, a vegetable -- sweet potatoes to be precise. It started last year, when I discovered that my appreciation extended beyond the occasional plate of fries, and now I've been trying to sneak them into every dish I can find a recipe for. There was a delectable breakfast hash, a perfect mashed sweet potato side dish, and I even attempted to put them on a pizza, though that turned out to be a questionable decision on my part.

My latest experiment involved a sweet potato pie, but not the version laden with warm spices that one tends to see on holiday menus. Instead, this version, from Donald Link, the chef behind Cochon, the restaurant where we ate so well in New Orleans, was a savory, Cajun-inspired spin on the dish. As if the presence of sweet potatoes and the Donald Link connection wasn't enough to motivate me to try it, the recipe included andouille sausage, which makes everything better, in my experience.

In order to turn the pie into a more practical weeknight meal, I made the crust yesterday, and chilled it overnight, which had the added benefit of netting me a bonus pie crust for the freezer, since my favorite recipe makes enough for a double-crusted pie. I also baked the sweet potatoes in advance, so all I had to do was saute the meat and onions, combine the ingredients for the filling, and bake. It wasn't the quickest meal I've ever made on a work night, but it certainly wasn't the most laborious either.

I ended up having mixed feelings about the pie. While I though that the spicy sausage was a perfect compliment to the sweet potatoes, the texture of the filling was a little light and fluffy for me. A savory entree seems to call for a denser, more substantial mouth feel, and the lightness of this pie made it feel like a dessert with some misplaced meat and vegetables. I think the textural problems could be remedied by pureeing the sweet potatoes with the egg yolks, and stirring in the heavy cream by hand, as the action of the food processor started turning the cream into whipped cream before the mixture was fully incorporated.

It would be worth testing this technique, because this savory pie was a huge hit with Justin, and I did enjoy the flavors, if not the texture. I like the idea of savory pies in general, but then again, I seem to be having something of a pie moment lately. After all, I've made more pies than cookies in our new home, and that's highly unusual for me. Stay tuned to see what I think up next!

Andouille and Sweet Potato Pie
adapted from Food and Wine

1 lb. small sweet potatoes, pierced with a fork
1/2 lb. andouille sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled
1 c. heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
freshly ground black pepper
1 recipe pie crust

Preheat the oven to 350°. Wrap the sweet potatoes in foil and bake for 45 minutes, until they are soft. Let the sweet potatoes cool. Meanwhile, bake prepared pie crust.

In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the andouille sausage and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until it is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and dried sage and cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Peel the sweet potatoes and transfer them to a food processor. Puree until very smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Add the egg yolks and process until incorporated. Stir in the heavy cream by hand. Transfer the filling to a large bowl and stir in the andouille mixture. Scrape the filling into the crust and bake for about 45 minutes, until the custard is set. Let cool for 20 minutes, then cut the pie into wedges and serve.

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