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Food

A Dish My Husband Brought to the Marriage

Posted November 6, 2018 5:15 p.m. EST

Roasted duck fat potatoes, in New York. Crisp and brown at the edges, with a fluffy interior and a deep, brawny flavor, it is a potato taken to its highest form. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne. Prop Stylist: Courtney de Wet. (Christopher Testani/The New York Times)

Dahlia rushed into the house one day last November, slamming the door, stamping her feet, and glaring at Daniel and me.

“You’ve been depriving me of marshmallows all my life!” she said.

It was true. My family never served marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving. We didn’t like them, and since Dahlia hadn’t known of their gooey existence, we’d felt no need to enlighten her. Now she’d heard. We were busted.

Our sweet potatoes had been a more grown-up affair, one that Daniel brought to the table while he and I were still dating. His recipe, which he adapted from the chef Deborah Madison, called for roasting whole sweet potatoes, mashing them with huge amounts of butter and bourbon and sprinkling them with clove, cinnamon and allspice. He’d mash them with a fork, purposely leaving a bit of texture.

Unable to resist fiddling, I tweaked his recipe here and there, most significantly changing the texture. I like a silkier purée, so I whirl the potatoes in the food processor. It’s faster, and the food processor doesn’t make them gluey the way it does regular potatoes. I also added a little lemon zest for brightness, and a touch of dark brown sugar for depth.

Now that Dahlia is in the know, I scoop some of the purée into a ramekin, top it with mini-marshmallows, and broil it until browned. Of the many injustices of her childhood, this one was pretty easy to fix.

— Cooking tips: Sweet potatoes

Puréeing sweet potatoes in a food processor gives you the smoothest, airiest texture. (Unlike regular potatoes, sweet potatoes don’t become gluey in a food processor.) But you can also mash them by hand for something a little more rustic.

These potatoes reheat really well, either in a microwave or in a pot over low heat. You can make them up to 3 days ahead, and store them in the refrigerator.

Orange zest can be substituted for the lemon for a slightly sweeter citrus flavor.

Other spirits can stand in for the bourbon. Brandy and dark rum are particularly nice.

A tablespoon or two of honey or maple syrup can be used in place of the brown sugar.

Sweet Potatoes With Bourbon and Brown Sugar

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Total time: 1 1/4 hours, plus cooling

3 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, pricked with a fork (10 to 12 sweet potatoes)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 to 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar, or to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon or orange juice

3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Large pinch of ground cloves

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap potatoes in foil, place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Let rest until cool enough to handle but still warm, then remove the foil and peel off the skins.

2. Add sweet potatoes to a food processor, along with butter, brown sugar, bourbon or juice, lemon zest, salt, nutmeg, pepper and cloves. Purée until smooth. (Or, for a chunkier texture, mash them by hand.) Taste and add salt, sugar or both if you like. Serve while still warm or reheat before serving.