Yes, you read that right! Two iconic Southern Pies in one glorious crust! The first time I tasted Sweet Potato Pecan Pie coincided with the first time I visited New Orleans… Paul Prudhomme was an up and coming chef whose Blackened Redfish was becoming all the rage. Spicy and delicious- Prudhomme put New Orleans on the top places to visit for the food alone! He was invited to the White House as chef for an international summit and became a household name. Lines formed early at his restaurant – K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. Out of his kitchen came not only wonderful food, there were also chefs who would become famous in their own right.
I stood in that line more than three decades ago- the food was amazing, the experience delightful- made so because Chef Paul was sitting in a huge chair like a throne- with a tasting spoon. We sat mesmerized as he stopped waiters to inspect the presentation and even taste the food. We were rewarded by seeing him actually send back a dish or two! K-Paul’s Kitchen is still a wonderful restaurant, updated it seems to have lost something in rustic charm but the food…ah yes, the food. It is a must stop on my restaurant list in New Orleans!
Now, about that Sweet Potato Pecan Pie… Without the crust, Southerners add sugar, nuts and butter to an humble Sweet Potato Casserole and with a straight face call it a Vegetable! Our renowned Southern Sweet Tooth created the Sweet Potato Casserole in two forms…one topped with Marshmallows and the other iconic Thanksgiving side dish topped with a Crunchy Topping of Butter, Brown Sugar and Pecans…oh my! Chef Prudhomme had the genius to combine it all into a dessert. His Sweet Potato Pecan Pie was served plopped on top of a white mass of Chantilly Cream, whipped cream with Cointreau, an orange flavored liqueur… On top of the intoxicating Chantilly Cream that Tall Slim slice of Sweet Potato Pecan Pie made me swoon…
Let me stop right here…my grandmother often scooped out orange shells, filled them with spiced, sugared and mashed sweet potatoes warmed in the oven with tiny marshmallows on top-so to me, Chef Paul’s blend of Orange, Pecans and Brown Sugar are a match made in culinary heaven. One of my favorite Praline recipes calls for these same flavors! Over all of these years, decades really- I have never forgotten my first slice of K-Paul’s Sweet Potato Pecan Pie. Here’s how you make my adapted version-
Camellia’s Cottage Sweet Potato Pecan Pie
- You must have an 8 inch cake pan, this is a deep dish pie!
- Line the cake pan with a prepared pie crust at least 14 inches in diameter.
- Bake a couple of nice plump sweet potatoes.
- For the Sweet Potato Filling– Scoop out one cup of pulp and mash sweet potato while it’s hot with one tablespoon of salted butter..
- Preheat oven to 300º
- In a medium size mixing bowl, combine mashed sweet potato, 1 Tbs. Pure Vanilla, 1/4 cup of packed Light Brown Sugar, 1/4 teas. Ground Cinnamon, 1/4 teas. of fresh Grated Nutmeg, 1-2 teaspoons of fresh grated Orange Zest and a pinch of Ground Cloves, 2 Tbs. Granulated Sugar, 1 Tbs of Heavy Cream and 1/2 of a Beaten Egg
- (Yes, you read that right-one half of a beaten egg! Chef Paul decreed it- his recipe doesn’t have orange zest- mine includes it because I’ve never had the pie sit still long enough to get the Chantilly Cream made!)
- Whisk until Sweet Potato Mixture is well blended and smooth.
- Spread into the bottom of uncooked pie crust.
- Sprinkle evenly with 1/2 cup of rough chopped Pecans.
- Top with Pecan Filling. In a small mixing bowl combine 3/4 cup sugar, 2 beaten eggs, 1 1/2 Tbs. melted Salted Butter, 3/4 cup of Dark Brown Corn Syrup, a pinch of Ground Cinnamon and 2 teas. pure Vanilla Extract.
- Mix well and pour over chopped Pecans/ Sweet Potato filling.
- Bake Sweet Potato Pecan Pie in 300 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours until set. Cool.
*It will cut better if chilled, but you may not be able to wait that long! *Chantilly Cream is heavy cream whipped with the addition of 2 Tbs of sugar and 1 Tbs. Cointreau or Cognac- my adaptation can be eaten without Chantilly Cream. You may add whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream is fine. Eaten plain? Just as delicious. Sweet Potato Pecan Pie deserves a place on your holiday dessert table- but why wait? Practice makes perfect!
If you are in New Orleans, stop by K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, buy Chef Prudhomme’s Cookbook and don’t forget to buy a jar of his famous Spice Mix to make Blackened Fish, Shrimp, Chicken or even Beef! There’s nothin’ like N’Awlin’s Cooking!
Love y’all, Camellia
* A short list of my favorite places to eat in the Big Easy also include Commander’s Palace for fine dining, Ye Old Coffee Pot for Callas and Lost Bread, Café du Monde on one corner and Café Beignet for Beignets. Casamente’s anytime except summer for Po’ Boy’s, Corner Grocery for real Muffaletas, the Brennan group of restaurants- think Breakfast at Brennan’s, Red Slipper for breakfast anytime, Galatoires for steaks and seafood, Drago’s for chargrilled oysters and replacing our favorite hamburger at Yo’ Mommas which closed, is St. Peter’s Port, with French Market Seafood Restaurant for seafood of all kinds at reasonable prices. If you want to chase down a real hurricane- skip Pat O’Brien’s fake red juice and like a whirlwind- move all the way down to the quiet end of Bourbon Street to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar- where reputedly the Hurricane was first served- reputation has it that four real fruit juices like grapefruit, orange and lime juice (maybe passion fruit?) is freshly squeezed over crushed ice, a bit of grenadine, then it’s all topped with an orange wedge and maraschino cherries- with or without a generous amount of Rum…it’s the real deal! I haven’t included the website information because this isn’t a paid list of recommendations and certainly not complete! *All photographs are obviously mine. My recipe is an adaptation of Chef Paul’s – his version is currently found on www.cooking.nytimes.com
*We continue to be concerned for Americans caught in the devastation in Puerto Rico and wildfires in California