Christmas dinner in Peru has more in common with Thanksgiving in the US than with the actual American Christmas dinner: stuffed turkey, baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows, applesauce, festive and colorful rice dishes, salads bursting with greens, apples, raisins, and nuts… and of course, many desserts, panetón (panettone) and the traditional hot chocolate at midnight (despite it being summer). Some families choose roasted pork, or even chicken for their menu, but always serve them with very similar sides.
These traditional side dishes inspired me to create some wonderful baked apples filled with tasty mashed sweet potatoes. Two dishes in one, and so easy to prepare. I don´t recommend that you bake the apples in advance, because they are at their best when freshly baked.
One of the reasons I love these versatile apples is because they go perfectly well with any meat. You can play with the taste of the mashed sweet potatoes by grating a little ginger or a few drops of chili sauce in the preparation, but I prefer to have them with no further embellishments.
To make this, choose the apples you like best. The green Granny Smith kind are my favorite because they have the perfect acidity to balance the flavors and cut the intensity of the sweet potatoes. But any kind is good, as long as they don´t fall apart while baking (you want beautiful baked apples, not mushy and messy ones).
Instead of sweet potatoes I also love to fill them with tart quince puree, because I like the complexity of flavor quinces add to any dish. We know that every family has a favorite way of preparing these mashed sweet potatoes for Christmas, so feel free to add any other flavor that you know your family enjoys.
And if you want to make this for dessert, just omit the salt and pepper in the mash, and add a little more sugar instead. They will be perfect!
- 3 medium sweet potatoes
- ½ teaspoon orange zest
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, grated
- 2 tablespoons milk
- Salt and pepper
- 8 apples, peeled and cored
- ½ cup simple syrup** or maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Wash and cook the sweet potatoes in a saucepan with water to cover until they are tender. Peel them and pass them through a ricer or mash them with a potato masher.
- Add orange zest and juice, sugar, butter, nutmeg, milk, salt and pepper. Combine well and reserve.
- Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
- With the tines of a fork, make diagonal indentations in the apples. Fill them with the sweet potatoes, and put them in a baking pan.
- In a small bowl mix simple syrup and lemon juice. Pour over the apples, and bake for 45 minutes, basting with the cooking juices every 15 minutes or so.
- **To make simple syrup: in a small saucepan combine ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and continue boiling for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Cool the syrup. You may keep this in the fridge.