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Daniel Boulud hates bananas, except in his favorite Thanksgiving side dish of pureed sweet potatoes with apple, orange, butter, cream + cinnamon.
"I hate banana," admits the chef, restaurateur and cookbook author, "but in this dish, I love banana!" It's wonderful with the sweet potatoes and other ingredients, lending a smooth richness and subtle flavor.
Remove the zest from the orange with a vegetable peeler in long ½-inch-wide strips, then remove any white pith from the zest. Juice the orange and set aside. Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch and add half of the orange zest, 1 of the cinnamon sticks, the bay leaf, the clove-studded onion and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the sweet potatoes are fork tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apple and banana with the remaining orange zest and cinnamon stick. Cook, stirring often, until the fruit is lightly caramelized, 7 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the caramelized fruit to a plate and set aside. Reserve the skillet.
Add the sugar to the skillet and cook it over medium to medium-low heat until it’s a light-brown caramel. Carefully add the juice from the orange and cook until the liquid is reduced to 1 tablespoon. Add ¾ cup of the heavy cream and boil for 3 to 4 minutes. Return the caramelized fruit to the pan and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the orange peel and cinnamon stick. Keep warm.
When the sweet potatoes are soft, drain thoroughly. Discard the orange peel, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and onion. Transfer the potatoes to a food processor or blender. Add the fruit, season with salt and pepper and blend until smooth. If the puree is too thick, mix in the remaining ¼ cup cream. Taste for seasoning before serving.