Are you looking for a sweet potato recipe for Thanksgiving? I recommend Ruth’s Chris Special Sweet Potato Casserole. It is a traditional Louisiana recipe with a praline topping and a filling made with fresh baked sweet potatoes. The rich, creamy filling includes a special ingredient. It is served in Ruth’s Chris Steak House restaurants around the world.
The recipe is from Ruth Fertel. She is the original owner of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, an upscale restaurant in New Orleans which is now a world-wide chain. That is an interesting story itself.
Louisiana Sweet Potatoes
The harvest season for sweet potatoes is in the fall. Although you can purchase sweet potatoes all year, autumn is when sweet potatoes are “fresh from the farm.” At other times of the year they’ve been kept in storage. The sweet potato is a large agricultural crop for Louisiana and we are fortunate to have supply of flavorful, bright orange sweet potatoes.
These potatoes are different from ones grown in northern states. A new variety of potatoes was introduced to Louisiana farmers in the 1930’s, the Beauregard variety, and it became a commercial success. These potatoes are softer, sweeter and with a rich orange color. Since the 1930’s sweet potato recipes–with Beauregard potatoes–have made their way in Louisiana cuisine especially at fall and winter holidays.
Ruth’s Chris Special Sweet Potato Casserole
There are countless ways to prepare sweet potatoes and many excellent casserole recipes. Ruth’s Chris casserole is one of these. The recipe caught my attention while I was flipping through the pages of “Cooking Up a the Storm,” the recipe book filled with post-Katrina requested recipes from the Times-Picayune newspaper’s weekly recipe column, “Exchange Alley”. According to the story, Ruth Fertel’s executive chef, Jim Cannon, developed the recipe which Ruth loved and served in her restaurants. Ruth shared the recipe with the Times-Picayune who published it in 2004. It has since become a favorite with New Orleans readers and is served during holidays in many homes. (“Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans”, p. 243. Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker, editors. the Times-Picayune Publishers, © 2008)
Nutritional Value of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes have become more popular around the country in recent years due in part to their nutritional value. The deep orange color is rich in flavonoid phenolic compounds including Beta-carotene, a Vitamin A precursor. A 100 g serving provides 14,187 IU of vitamin A and 8,509 µg of ß-carotene, a value which is the highest for any root-vegetable category. These flavonoids are anti-oxidants and help in the body to maintain the integrity of mucus membranes and skin. Vitamin A is essential for healthy vision–a total deficit leads to blindness. Vitamin A-rich vegetables and fruits with flavonoids are associated with protection from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Sweet potatoes are rich in many other vitamins and minerals, high in fiber. Of course, they contain no fat or cholesterol.
Making the Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe
Ruth’s Chris Special Sweet Potato Casserole recipe is easy to prepare and includes just a few ingredients. It can be made ahead, refrigerated or frozen and reheated. For the best flavor, I recommend using fresh sweet potatoes which are baked; not canned or boiled ones. The “secret” ingredient in the filling is vanilla extract which brings out the flavor of the ingredients. The vanilla sets this casserole recipe apart from other ones I’ve seen. The praline crunchy topping gives a great taste, too.
There are several versions of the casserole on the internet. This one is used with permission from the Ruth’s Hospitality Group and is found at their WEB site. (//ruthschris.net/about-us/ruths-recipes/)
Place the potatoes on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven. Puncture the skin in several places with a knife (to let out steam as they bake) and bake for 30 – 45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, slip the skins off the potatoes and scoop out the pulp.Next, mash the pulp with a potato ricer or fork prior to adding to the other ingredients so the filling won’t contain chunks of potatoes.Next, mix the ingredients together using a stand-up or hand mixer in the order listed in the recipe instructions. To the mashed sweet potatoes add sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs (well beaten) and melted butter. Beating them with a mixer incorporates air and gives a creamy texture to the casserole.
At this point the casserole can be refrigerated until ready to serve at a later date. When ready to serve, mix the praline crumb topping ingredients together–flour, brown sugar, pecans and melted butter.
Ruth Fertel is a corporate success story of a single mother living in New Orleans. While looking for a way to finance her children through college, she mortgaged her home and purchased an existing restaurant in 1965 turning it into a successful steakhouse. She was actively involved in all the operations of the restaurant including butchering and cutting the steaks. For many years she hired only single mothers and women stating they made the best employees. It was the only restaurant in New Orleans with an all-female wait staff.
The key to Ruth’s success is the steaks. They are aged USDA prime cuts steaks; all high-end, delicious and juicy. Ruth seared the steaks at 1800° Fahrenheit and served them on ceramic plates heated to 500° Fahrenheit. The steaks and plates “sizzle” as they are delivered to the tables because a small amount of butter was added just before the hot, hot plates left the kitchen. If you love steaks, this restaurant is worth the trip.
Franchaise to Baton Rouge and beyond
Ruth began to franchise her restaurant. The first franchise came to Baton Rouge in 1977 under the ownership of a loyal customer, Thomas J. Moran. He owned several other restaurants in the Baton Rouge area including T.J. Ribs and Ruffino’s restaurants. Ruth’s chain expanded rapidly during the 1980’s to 1990’s to 66 locations around the country.
With aging and ill health, Ruth Fertel sold most of the business to a Chicago investment company. It acquired additional restaurants chains, became a public owned company and was restructured several times. After Katrina, the New Orleans and Metarire restaurants were forced to close for a period of time. The corporate offices moved to Florida. The corporation is now under the umbrella of “Ruth’s Hospitality Group” focusing on high end steaks and seafood with five restaurant brands. It is the largest corporation of its kind in the U.S. focusing on high-end dining.
Ruth Fertel is known to many as “The First Lady of Steaks.” It is rewarding to see a successful female business woman who had a simple start! I was fascinated to read about her story; having no idea it was so impressive.
Dining at Ruth’s Chris – Steaks and Side Dishes
Ruth’s Chris Steak House has always been a favorite place for us to go on special occasions such as anniversary and birthday dinner. It is high-end dining in a sophisticated setting and makes for a memorable meal. The steaks are always top quality ones. They “melt in your mouth.” I remember eating at the Baton Rouge restaurant location in April or May one year. The parking lot was filled with Lincoln Continental and Cadillac SUV’s which certainly catches a person’s eye. Upon entering the restaurant we found that it was full of legislators and related customers as the Louisiana legislature was in session.
And we especially love the side dishes. The restaurant’s menu is al la carte and the vegetables are served in large bowls, easily feeding two people. The au gratin potatoes, creamed spinach and sweet potato casserole are favorites. These are all traditional Louisiana dishes. According the stories they are old family recipes from Ruth and her relatives and their rural Louisiana plantation.
Ruth’s Chris Special Sweet Potato Recipe
Ruth Fertel, her family and Ruth’s Hospitality Group have shared several of these favorite side dish recipes. Recipes for Bread Pudding, Barbecue Shrimp, Crab Cakes and Sweet Potato Casserole are located on the internet at Ruth’s Hospitality Group. (//ruthschris.net/about-us/ruths-recipes/) The recipe for “Ruth’s Chris Special Sweet Potato Casserole” also appears in the cookbook, “Cooking Up a Storm.” The recipe on the internet has slightly different preparation steps. This one is from Ruth’s Hospitality Group website, used with permission.
Ruth's Chris Special Sweet Potato Casserole
Ingredients for Crust:
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans preferred)
- 1/3 cup butter, melted
Ingredients for Sweet Potato Mixture:
- 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes*
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 eggs, well beaten
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
Method and Steps:
- Combine brown sugar, flour, nuts and butter in mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a medium-size casserole dish with nonstick spray.
- Combine sweet potatoes, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs and butter in a large mixing bowl in the order listed. Beat thoroughly with a hand mixer to increase the fluffiness of the sweet potato mixture.
- Pour mixture into buttered baking dish.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. (At this point, dish can be covered and refrigerated.)
- Sprinkle the surface of the sweet potato mixture evenly with the crust mixture and return to oven for 10 minutes. Allow to set at least 30 minutes before serving. The brown sugar and pecan crust should be slightly browned and crunchy.
*To prepare potatoes, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry about 2 lb sweet potatoes. (If using small potatoes, use slightly more than 2 lb.) Pierce each potato several places with knife to allow steam to escape while baking. Place potatoes on baking sheet and bake for 30 – 45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, slip off skins (by hand) and mash pulp.
Sweet potato lovers will enjoy this casserole. And it is a good recipe to serve if you want to introduce someone to sweet potatoes.
Sweet Potatoes and You at Nutrition and You http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/sweet_potato.html
Sweet Potato Louisiana Most Popular Vegetable. LSUAg Center suagcenter.com/en/communications/publications/agmag/Archive/2012/Spring/Sweet-Potato-Louisianas-Most-Popular-Vegetable.htm
Ruth’s Chris Steak House en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruth%27s_Chris_Steak_House
Ruth’s Recipes http://ruthschris.net/about-us/ruths-recipes/
“Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans”, p. 243. Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker, editors. the Times-Picayune Publishers, © 2008