If you have lived in North Carolina for any amount of time, you have likely heard this is the sweet potato state. More sweet potatoes are grown here than anywhere else in the country.
So this Thanksgiving, there are bound to be sweet potato side dishes on many tables.
The New York Times says it “scoured the nation for recipes that evoke each of the 50 states.” You guessed it, for North Carolina, the newspaper chose to highlight a sweet potato recipe. It's a daily staple at Sweet Potatoes Restaurant in Winston-Salem.
Sweet Potatoes is on North Trade Street and is a busy place most nights around dinner time. Bill and Sandra Cox of Clemmons, North Carolina are regulars. Most visits, they get the Veggie Gumbo with a side of sweet potato cornbread muffins.
“They’re very tasty, and you can taste a little bit of the sweet potato,” said Bill Cox.
“It’s just, it’s kind of sweet, and it’s like regular cornbread too, but it’s got the sweet potatoes in it that makes it sweeter," said Sandra Cox, eating a sweet potato cornbread muffin with butter. " So, it’s very good."
The New York Times says the sweet potato cornbread at Sweet Potatoes Restaurant is tasty too! In the newspaper’s special feature titled “The United States of Thanksgiving,” it says the restaurant likes to quote, “blend one Southern staple into another with the result being cornbread laced with a holiday-friendly undercurrent of cinnamon and nutmeg.”
Stephanie Tyson is the chef and co-owner of Sweet Potatoes restaurant.
“It’s always been on the menu," said Tyson. "That’s the cornbread that we use.”
On a rack in the kitchen, are rows of baked sweet potatoes ready to be used in cornbread, and for sweet potato cornbread stuffing. The cornbread is also used for croutons dropped on top of salads and for a real Southern treat, buttermilk, with a side of sweet potato cornbread to dip or crumble.
“I try to use them because, they’re very versatile, they’re fairly inexpensive, and you can do a lot with them. So I try and use them whenever I can, because that’s our state vegetable,” said Tyson.
In the cooler, Tyson keeps sweet potato cornbread batter ready and waiting at all times. She says it took a while to perfect.
"I actually use, I like white cornmeal, you don’t have to use white cornmeal, but I use white cornmeal, flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder a little bit of salt, oil and mashed sweet potatoes," said Tyson. "Now, the thing is, is to bake the sweet potatoes. If you boil the sweet potatoes, peel and boil, people do it all the time, you get mushy. All the flavor is in the water!”
I don’t know about you, but I just learned something!
Now moving out of the kitchen and back into the restaurant where a one-year-old baby boy named Wesley is stuffing his mouth with sweet potato cornbread for the first time.
“He’s making a mess! Seems to enjoy it quite a bit," said Jimmy Turner, Wesley's dad.
This is the first time Jimmy Turner and his family have eaten at Sweet Potatoes, or tried the cornbread.
“Umm, That’s very good. I love sweet potatoes, so that’s delicious. I grew up on collards and cornbread,” said Turner.
The restaurant goes through close to 500 pounds of sweet potatoes a week. Tyson can’t tell me how many cornbread muffins she makes in any given week, but on an annual basis, at least 3,000 sweet potato pies come out of her kitchen. Yum!
Sweet Potato Cornbread
3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1 1/4 cup Yellow (or white) Cornmeal
1 Tbs Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt
1/2 cup Sugar
1 1/4 cup Milk
2 Tbs Oil
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 Tsp Cinnamon and Nutmeg (each)
1/2 cup Baked and Mashed Sweet Potatoes
In a large bowl sift loosely the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl combine eggs, oil and milk. Add the sweet potatoes and mix well. Add the sweet potato mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until combined being careful not to over mix. Pour into a greased 9 inch baking pan or spoon into a 12 cup muffin tin. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes until cornbread is golden.
Recipe from "Well, Shut My Mouth! The Sweet Potatoes Restaurant Cookbook" by Stephanie Tyson.