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Let's Make Sweet Potato Pie! 

FIRST GO FIND: Three plump sweet potatoes (any variety); 1 stick of butter; 1/2 cup of sugar; 1/4 cup of brown sugar; some spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger; capful of vanilla extract; 2 eggs; 1/3 cup of half and half. Optional: a big ol shot of rum. Recommended: elbow grease.

2. Sweet potatoes vary in color from tater to tater. It's no big deal. Generally, the oranger ones are a tad sweeter, but even if they're yellowish, they still pack a starchy, sugary punch. Cube the taters, boil 'em in water until tender, and dump 'em in a large kitchen work bowl.

3. Grab one of those wacky hand-held mashing tools that you shoulda bought your cousin last Christmas, and smoosh an entire stick of butter into the steaming-hot potato cubes. Mash, mash, mash. Work it till it's smooove, baby.

4. Now, dump your sugars, spices and vanilla into the bowl, and mix 'em up with an old wooden spoon. At this point, you can taste the filling for possible adjustments. Like, maybe you need a little more cinnamon to balance the cloves. Or toss in a shot of rum for the tum.

4. Now, dump your sugars, spices and vanilla into the bowl, and mix 'em up with an old wooden spoon. At this point, you can taste the filling for possible adjustments. Like, maybe you need a little more cinnamon to balance the cloves. Or toss in a shot of rum for the tum.

5. Your mix needs to be soggy and pourable, so use a whisk to beat 2 eggs in a separate bowl, and add that to the filling. Also tip in the half and half so there's plenty of liquid. Now, one last time, use the spoon to stir up a consistent mush. Give it another taste.

6. Drape a pie crust (*see below) over a baking pan, and trim off the edges with a table knife. Make sure to tuck in the bottom so it's nice and tight against the crease of the pan. If you want, grab a table fork, and press around the top rim to give your pie crust that sexy, rippled look.

7. Pour your porridge-like filling into the crust until it almost hits the brim. Smooth it over with a tablespoon. Slide 'er into the preheated 375 oven (top rack) and set your timer for 35 minutes. Close the oven door. Wait.

8. At the ding! it should be done, might need an extra 10 minutes or so depending on whether it's golden brown on top or not (it should be). Let the pie cool an hour, if not a couple two or three. This gives all the different flavors a chance to work their way to the forefront.

9. Of related interest to this outstanding slice of homemade pie: vanilla ice cream; Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook by Sylvia Woods and Family (William Morrow and Co., 1999); Robert Cray's 1998 album Sweet Potato Pie (Polygram records).

* Pie crust: Drop a cup of flour in a bowl. Cut a cold stick of butter into the flour, one chunk at a time, using a fork to work each one in. Slowly pour ice water into the bowl, pausing to stir in between pours. Just keep stirring; eventually, it will form a ball. Put it in the fridge for a few hours, then take it in your hands and toss it back and forth, back and forth. Spread some more flour on a countertop, and roll the dough ball out with a rolling pin until it's as flat as a pancake, bigger than a baking pan. Nice job.

  • A step-by-step recipe for some smashing sweet potato pie.

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