Sweet Tater Casserole

Check out any family's Franksgiving Day table and without exception, you'll find some sort of sweet potato dish, most often the old standby casserole with the melted marshmallows on top. But this sweet 'tater casserole is so much better than that! I dare say that it will probably be your family's favorite of all time!

6 medium fresh-baked sweet potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup Mott's or Lucky Leaf apple juice
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 whole eggs, beaten well
1 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 heavy dash cinnamon
2 cups dark brown sugar
3/4 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup melted butter

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Then start the preparation by taking the bowl of potatoes and mashing them well (a table fork will do the job, but a regular potato masher works even better).

When the taters are smooth and creamy, pour the apple juice into the mixture and blend everything well. Note: Do not be alarmed if the mixture is runny. It's supposed to be!

Next, add to the potatoes the granulated sugar, vanilla extract, whole beaten eggs, evaporated milk, and softened butter. Then, taking your time, patiently fold all of the ingredients together until they are uniformly combined.

At this point, it's time to transfer the mixture to a butter-greased 9 x 13 Pyrex or non-stick baking dish.

Then in a separate bowl, evenly combine the brown sugar, the walnuts, the flour and the melted butter. This will become your crunchy, crispy casserole topping, so you will need to do this step meticulously.

When the 'topping' is ready, sprinkle it evenly over the casserole and bake the dish at 350 degrees for a full 45 minutes (or until the potatoes turn rich and bubbly and toasty!).

Now while you may think of this recipe as a dessert - it's that good! - it really is a vegetable side dish. So my suggest is that you serve it up warm, right from the oven, alongside your game hens and oyster dressing puffs. Oh -- you should be aware that there is a good possibility there will be nothing but the scrapings left after the meal is over!

C'est la vie!

Chef's Notes:

To bake fresh sweet potatoes, bake them on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven until they turn completely soft (about an hour and a half). Depending upon your preference, you can either wrap them individually in aluminum foil or do them totally unwrapped au naturale. Either way, allow them to cool to room temperature before peeling them and placing them into a large mixing bowl