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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Holidays for the Mouse

November 6, 2006

Holidays for the Mouse

I am currently two books into a three-book publishing deal with Hyperion Books. Hyperion is based in New York and is a division of ABC, and ultimately the Walt Disney Company. I, too, now work for the mouse.

The first book in my Hyperion deal was Deep South Staples, the second book in the contract, which was just released a few weeks ago, is Deep South Parties. Both books are filled with everyday recipes for family dinners and entertaining, but they are also filled with recipes that can be used for the holidays.

Two days after I signed the book deal, the editors asked my thoughts on the next book in the series. My first response was Deep South Holidays. I love this time of year. The weather is cool, the air is crisp, attitudes are festive, food tastes better, family is closer, and the excitement that I experienced as a kid always returns at Christmas.

The editors didn’t want to do a holiday book for several reasons that I won’t go into here. They are the big dogs, they have the experience, and if there is one thing I have learned over my 25-year business career, it is to put your trust into the hands of those who have more knowledge and experience and let that expertise go to work for you. I’ll not argue with the mouse. However, my next choice Deep South Parties was, in a way, a tribute to the holidays of my youth. Shhhh, don’t tell Hyperion (or the mouse), but it’s a perfect book for cooking during the holidays.

When I sat down to compile the recipes that were to be used in Deep South Parties I looked back to the neighborhood parties of my youth and remembered all of the foods that were served. I also sat down with my across-the-street neighbor, Barbara Jane Foote, and plowed through her extremely organized recipe files using many of those as a starting point and inspiration to create new twists on old favorites. Most were served during the holidays. In the end, one-third of the recipes in the book were a nod to the party foods of my youth, another third came from 18 years of catering parties and events, and another third were new and developed specifically for the book.

Down South we accelerate our entertaining during the holidays. Deep South Parties has recipes that can be prepared in spring and summer, but I predict the book will be used most often in the nine-week stretch between Halloween and New Year’s Day.

My entire Thanksgiving meal can be found in Deep South Staples: roasted turkey, cornbread dressing, gravy, green bean casserole, a wonderful cranberry dish, and the most amazing sweet potato casserole you will ever taste. My Thanksgiving desserts can be found in Deep South Parties: pumpkin cheesecake and sweet potato brownies.

Two weeks ago I taught a cooking class in which I demonstrated recipes from Deep South Parties. The dessert that I chose to demonstrate was the sweet potato brownie recipe. Last week at a book signing, a woman who had attended the demo approached me and said that she had prepared the sweet potato brownie recipe three times over a six day period. I don’t know if she ate that many brownies in less than a week, or gave them away to friends, but I couldn’t ask for a more dedicated and enthusiastic endorsement. Then I thought of the mouse, and my friends at Hyperion, and the excitement that fills the air when the foods of the holidays are prepared and enjoyed, and I wished for my New York friends many batches of sweet potato brownies over the course of the next nine weeks.

Sweet Potato Brownies were one of the original recipes I developed specifically for the book. They are perfect for a holiday snack and portable enough to take to someone else’s home if you’re not hosting a Thanksgiving meal.

Sweet Potato Brownies

If you don’t like sweet potatoes, don’t worry, you’ll love these. If you don’t like brownies, have no fear, you’ll love these. If you like sweet potatoes and brownies… get ready for an amazing treat!

1 /2 pound butter
2 cups sugar
1 1 /2 cups flour
1 tsp Salt
4 eggs
2 tsp Vanilla
2 cups raw sweet potatoes, grated
1 cups pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 350.

In an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add remaining ingredients in order, stirring after each is added.

Pour into a buttered and floured 9×12 inch baking sheet.

Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Allow brownies to cool completely before cutting.

2 Tbl butter
1 /4 cup orange juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup confectioner’s sugar

Melt butter and add remaining ingredients. Let cool. Glaze brownies after they have been cut.

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