The main ingredient in this recipe is a sweet potato. Not a yam. Despite the way that we Americans tend to use the two terms interchangeably, yams and sweet potatoes are NOT the same thing. True yams have a rough, dark skin with white, purple, or red flesh. They are also native to Africa and other tropical regions, and do not grow well in North America. The tubers so familiar to our Thanksgiving tables are actually sweet potatoes. Their orange flesh is soft and sweet and their skin is coppery-orange. Sweet potatoes are also moister and less starchy than yams, and the ends of sweet potatoes are tapered whereas yams have a more rounded shape.
Now that you’re educated on correct tuber terminology, it’s time to choose the perfect sweet potato. When in the produce aisle, you want to look for a sweet potato with smooth skin that is free of bruises and/or cuts. You do not want to find a lot of white strings sprouting out, because that is a sign that the sweet potato will be tough (because it has overmatured).
For this recipe, microwaving is the quickest way to prepare the sweet potato for mashing. (However, you can bake or boil if you prefer.) First, use a fork or paring knife to pierce the sweet potato’s skin a few times on each side. Place the sweet potato on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high for 5 to 6 minutes. When it’s done the flesh should be very soft and the skin should be very easy to peel away with your hand or a paring knife. Remove the skin and discard it. Mash the flesh using a fork. It’s that easy! Just be sure to allow the mash to cool before you add it to the other ingredients in this recipe.