Make up for lost time and whip this up by the bucketload
Credit: Photo by Stacey Ballis

There are certain things that you can count on with me. One, I will always have on my person a minimum of one bruise in an odd location that I cannot for the life of me remember how or when it was acquired. Two, there will always be an unapologetic and unironic brick of deli American sliced cheese in my fridge. And three, when I find a recipe that is easy, intuitive and delicious; I will put it into the rotation until someone says uncle.

This past Thanksgiving my sister and her husband were not going to be in attendance at our table. This was enormously disappointing, but the one little speck of light in the darkness of their absence was this: I did not have to make sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top. It isn’t my favorite holiday without their sunny orange glow on the plate, but being freed from the need for marshmallows was exciting. I wanted a more naked sweet potato, with a light gilding instead of a heavy duvet. And I wanted to know that they were fresh sweet potatoes, instead of all smooshed up.

Thick sliced rounds would be lovely on the plate, and roasting was clearly the way to go, but how to flavor? Maple would gently enhance the sweetness without cloying. Butter, because, of course, and also because potatoes need fat or they dry out. But I wanted both umami and salt in this party. Enter white miso paste, which is one of my favorite ingredients for punching up soups and stews and sauces.

Since I’m lazy and hate having to remember complicated stuff, I did my favorite ratio, 1:1:1. I call it the Negroni Ratio, and use it whenever possible. It makes life easy, since you can just multiply stuff up based on your need. For the large casserole of potatoes I was making, I did four ounces of each. I melted the butter in a small saucepan, added the maple syrup and when they were hot and blended, I whisked in the miso paste and let it all cook just till it came to a boil. Poured it over the sliced sweet potatoes and roasted them in the glaze until they were soft and gently browned. The sauce is sweet but not dessert sweet. It is buttery but not overly rich. And it has just enough salt and a deep earthiness that keeps your palate awake.

This started the miso maple butter festival at my house. If you mix it ahead in a batch and keep it in the fridge it solidifies somewhat, but lasts a good long time. I put it on all forms of squashes, it loves Delicata and Kuri and Butternut with equal passion. A smear on a pancake is better than just plain syrup, and you can’t even imagine the glory on a hot biscuit. But it's also ganbusters with meat, especially pork. A little dollop on your chop right off the grill is a happy marriage. I will cop to glazing bacon in it to grand effect.

My guess is that once you’ve tried it, you too will find myriad ways to incorporate it into your cooking arsenal.

Miso Maple Butter

A ratio, not a recipe. One part butter to one part maple syrup to one part white miso paste. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, add maple syrup and stir to combine. Whisk in miso paste and bring to a boil. Pour it over whatever suits your fancy, or store in an airtight jar in the fridge for when inspiration hits. I assume it would last a couple of weeks in the fridge, but don’t know for sure because it tends to disappear much quicker than that.