Turned out to be easier than I thought, so long as I was willing to pitch in to get the dish rolling. And it turned out that was the easy part.
Truth is, no matter how classic or traditional they may be, sweet potatoes can be a bit of a challenge to serve at Thanksgiving. You don't want to mash them (that encroaches on the territory of regular potatoes). You don't want to roast them (many of us do that to the butternut squash). You can casserole them with marshmallows, but that can be a pretty polarizing dish.
Unrelated to all that, kids can be a real challenge to keep occupied at Thanksgiving. They want to be in the way or run crazy or get out of their fancy clothing or help out or — most likely — all of the above all at once.
So solve both problems with this easy sweet potato tart recipe. It's a delicious roasted dish that brings out the natural sweet and savory sides of sweet potatoes, but won't be confused with the squash. It also has a hint of sweetness, which should keep the marshmallow fan club pleased. And it's so foolproof to assemble, the kids can be put in charge of it.
All you need to do is prep the potatoes (a food processor will do this in seconds) and set out the ingredients and pan for the kids. The beauty of this recipe is they really can't mess it up. If they use up all of the cheese in the first few layers of the tart, who cares? Give them more cheese. The dish will be even more delicious.
SWEET POTATO TART WITH PARMESAN AND MAPLE SYRUP
Start to finish: 1 hour (20 minutes active)
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled
10 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
Ground black pepper
Maple syrup, to serve
Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
Trim the sweet potatoes so that they fit into the feed tube of the food processor. It's fine if you need to cut them into chunks for them to fit. Using the processor's thinnest slicing blade, cut all of the sweet potatoes into very thin slices. Alternatively, use a mandoline to slice the sweet potatoes.
Pile the sliced sweet potatoes on the work surface. Place the Parmesan in a bowl next to them. Have a grinder of black pepper nearby. Instruct the children to arrange a single layer of sweet potato slices over the bottom of the prepared pan, then sprinkle a small amount of the cheese over them. Finish with a few grinds of pepper.
Now have them repeat this, arranging another layer of sweet potato slices over the cheese, followed by another sprinkling of cheese and pepper. Have them continue until they run out of ingredients. If they run out of cheese before they run out of sweet potatoes, give them more cheese.
When the kids finish assembling the dish, send them away. Give the top of the tart a final sprinkle of cheese and a spritz of cooking spray, then bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and a knife inserted at the centre of the tart passes easily through the layers. Cool for 15 minutes, then drizzle a bit of maple syrup over the tart and slice into squares.
Nutrition information per serving: 160 calories; 50 calories from fat (31 per cent of total calories); 6 g fat (3.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 9 g protein; 240 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at email@example.com