The first time I had this dish was at Emeril's Restaurant in New Orleans, as a side dish during one part of a stunning seven-course degustation meal. I nearly levitated. It was one of the most amazing flavors I've ever had, sweet potatoes laced with the overwhelmingly sensual perfume and flavor of black truffles.

This dish is a mixture of experimentation, plus advice from having asked Chef Emeril how to make it. His basic way is to add truffle oil and bourbon to the mashed sweet potatoes, which works particularly well for the home cook who doesn't tend to have access to fresh truffles. But if you do, make some truffled bourbon and add some fresh truffle to the dish. You will really impress your guests with this dish. Try it with your holiday turkey, or with a lamb dish.

Incidentally, you can buy Chef Emeril's cookbooks here via The Gumbo Pages Bookshop, both his first one, Emeril's New New Orleans Cooking, or his newest one, Louisiana Real and Rustic. Follow the links and order!

Truffled bourbon is easy to make, and the bourbon and preserved truffle keep indefinitely. Remember, this is a splurge item. You've got to buy the fresh article -- DO NOT use canned truffles, which are pretty much a waste of time. Fresh black truffle doesn't keep more than 2 or 3 days, after which all the marvleous flavor and perfume that makes them what they are vanishes. The same thing happens when they're processed for canning. Go all-out and buy fresh truffles when they're in season; one souce in North America is Aux Delices des Boix, in New York -- (800) 666-1232.

Heat oven to 350°F.

Bake the sweet potatoes for one hour, turning them mid-way. Peel and mash the sweet potatoes until they're smooth and free of chunks. Melt the butter; add the fresh chopped truffle to it if you've got some. Add to the potatoes, then add the salt and bourbon or truffled bourbon. Mix thoroughly.

Pour into a baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes or so, until thoroughly warmed through and bubbly.

And if you put marshmallows on this one ... expect to spend eternity up to your neck in a pool of boiling pitch. (Gee, dontcha just love my Dante-esque imagery? Believe the threat!)  

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Chuck Taggart   email chuck (at) gumbopages (dot) com