Jan. 8th, 2019

offcntr: (berto)
Been meaning to post this since Christmas: an easy and not overly sweet sweet potato side dish.

We never did the marshmallow-topped thing with sweet potatoes when I was growing up. Instead, my mother would precook them, peel and slice them and candy them with brown sugar and butter in a cast-iron frying pan. They were wonderful... for about two forkfuls. After which, your pancreas would start to whimper.

I tried a few other things with them over the years, including a couple of "Sweet Potato Praline Casseroles", all of of which were too sweet and too complicated. So here's my own, simplified take on a sweet potato side dish.

The night before your holiday (or even a few days before), wash and dry three medium sweet potatoes. Pierce all over with a fork or paring knife, put them on a baking sheet, and bake an hour at 350° F. Cool and refrigerate until ready to assemble.

The day of, peel your 'tatoes and mash them into a small oval baking dish. Mix together 1/4 cup softened butter, 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, 1/3 cup quick oats/oatmeal, 1/3 cup chopped pecans. Spread crumble mixture over top. Place on lower rack of oven (your turkey or ham are on the upper rack, of course) for the last hour of roasting. Temperature not that important, as you're just heating through the sweet potatoes and crisping up the topping.

offcntr: (Default)
A long time ago, I wrote, "Making handles is the penance I pay for the ease of throwing cups." And it's kinda true.

Throwing mugs is easy, especially tall mugs. The sides are straight, the only real fussy bits are the base, made with a profile rib, and the lip. In between, they mostly just need the throwing rings smoothed out with a rib. (Although I need to replace my rib; it's wearing into a curve, and I need it straight, dammit!)

Handles are fussier, especially if you're pulling them directly onto the cup. I'm not, so I have a little leeway. If I mess one up in the pulling, I don't have to clean off the mug and smooth out the scoring; I just set it aside and start another. It's a technique I learned years ago from Dennis Parks at Tuscarora Pottery School, and I use it for everything but pitchers.

First, you wedge up your clay, then pinch off a bit. Roll it into a coil on a smooth surface (this is a piece of drywall. My table is canvas-covered, which leaves an extra texture to get rid of.), then taper into a carrot. Thump both sides on your drywall to flatten it out.

Now comes the fun part. Hold the thick end in your non-dominant hand, pointy side down over a container of (preferably warm) water. Using the thumb and forefinger of your other hand, with water as lubricant, pull and shape your handle, tapering edges, grooving front and back. Once it's the proper shape, rotate it so it's butt side down, handle curving up and over 'til the tip touches down again.

Repeat forty times.

Then go do something else for a while. Smooth and stamp the mugs, turn them over so the bottom dries a little. Throw a bag of plates, have lunch, do dishes. Let them sit four or five hours (less in summer), so they're slightly firmer, and no longer sticky.

Now it's time to put it all together. Start with the mug: score and slip the handle attachment points. Take a handle in one hand and a wire cheese slicer (roller removed) in the other. Cut away the butt end of the handle, curving to match the cup, angled slightly so the handle springs up and outward.

Holding the handle between thumb and forefinger (thumb on top, finger supporting), press the handle into the cup. Your thumb will make a little dimple in the top for the user's thumb to grip, and the handle will spread a little wider at the top, which is visually and structurally stronger. Press the bottom into place, smooth and align the outer edges of the top, and clean up any extra slip or score marks. Adjust the curve of the handle from underneath with your finger. Go to the next one.

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