For Smashburger founder Tom Ryan, it’s taken 30 years of messing with different recipes to come up with the Ryan standards. While he uses his Ph.D in flavor fragrance chemistry to play with exotic flavors in his restaurants, he goes a different route when it comes to Thanksgiving. He calls his turkeys “turkosaurus.” His birds usually run between 30 and 32 pounds. One year, in Chicago, he scored a 42-pound turkey, and they called that holiday SlothFest 2000. One rule: Everybody had to eat in their pajamas. Here is a recipe from his planned Thanksgiving dinner this year, a great alternative to the traditional sweet potatoes.

Bourbon Praline Sweet Potatoes

Tom Ryan adapted this recipe from a good friend, Alex Patout, who has been cooking in Louisiana for decades. This dish can be made up to two days in advance. Makes 8-10 servings.


Sweet Potato Base

5 large sweet potatoes or yams

¼ pound (1 stick) salted butter

½ cup white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

Praline Topping

½ cup heavy cream

1 cup light brown sugar

1/3 cup melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons bourbon

1 cup chopped pecans 


In a large baking pan, roast the sweet potatoes at 350 degrees for about 1½ hours, or until very soft. Split, let cool slightly, and scoop flesh into a large mixing bowl. Discard skins. Mix with an electric mixer to mash. While still warm, mix in the butter, sugar, vanilla and milk. Mix well. Then add the two beaten eggs, mix for 30 seconds, and transfer to a large casserole dish. Make sure there is room — about 1 inch — for the praline topping later. Refrigerate.

To make the praline topping, bring the heavy cream to a boil in a medium pan. While boiling, stir in the brown sugar. Stirring constantly, keep a vigorous boil going for about 3 minutes (it will bubble up, so keep watch). Remove from heat. Add the melted butter and stir, then add the vanilla and bourbon. Add the chopped pecans and mix well. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the praline mix evenly over the refrigerated sweet potato mixture. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the entire praline layer is bubbling.


Recipe provided by Katherine O. Ross of Studio Communications.

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