Photographs by Patrick Heagney
Chef: Tony Morrow, chef/owner of the Pecan restaurant and Tony Morrow’s Real Pit BBQ, both in College Park
Back story: Tony Morrow owes his appreciation for good food to his mother, Dr. Joyce Irons, who has been a voracious cook ever since she was a small child, when she helped her grandmother bake cakes and strip collard leaves from their stems on the family farm near Decatur, Alabama. A practicing psychotherapist, Irons’s idea of “winding down” is freezing a bushel of white corn or boning a whole turkey and rolling it up with spices like a jellyroll.
Every holiday, Morrow gathers with thirty or so family members at his mother and stepfather’s house for a massive feast that includes turkey and cornbread stuffing with giblet gravy, baked ham, chitterlings, collards (from the farm the family still owns in Alabama), macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, and Irons’s signature sweet potato souffle—a creamy, nutmeg-spiced casserole thickly blanketed with a candy-sweet topping of coconut and pecans. The sweet potato dish, Morrow says, is a longtime favorite: “I could add a scoop of my mother’s homemade vanilla ice cream, and I’d have my dinner and dessert without even getting up from my seat.”
2 1/2 pounds (3 to 4 large) sweet potatoes
3 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon lemon flavoring
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
For the souffle:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2-quart or 8 1/2-by-11-inch casserole dish and set aside. Wash and prick potatoes all over with a fork, then place them on a baking sheet and roast until very soft, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
2. Split the potatoes and scoop out their flesh; place in the mixing bowl of an electric mixer. Mash the potatoes roughly with a handheld masher.
3. Fit the mixer with a paddle attachment and then whip potatoes until smooth, discarding the fibers that cling to the paddle.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Blend in the brown sugar, white sugar, and nutmeg, then the evaporated milk, melted butter, and lemon flavoring.
5. Pour into the prepared dish and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until puffed in the center.
For the crumble:
1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the pecans, sugar, coconut, butter, and flour. Blend together with your hands, then crumble evenly over the souffle.
2. Bake for an additional 10 minutes, taking care not to burn the pecans.
This article originally appeared in our November 2013 issue.