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Bring 1 to 2 inches water to a boil in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Meanwhile, peel sweet potatoes and cut into 2-inch chunks. When water comes to a boil, place the sweet potatoes in the steamer basket, cover saucepan and let steam until the sweet potatoes are fork tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Using an oven mitt, lift the steamer out of the saucepan and slide the sweet potatoes out into a large bowl.
Add orange juice, 6 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, orange zest, salt, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg and mash with a potato masher until smooth. Alternatively, puree in a food processor (in two batches) for an ultra-smooth consistency. Transfer the mashed potatoes to a 3 quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray.
Combine pecans in a small bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and the remaining ¼ teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss to coat. Spread the spiced nut mixture over the sweet potatoes and cover. Refrigerate up to two days. See alternative instructions to bake immediately.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove cover and transfer the casserole to the oven and bake until heated through and the nuts are toasted, candied and fragrant, about 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving.