The Chocolate Gourmand

Yam Good Casserole
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6 medium-to-large red garnet yams
1 cup toasted pecans (broken or halves)
1 cup dried Blenheim apricots

1 can apricot nectar (11.5 oz)
juice of 2 oranges (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. corn starch
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
zest of one orange

You can bake the yams the night before if desired/convenient. Using a fork, prick several holes in each unpeeled yam. Bake whole yams in an oven preheated to 400° F for 60 - 90 minutes. Yams are done when a paring knife easily pierces the center of a yam. Since yams aren't all the exact same size nor do they have the same proportions, begin checking each for doneness at 60 minutes. Remove smaller ones that are done to let the larger ones continue cooking. Repeat checking for done-ness every 5 minutes until they are all done. You don't want them to be too soft as they will continue to cook a little when you remove from oven. However, the yams will not soften much during the final baking, which is more for reheating/browning, so if the yams are still firm during this first baking, let them cook more. You can also heat them in a microwave to soften a little more in case you realize they are still too firm after they have cooled.

While the yams are cooling, dissolve the corn starch in the cold water and stir with a whisk until fully dissolved. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once the mixture comes to a boil, continue boiling until the sauce thickens (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and pour in the apricots and pecans.

Peel the cooled yams and cut into big chunks. Depending on the yams, you may need to also use a knife to slice off the outer layer beneath the skin. Cut away any discolored areas and then slice the yams into good sized chunks about 3/4 inch square. If some of the sliced chunks are still firm, you can place them in a microwave and cook on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes to soften. Arrange the yams in a deep, 9x12 casserole dish. Pour the apricot sauce over the yams in the casserole dish, distributing the apricots and pecans throughout the yams.

When you are nearing serving time, place the casserole dish over a jelly roll pan and bake at 350° F for about 20-25 minutes or until heated through and bubbly. Gently stir the yams to distribute the sauce and serve.