Candle Cafe’s Paradise Casserole with Black Beans, Millet and Cinnamon-Miso Sweet Potato Mash
The first time I cooked millet, it became clumpy as leftovers. This time, I followed Ashley’s advice for fluffy millet perfection, and fluffy millet was delivered! Except for this casserole, I wanted it to be slightly clumpy so that it would stick together. Ah well… at least I know how to make fluffy millet. Can I learn to make clumpy millet again?
I finally broke out this casserole for Thanksgiving with Rob’s family. A multi-layered casserole: nutty millet at the bottom, with a middle layer of cumin-spiced black beans and onions, topped with a sweet potato mash flavoured with cinnamon and miso. Simple, familiar and homey. A complete meal. Perfect for a dish to share at Thanksgiving.
When Rob and I went to NYC last year, we ate at Candle Cafe. I had the Paradise Casserole and when I saw it was in their cookbook and also posted here, I knew I would be able to recreate the dish back home. This is what it looked like at the restaurant:
Their recipe is misleading, so I will redirect you. You will notice that my casserole is a bit bottom-heavy. As written, 1.5 cups of dry millet is WAY TOO MUCH. I spread it out over an 7×7, a 9×9 and 2 smaller ramekins. As such, the rest of my toppings were too thin. I kept on wanting more of the sweet, sweet sweet potato mash. The miso and cinnamon really pumped up its flavour. Before I added the black beans, I thought they were a bit bland with only cumin, so I added a teaspoon of garam masala.
For the beans, I wondered if a portion of the black beans should be mashed. This way if my layer of black beans was thicker, I wouldn’t have to worry about them falling all over the place. Looking back at the resto version, it looks like they have a trick for keeping that layer together as well.
And the millet… well, the trick to fluffy millet is to cook it with less water. I also toasted it in a bit of olive oil but the trick is the 1:2 millet:water ratio. The millet was super fluffy. So fluffy that it would not stick together and made for a messy casserole. The two servings that I put in the ramekins turned out really well, though. My photos are simply subpar in the presentation aspect, though, but it tasted good. Hopefully with my tips, you can make this even better than me.
4 sweet potatoes (I used 2lb, but I would use more next time)
1 tablespoon sweet white miso
1 teaspoon umeboshi vinegar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3-4 cups cooked black beans, rinsed if canned
1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or passed through a press
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup of millet, rinsed well (I used 1.5 cups and it was WAY TOO MUCH)
1.5 cups vegetable broth (I used a 1:2 ratio but to get better millet stickiness, a 1:3 ratio or greater would be better)
Oil for the casserole pan
1. Oven preheated to 350F
2. Bake the sweet potatoes for one hour until a fork goes in easily. Remove to a bowl and let cool a bit, until you can work them out of their skins. Place the pulp in a large mixing bowl and mash with a potato masher until smooth. Add the miso, vinegar and cinnamon and continue mashing, then give it a good stir to be sure it’s all combined.
3. While the sweet potatoes are baking, place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a teaspoon of oil, add the onion and saute until soft, around 7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute more. Add the cumin, garam masala, crushed red pepper and salt. Stir in the cooked black beans and cook until heated through. Set aside.
4. In the meantime, add 1 tsp of olive oil to medium saucepan. Add the rinsed millet and toast until fragrant, around 5 minutes. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes without lifting the lid. The water should all be absorbed. Set aside.
5. Lightly oil a large casserole dish (I would recommend something on the smaller side, like 9×9) and spread the millet over the bottom. Spread the black beans over that, and then spread the layer of sweet potatoes. The casserole can be wrapped and refrigerated until needed.
6. When ready to serve, bake for 45 minutes at 350F. Remove and let cool a bit before serving. Serve slices of the casserole over steamed kale, as they do at Candle Cafe.