Calling down to Georgia’s State Capitol offices and the Culinary History Society of Georgia, nobody could comment on the gustatorial habits of Richard B. Russell, Jr. (1897 – 1971) the famous politician this dish is named for. But judging from its ingredients, one thing is sure: Richard Russell had a sweet tooth. Depending on the version you source, this sweet potato casserole—a mainstay going back for generations on Southern holiday tables, includes from two to three cups of sugar. That, plus plenty of butter and pecans, makes this more of a dessert than a side dish, in my opinion. But sidedish, or dessert, there’s no denying that the butter-crunchy pecan crust and smooth, whipped sweets beneath taste delicious.
I’m including two versions of the dish. The first, which may be the original, comes from Nicolette Bruner, who got it from her husband’s grandmother, Stella Roberts Russell, one of Senator Russell’s cousins. It has about half the butter, a quarter of the milk and a third of the sugar used in the second version.
The second version comes to us from Victoria Osteen, who, with her husband Joel, pastors Lakewood Church, of Houston, TX, one of the largest congregations in the country. Victoria’s mom’s family comes from Georgia and says the dish goes way back on their traditional holiday menu.