It turns out I will be cooking for a smallish group this year [for Thanksgiving] and I am thrilled to have 'permission' to reinvent some old classics. For starters, I want to play with sweet potatoes. Though we have great affection for the classic candy-topped 9x13, this year the taters will get a makeover. The next few posts will include a number of sweet potato recipes. But before we pull out our forks, a quick primer on the beloved sweet potato:
When given a choice between sweet potatoes and their creamy russet cousin? You will find me piling my baskets high with these colorful tubers (with 400 varieties, sweet potatoes range from cream to yellow, orange, pink and deep purple---though white/cream and yellow-orange flesh are most common).
Yams come from Africa and are originally white skinned; a few decades ago, the orange-fleshed sweet potato was introduced to the United States and given the name ‘yams.’ Sweet potatoes are native to Central America; Christopher Columbus brought them to Europe, then the Spanish and Portuguese explorers brought these beta-carotene rich potatoes to the Philippines, Africa, India, Indonesia and southern Asia. Because sweet potatoes love long, hot summers, they are grown in America’s southern states---primarily North Carolina and Louisiana.
Sweet potatoes can be found in everything from curries to enchiladas, from main course to dessert. Dessert? Yes: sweet potato pie, sweetbreads, and puddings are common outlets for this versatile complex carbohydrate. Sweet potatoes pair well with brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, honey, maple syrup, nutmeg, pineapple and pecans. Although if your aim is to take sweet potatoes to their ‘savory’ side, align this fiber-rich food with cumin, coriander, ginger, cayenne, coconut, limes, garlic, cilantro and/or onions.
Many people don’t realize sweet potatoes can be consumed raw, and make a great addition to salads and vegetable platters. Sweet potatoes are rich with antioxidants, aid digestion, provide anti-inflammatory nutrients, fiber, iron, potassium and vitamins A, B6 and E. Keep your potatoes out of the fridge; instead, store them in a ‘root cellar’ environment---in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place, where they will keep fresh for up to ten days.
- Sweet potatoes can do anything potatoes can do, only better. I suppose that isn’t fair, but it does get this point across: you can use sweet potatoes as often as you use potatoes in your kitchen and in the same capacity. You can mash them, roast them, bake them and use them for gnocchi, ‘potato fries’ and/or ‘potato chips.’
- Sweet potato chips: wash skin, let dry then thinly slice on mandolin. Toss slices in bowl with a small amount of olive and kosher salt, then spread in single layer on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until chips start to brown around edges (flip once while baking).
- Canning: Sweet potatoes can be canned using a pressure canner.
- Drying: Sweet potatoes are not recommended for drying.
- Freezing: Cut sweet potatoes in 1 inch chunks and freeze uncooked; use later for roasted vegetables. Alternatively, bake then peel potatoes and save them mashed. Later, use the sweet potatoes to fill ravioli, make gnocchi or reheat/season as 'mashed potatoes'.
Stay tuned for upcoming sweet potato recipes!