Monday, November 15, 2010
P.S. Roasted sweet potatoes
'Tis the season: all sorts of expectations and window-dressings will be suggested or applied to one of our most perfect foods: the sweet potato. For the holiday meals, you gotta do what you gotta do (or what your mother did, or his mother did, or grandma did...you get it)
Before (and after) the holidays, sweet potatoes are easy to cook, amazingly good for you, and about as easy to dress up as runway models, though admittedly not as glamorous on the outside. The easy part: choose 2 or 4 sweet potatoes of roughly similar size and shape. Scrub them clean and puncture in a couple of places as you would for baking potatoes. Place in a glass pie plate or baking dish or on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Oven roast until tender (usually about an hour).
While the potatoes roast, focus on toasting sliced or chopped almonds or chopped pecans. Pecans have a great flavor, but they're higher in fat. Almonds are one of those perfect foods, defying reason, nutritionally speaking. Toasting really brings out the flavor of nuts, so whether almonds, pecans or walnuts (or any other variation) you'll want to to toast them in the oven, or on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet. For the latter, use a clean skillet. Toast the nuts carefully over low heat. Nuts have lots of oil in them, which is why toasting is a good idea, but it also puts them at risk for burning so you have to watch carefully. The good news? You can use less almonds, pecans, walnuts or whatever, because toasting dramatically enhances the flavor. Toast until you have very lightly browned nuts, with much deeper flavor. Set these aside to cool.
When the potatoes are done, remove from the oven and allow to cool slowly. Meanwhile, whisk together in a small bowl 2 tablespoons of softened butter, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, ground cinnamon to taste and ground ginger to taste. When you're ready to serve (and these along with a nice green salad CAN constitute dinner) split the potatoes. Top with the butter mixture, and garnish (sort of; you're actually going to eat this garnish) with toasted nuts. Finish with a drizzle of maple syrup OR tupelo honey. And on this last touch, seriously: do not skimp. Pay the breathtaking $10 for good maple syrup at your local grocery, or the same amount for your local honey. I'm not sure you can get tupelo honey in say, France, but you have to get the local equivalent. And of course maple syrup is preferred. It's a food group of its own, almost, and is the perfect companion to those plain and prosaic sweet potatoes.
Which really won't be plain OR prosaic when you serve them. Let me know how you like them. Do you have a better way of serving them between the holidays, avoiding the de rigeur things like tiny marshamallows? I know, I know: I have to do those things, too: they're Expected. But you guys are completely UNexpected. So do share. Love, love.
Posted by Angela Christensen