11/13/13

NON-candified sweet potato

You know what I find kind of gross? That so much food is so horribly over-sweetned to the point where you get cavities just from looking at the thing. Sweet potatoes (so named, because they're already SWEET) are a major culprit in this really awful trope. They're really sweet to begin with. They really don't need more sugar, unless you're making a pie (in which case, sugar away).

I had a friend ask what to do for a Thanksgiving side dish using sweet potato that wasn't a dessert. He was really tired of perpetually seeing that marshmallow topped, sickly sweet crime against food sitting on the table year after year. He wanted something a little more exciting, but still not so out there that it would clash with the flavours of the rest of the food. I suggested that he spice them up, and roast them so that they get crisp on the outside, and creamy smooth inside.

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons of neutral flavoured oil (canola, peanut, grape seed, rice bran, etc etc)
1 stick of cinnamon
5 whole cloves
1/4 tsp (or less) fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 whole cardamom pod (or two, if you like the taste)
3 whole dried red chiles
1 bay leaf (optional)
salt, to taste
a good grinding of black pepper
2 - 3 scrapes of nutmeg (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Peel and dice your sweet potato.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. As soon as you put the oil in the pan, while the pan and oil are still cold, add the cinnamon stick, cloves, fennel seeds, and cardamom pod(s). Let the oil heat up, and make the spices very fragrant. You want the spices to smell amazing, but not burn. Add the diced sweet potato, and toss well to combine with the spices. Add the dried whole red chiles. If you want it more spicy, break the chiles into smaller pieces before adding to the pan. Salt generously. Toss to combine with the salt. Turn off the stove.

On a parchment (or foil) lined baking sheet, spread the diced potato along with all the spices, in one even layer. Bake at 350ºF for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and toss the potatoes around, so that they get redistributed. Put the pan back in the oven for another 10 - 15 minutes. You want the edges of the potatoes (and possibly the entire surface) to be a dark brown colour, and your entire kitchen will be fragrant with spices.

Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven, and grind on some black pepper and a scrape of nutmeg.
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