Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Not-so-sweet sweet potatoes

Now that the holidays are over, a great majority of Americans don't give sweet potatoes the time of day. Pity.

A few avant-garde restaurants have put them on the menu as fries, but they treat them just like their potato cousins, and the delicate orange flesh is often overwhelmed by the oil. I like to either wedge them (if they are small) or cut them in thick slices, toss them in oil, season with a mixture of chili powder, salt and citric acid (sold as a mix in Mexican groceries for seasoning jimaca, fruit and corn on the cob) and roast at 425 degrees until brown and puffy.

An English friend of mine just pops them in the microwave, skin and all, until they "moosh to the touch," then slices them lengthwise, opens them by gently squeezing each end toward the middle and drops a knob of butter to begin its liquid journey through the fluffy topography as she seasons the root with salt and pepper.

Mark Bittman of the New York Times likes to stir-fry them, and Joe Yonan of the Washington Post likes to roast them, too. Their recipes are below.

Stir-fried sweet potatoes with brown butter and sage
By Mark Bittman
Serves 4-6
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and grated, 4 to 6 cups
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, more to taste
4 cloves garlic, crushed
20 sage leaves
Put oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add sweet potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring only occasionally, until they change color and begin to brown, then stir more frequently until they are tender but not at all mushy.
Meanwhile, heat butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and sage; shake pan occasionally. When butter turns brown, turn off heat.
Use tongs to remove sage and garlic from butter. Serve potatoes drizzled with butter and garnished with a few sage leaves. Garlic can be served alongside, though it will not be super-soft.
Each of 5 servings: 353 calories; 3 g protein; 41 g carbohydrates; 20.5 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 115 mg sodium; 25 mg cholesterol; 5 g dietary fiber.

Miso pork on a sweet potato
By Joe Yonan
Serves 1
1 medium sweet potato, scrubbed clean (about 6 ounces)
3 ounces lean ground pork
2 stalks (6 ounces) broccolini, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces
1 tablespoon mild white miso
2 tablespoons water, plus more as needed
1 scallion, white and green parts, cut crosswise on the diagonal into thin slices
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Use a fork or sharp knife to prick the sweet potato in several places. Place on a piece of aluminum foil and bake for 40 to 60 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender and can be easily squeezed. (Alternatively, to speed up the process, the pricked sweet potato can be microwaved on high for 1 minute, then carefully transferred to the oven and seated on a piece of foil. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until the potato is tender.)
Heat a large, heavy skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the pork and stir-fry for about 5 minutes or until no traces of pink remain and the pork starts to exude juices; break up any large clumps as you work. Add the broccolini and stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes or until the vegetables are barely tender and retain some crunch.
Add the miso and water; cook, stirring, for 1 minute or so, until a creamy sauce forms. If the mixture seems too dry, add up to a few more tablespoons of water, stirring to combine.
When the sweet potato has finished baking, place it on a serving plate. Use a sharp knife to make a centered, lengthwise slit in the top, pinching the potato on each end to expose the flesh and make a pocket for the filling. Spoon the miso-pork mixture on top. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve hot.
Each serving: 428 calories; 19 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 23 g protein; 45 g carbohydrates; 61 mg cholesterol; 718 mg sodium; 10 g dietary fiber

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