Sweet Potatoes

Cooking a peculiar shape.

It’s best not to consider sweet potatoes as you would other potatoes.

When I’m looking at a Yukon, Gold, Red or Fingerling potato I think about all the different ways I can fry and crisp it, but none of that works too well with Sweet Potatoes.

I’ve tried all manor of sweet potato fries and hash browns but they always end up a little flat or lame. Look closely at the crispy sweet potato fries in your favorite restaurant, you’ll notice they are coated in a dry flour before being fried, a trick I’m not too eager to replicate in my own kitchen.

Sweet Potatoes land in farm boxes most of the year but rarely in the summer which is fine as their sweet and savory character pair poorly with the warm days of summer.

The best way to pull out the sweet caramel notes of the sweet potato is to roast them. Wash them first if they are quite dirty, as to not fill your home with smell of the dirt burning in the oven, but if they come relatively clean there’s no need to wash as the skin will be eventually be discarded.

As sweet potatoes roast moisture is released. To help this process along and allow the core to heat more evenly with the rest of the potato its best to pierce it all over prior to roasting. You can use a fork if it’s sharp and deep enough but these days I just use the end of a chefs knife to penetrate about a third of the way through. These cuts should be about an inch apart around the entire surface of the sweet potato.

When the roast is finished you’ll see a discharge that burns after leaking onto the surface of the roasting pan. If you cut off the tips of the sweet potato this discharge will come out the end, if you don’t you can’t predict where this will happen and the process could split the potato prematurely and make it roast unevenly.

Coating a sweet potato in fat before roasting aids in the carmelization of sugars that come to the surface. I use ghee as it won’t burn easily and the flavor won’t conflict with butter I add after the roast. Roasting in ghee fills your kitchen with a pleasant buttered caramel smoke.

There’s no exact roasting time and temperature for sweet potatoes as each one varies so widely in size and shape. Some are bulbous and round while others are long and skinny. Larger potatoes I roast at 350f for at least 80 minutes while longer ones I roast at 400f for an hour. The surface should be dark but not black, once the surface blackens the char extends well under the surface and only the core will be edible.

After removing them from the oven let them cool for a few minutes but not all the way. I usually wear a pair of gloves for the next part so that I can work with them while they are still too hot for my bare hands.

With a knife in one hand pull the skin from the soft flesh and place the flesh in a bowl and discard the skin. While still hot melt in a good grass-fed butter. I use Kerrygold butter and the bright yellow makes the final result intensely orange.

Now it’s time to add spices. Any number of pumpkin spices will do. These rich mashed sweet potatoes are great with cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg, even curry. But my personal favorite is cardamom. In fact, I stopped adding other spices and just grind up a few cardamom pods. There seems to be no amount of cardamom that is too much for them to handle. I add one or two when serving them as a large portion and 7 or 8 when I want to smear the sweet potato across a plate so that food can be dipped in it like you would a demi-glace.

Cardamom Sweet Potato Summary

  • Wash if noticeably dirty.
  • Pierce the skin all over.
  • Cover in fat.
  • Roast at 350f–400f for 60–120 minutes depending on size and shape.
  • Cool for a few minutes.
  • Pull flesh from skin.
  • Mix & melt butter into the flesh until it’s a consistent paste.
  • Crack a few cardamom pods, pull out the seed, grind in a mortar and pestle, and add it the puree.

* Wash if noticably dirty.
* Pierce the skin all over.
* Cover in fat.
* Roast at 350–400 for 60–120 minutes depending on size and shape.
* Cool for a few minutes.
* Pull flesh from skin.
* Mix & melt butter into the flesh until its a consistent paste.
* Crack a few cardamom pods, pull out the seed ,grind it in a mortar and pestle, and add it the puree.