Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Spiced Sweet Potato Oven Fries


I've never been into self-inflicted New Year's deprivation (or really deprivation of any kind). But after all the decadence of the holidays, simple vegetable dishes like this one have felt like a soothing relief. (What do you mean the holidays aren't over yet?!) Steamed broccoli dipped in tamari-mayonnaise, leafy green salads brimming with beets and radishes, potato, leek and celery soup sopped up with a bit of crusty sourdough: easy to throw together, nourishing, and savory have been the magic combo in the Bojon Gourmet kitchen for the past week. (Never you mind those cakes, cookies and crack sticks..)


These savory-sweet fries dipped in a dollop of sour cream are all that and more. I've already made these twice in the past week, and just bought more sweet potatoes for a third batch today. I clipped the basic recipe from a stack of old Martha Stewart magazines from a friend several years ago, and have made these oven fries many times over the years, tweaking the seasonings to suit my whims, nixing the walnut-yogurt dipping sauce for a simpler and more satisfying dollop of sour cream.


This is thus far my favorite version, encrusted in plenty of toasty, ground cumin seeds, a bit of smoked paprika for umami, and a pinch of dried, ground chipotle for a kick. Olive oil adds depth of flavor, and a finish of flaky salt gives the fries extra bursts of crunch.


When I'm not pureeing them into pies, cakes or cinnamon buns, I like to accentuate the savory side of sweet potatoes, but you could use cinnamon and ginger in place of the cumin if you prefer, as per the original recipe. Curry powder would be a tasty twist, too.


Pull them from the oven, and watch as they disappear from the tray, crusty and golden, completely addictive, a lighter brand of crack stick. The two of us may or may not have polished the first 2 1/2 pounds off in less than 24 hours.


These oven fries make a tasty app, though if you dig in before a meal, you may wind up with a sated you, an empty sheet pan, and a neglected rest-of-dinner. You have been warned. They'd also work to the side of something more substantial (hello, blue cheese burger!). Though they won't get as crisp as regular fries or oven roasted potatoes, they do make a simple and nourishing snack that feels in no way depriving.


Veg out:
Crispy Kale Chips
Oven Roasted Potatoes and Parsnips
Potato, Spring Onion and Turnip Potage

One year ago:
Sourdough Flaxseed Waffles

Spiced Sweet Potato Oven Fries

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 4 - 6 servings as a side dish, or 2 main-course-sized servings for sweet potato hogs

I found dried, ground chipotle in the bulk section of our local co-op, but lacking that, you can substitute 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne or other spicy chile powder.

2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 5 medium)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimenton de la vera)
1/2 teaspoon dried, ground chipotle
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
flaky salt, such as Malden, for finishing
Mexican crema, sour cream or crème fraîche, for serving

Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 425º. Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven to heat while you prepare the potatoes.

Leave the peels on the sweet potatoes and slice them in half lengthwise, then slice each half lengthwise into 3 or 4 pieces. (If your sweet potatoes are extra long or misshapen, you may want to slice them in half crosswise, as well.) Place them in a very large bowl, and drizzle the olive oil over them.

In a small skillet, toast the cumin seeds over medium-low heat, shaking frequently (the pan, that is), until they smell fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Grind the cumin fairly finely in a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. Sprinkle the ground cumin, paprika, chipotle and sea salt over the sweet potatoes, and toss them with your hands to coat evenly. Carefully spread them on the preheated pan in a single layer with a cut side down (if there are some that overlap, that's ok; they'll decrease in size as they bake) and drizzle any extra spiced oil left in the bowl over them. Roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the undersides are deeply golden. Remove the pan from the oven, flip the spears over, and continue roasting until the second side browns and the potatoes are soft, about 20 more minutes. Sprinkle with a few pinches of flaky salt.

Serve the sweet potatoes hot from the oven with a dollop of crema, sour cream or crème fraîche, if desired. Extra taters, should you be so lucky, can be stored in the fridge and reheated in the oven or toaster oven.

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