Friday, November 14, 2008

Sweet Potatoes with a Kick

This is my 1st ever holiday season as a blogger and am I ever excited. I mean, for us foodies, the whole year is filled with exploration of tastes, smells and new concoctions all in the quest for culinary nirvana but the holidays brings “foodism” to the mainstream. Friends and relatives, who know my passion for the subject, call and ask for my advice on Thanksgiving side dishes or they need an explanation as to what exactly a “crown roast” of something is.

In the next week, I think I’ll give you one or 2 past holiday successes for easy additions to your Christmas or Thanksgiving repertoire. The thought of the first one began at our last Rhode Island dinner gathering. Tina asked for a simple side dish recipe for her family gathering. Frankly, I hadn’t thought of the holiday meals yet nor had I explored any of the rags (magazines) that I usually peruse at holiday time (speaking of which, my Bon Apetit expired and I missed the Thanksgiving issue all together… Uhhhg!!! Fortunately, my December issue just arrived). So after thinking for a short while, I recalled a recipe from a few years back that was a hit then and has been on the occasions that I’ve made it since. It is so simple in fact that I’m almost embarrassed to bring it to you as a feature but I am nonetheless. It is also so simple that I hope you can see all of the potential variations to suit your particular taste. Prep time is almost zero and the compound butter can be made the day before.

The Sweet Potato is a wonderful holiday canvas for numerous side dishes and I think I’ve made most of them. Also known as a Yam here in the states, it is actually only a very distant cousin to the actual Yams of Asia and Africa and has only a slight relationship to the potato as well. That might account for the unique sweet flavor of this tuberous root. The Sweet Potato enjoys a perennial season and morphs through several edible stages during its life cycle. We harvest and enjoy them when their flesh is a bright tasty orange.

Compound butter is butter blended with anything that you think tastes good and can be put on anything you like. Here is my suggestion for a fantastic Thanksgiving compound butter that can be served with Baked Sweet Potatoes. The spicy chipotle peppers combined with sweet molasses and luxurious butter pays a perfect homage to the hearty and flavorful sweet potato.

Here we go.

Baked Sweet Potato with Chipotle-Molasses Butter

4 large Sweet Potatoes
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1-2 chipotle peppers (smoked red jalapenos found in the latin section of most grocery stores), finely chopped
1 tsp adobo sauce (from the peppers)
2 tbsp molasses
½ tsp salt
A few tbsp chives or mint for garnish, chopped (if desired)

Bake potatoes in 350 degree oven until fork tender, approximately 40 minutes.

While potatoes are baking thoroughly mix the rest of the ingredients. Chill.

Once the potatoes are done, split in half and fluff the soft flesh with a fork so that the butter can melt down in to potato. Place 2 tbsp of the compound butter atop the potato and serve.

Garnish with mint or chives or both.

Optional serving: If you with to pass the butter for folks to add to the potato themselves, here’s a cool trick for serving. Take a piece of plastic wrap and lay it on a work surface. Lay the room temperature compound butter mix in the center and shape like a log. Roll the plastic wrap like a sushi roll an twist the ends tightly until compact. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Can be made the day before. Now you have a butter that is presentable and fits neatly into a serving dish.

Quick variations could be:

If folks don’t like spicy, make some cinnamon butter in a similar fashion.
Caramelized onion or shallot atop potato with plain butter.

Have fun and please, someone try this and report back.

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