Sweet potatoes – the versatile food

Published 12:00am Saturday, January 28, 2012

I am trying to do more seasonal cooking and cooking from the garden, but the garden is rather bleak this time of year. We do have sweet potatoes in the cellar and some leeks in the ground. We like our sweet potatoes “savory,” not sweet, so I am always looking for ways to tone down the natural sweetness.

Some people use the terms “sweet potato” and “yam” interchangeably, but the two root vegetables are actually unrelated. Sweet potatoes are native to the Americas. Yams are native to Africa. The entrenched misnomer and confusion are the result of at least three things. Spanish explorers came across the sweet potatoes growing in the Caribbean and called them “batata,” the same word they used for yams and white potatoes. About the same time, Portuguese explorers encountered sweet potatoes in Brazil and shipped them to Africa, where they were grown to provision Portuguese ships headed to the New World. Some enslaved Africans called them yams, probably from the West African word “unyamo,” which means ”to eat.” And in the 1930s, a moist orange sweet potato from Puerto Rico was marketed as a Louisiana yam to distinguish it from other sweet potatoes.

So much for the confusion. They are healthy, Southern and available right now.

My husband found this recipe somewhere, but cannot remember where he got it, so who knows where the credit should lie. It is a good, simple soup – so good with some hot bread.

Sweet Potato Leek Soup

Serve 4

2 leeks

2 tbs. olive oil

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½” pieces

2 cubes chicken bouillon

1 cup fresh cream or half and half

1 Tbsp. butter

Pinch ground cloves

Shredded parmesan cheese

Reserved leeks for garnish

Heat olive oil in a 2-quart pot. Add leeks and sauté them for three minutes. Add potatoes, bouillon and enough water to cover and boil until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Mash potatoes with potato masher and then add cream, butter, cloves and cheese. Garnish with finely chopped leeks.

 

This recipe is taken from The New Southern Cookbook by Sheri Castle – my newest cookbook!

 

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

Makes four entrée servings or eight side dish servings.

4 medium sweet potatoes (about 8 ounces each)

¼ cup heavy cream, warmed

4 thick bacon slices, cut crosswise into ¼-inch strips (about 4 ounces)

1 cup chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 cups stemmed and thinly shredded kale or other similar leafy green (I used our mustard in the garden.)

½ cup chicken or vegetable stock

¾ cup freshly grated aged Gouda or Gruyère cheese, divided

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pierce the potatoes in several places with a fork. Place in a single layer on the oven rack with a sheet of foil on the rack below to catch any drips. Roast the potatoes until tender, about 40 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut each in half lengthwise and use a melon baller or small spoon to scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl, leaving a ¼-inch thick shell. Arrange the shells in a baking dish large enough to hold them upright in a single layer.

Mash the potato flesh until smooth with a fork. Stir in the cream.

Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crispy. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Pour off all but a tablespoon of the drippings, and add the onion to the skillet. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about eight minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the kale and stock. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is tender, about 15 minutes. Uncover and cook until any remaining liquid evaporates.

Stir the kale mixture into the mashed potatoes. Gently stir in the reserved bacon and ¼ cup of the cheese. Season with the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Divide the sweet potato mixture evenly among the eight shells. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining ½ cup of cheese.

Bake until the potatoes are heated through and the cheese is melted, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.

If you have trouble with the shells or would just prefer, put the mixture into individual ramekins.

 

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