Cracklins and sweet potatoes? It begs to be tried.
Cracklins and sweet potatoes? It begs to be tried.

Sweet goodness – see how cracklins fit

Published 12:00am Saturday, February 8, 2014

I happened to watch a PBS program called The Chef’s Life, about Vivian Howard who is a chef in Kinston, N.C. I rarely watch cooking shows, but she just seemed fresh and interesting, and since I have lived in North Carolina most of my life, I was interested. She and her husband came back to Eastern North Carolina (even though they did not wish to) because Vivian’s parents gave them the money to open a restaurant, but it had to be in Kinston. She and her husband opened The Chef and The Farmer and have been running it successfully for eight years. She is also building a house beside her parents and has twins. The show is about her struggles with all this.

I like her use of local farmers and their local ingredients. She does a lot with pork and sweet potatoes, very typical produce in Eastern North Carolina (and the South in general). I watched some of her videos on cooking sweet potatoes and got some great ideas on new uses with them. She incorporates pork with the sweet potatoes and it is a great combination. These two recipes below are my favorite. They are attractive to serve and interesting to cook. Your family and friends should like these.

CITRUS SWEET POTATOES WITH PORK CRACKLINS

Serves 4

4 large roasted sweet potatoes

½ cup butter

1 orange

1 lime

½ cup brown sugar

1 tsp. kosher salt

Peel the sweet potatoes in a food processor. Melt butter and sugar until they come together as a liquid. Zest the orange and lime into the processor and add the juice as well. Begin processing and stream in the hot butter and sugar mixture and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve with maple vinegar sauce and top with cracklins. I bought some cracklins in the grocery, and they were a bit hard. See if you can find some local vendors with fresh cracklins – or make your own with some pork fat rendered. As I am learning lard is not such a bad oil, if it is from pastured pork.

MAPEL VINEGAR SAUCE

(This sauce would be terrific over any pork dish)

½ cup butter

¼ cup chopped shallots

½ cup maple syrup

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Black pepper

Nutmeg

Melt the butter and sweat the shallots. Add the maple syrup and cider vinegar. Reduce for about five minutes. Add the black pepper and nutmeg

Place some sweet potato puree on the place and add a tablespoon of maple vinegar sauce on top of this and top with cracklins.

CANDIED YAMS WITH BACON PECAN SYRUP

(Yes, I know that yams are technically different but sometimes the names are used interchangeably and cooking is much the same for both.)

Serves four to six

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced in 1 ½-inch-thick rounds

Canola oil for frying

Salt

In a large pot, boil sweet potatoes until tender. Allow slices to cool completely. Press them between two pieces of parchment paper or oil, working in batches, so the slices flatten slightly and the edges spread. This can be done two days ahead. To finish, fill a deep skillet with an inch of canola oil and heat until simmering. Fry sweet potatoes for about four minutes on each side, or until browned and crispy. Drain on paper towels, and season generously with salt. To serve, stack sweet potatoes, top with syrup, and garnish with sliced scallions.

PECAN BACON SYRUP

2 cups bacon, cut into small dice

2 cups pecans, chopped

2/3 cups sliced scallions (white part primarily; plus more for garnish)

2/3 cups lemon juice

¼ cup molasses

2 1/3 cups maple syrup

¼ teaspoon chili flakes

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoon butter

Heat skillet over medium heat and render bacon until almost crisp. Add pecans and scallions, and toast for one minute. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer until mixture has reduced by almost one-third. Whisk in butter just before serving.

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