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October, 2011

Ingredient Challenge: Sweet Potato

By Dennis Linden

Here is a simple and healthy comfort food side dish that pairs well with the brisk weather change to the fall season. Take advantage of new crop sweet potato promotions at retail stores with a plateful of Sweet Potato Fries with Horseradish Aioli by Chef James Wilschke, Head Chef at 320 MAIN in Seal Beach, California. This tasty dish transitions easily from the dining table to a serving tray in the TV room as a halftime snack or 7th inning stretch-n-nibble during this month’s Baseball Playoffs!

Chef James Wilschke

Sweet Potatoes 101:
While this recipe calls for two pounds of Yams, that ingredient could have also been described as orange sweet potatoes. The word “yam” is a marketing label that was invented to distinguish the orange sweet potato from the yellow variety. This has been so successful that most consumers think they are not related at all. However, both are sweet potatoes and, actually, do not share the same botanical family as the regular potato at all. The potato belongs to a plant family whose other members include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatillos; while the sweet potato’s most famous kin is the flower called "Morning Glory".

The "sweet" part of the Sweet Potato is very interesting from a health perspective. Cooked sweet potatoes do, indeed, taste sweeter than cooked regular white potatoes. Usually a sweeter taste equates to a higher sugar content that also has the potential to make blood sugar less stable. However, with sweet versus regular potatoes, the exact opposite is the case. Sweet potatoes do not appear to affect blood sugar levels as much as their more common counterpart. This is because a sweet potato has about twice as much dietary fiber as ordinary Russet Burbank white baking potatoes; this doubled fiber slows down digestion and, therefore, the release of sugar into the blood stream. Chef James’ recipe reveals the secret to crispy fries of any kind, but especially the flavorful sweet potato, with a fried-twice process. For each stage, the temperature of the oil is different and critical. I say this from experience after I watched my first batch of fries hit the oil and brown up almost instantly. Like parboiling in water, the idea is to soften this dense tuber WITHOUT browning or cooking it completely. It takes a delicate balance that requires the forgiveness of oil that is exactly 325°, no less and certainly no more. Take a lesson: Oil that is too hot will shrivel your fries into chocolate-brown match sticks that taste even worse than they look. Invest in a thermometer that costs about the same as a second batch of sweet potatoes considering the time it took to start all over again.

It should be added that the double cooking process affords a case for preparing a lot more sweet potatoes than Chef James’ recipe requires and just leaving a good portion of that preparation in the freezer instead of pulling them all out for the second fry. Frozen sweet potatoes will maintain their flavor very nicely for up to six months. At your convenience, just continue the recipe where you left off with the hotter (375°) stage II oil.

Aioli! Aioli! Aioli! I love the word itself as well as the fact that it incorporates two of my most favorite temptations: mayonnaise and garlic. Chef James’ provides some additional kick to the traditional aioli by swapping out mustard for horseradish sauce. To satisfy my own palate, I pushed it up another notch with Extra Hot Horseradish, but that is a matter of preference. The mayonnaise base for this wonderful condiment is achieved through a neat culinary process known as emulsion; basically, mixing oil and water until the two very unlike globules slowly combine. While a food processor can be used, there is something rewarding about starting with two egg yolks in a bowl and then hand beating the few simple ingredients of garlic, lemon juice and oil into a flavored mayo that cannot compare to anything bought or, for that matter, mixed by machine. This really is the perfect munchies food. It is, after all, a bowl of crispy fries that is blood sugar friendly, loaded with carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber; further enhanced with the help of a decadently creamy-spiced dipping sauce. The combination is guaranteed to pull the most avid sports fan right off a couch with a cheer for a delicious halftime show no matter the score!

Sweet Potato Fries with Horseradish Aioli
Serves 4
Sweet Potato Fries with Horseradish Aioli

Horseradish Aioli

Ingredients
2 egg Yolks
4 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
3 tsp. prepared Horseradish
6 cloves Fresh Garlic, grated on microplane
16 oz. Salad Oil
1 Tbsp. Coarsely Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp. Kosher salt

Preparation
1. In a mixing bowl, beat all the ingredients except the oil with a whisk. The egg yolks should be creamy.
2. Keep whisking fast and slowly add the salad oil drop by drop at first.
3. After the oil starts emulsifying with the yolks, continue whisking and pour the rest of the oil in a slow steady stream until it is all incorporated. Then stop whisking.
4. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Sweet Potato Fries with Onion Combo
Ingredients


2lbs. fresh Yams
1 Yellow Onion, sliced in 1/2” long strips
1 bunch Green Onions, sliced thin ½ gallon Canola or Vegetable Oil
2 oz. Butter Kosher Salt, to taste
1 tsp. Brown Sugar

Preparation
1. Peel the yams and cut into 1/2” thick fries. Soak in cold water. Drain the fries and dry with paper towels.
2. Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 325°. Place the fries in the oil, being careful not to overcrowd the deep fryer.
3. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to brown the fries. Remove and strain out the oil. Place on a plate with paper towels and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
4. In a sauté pan, add the butter, yellow onion, and a pinch of salt. Slowly cook until they are lightly caramelized. Then add the brown sugar and cook for 1-2 more minutes.
5. Bring the deep fryer temp up to 375° and place the fries back in to finish cooking. They should cook for 2-3 minutes or until they are starting to brown on the edges.
6. Remove and shake off excess oil.
7. Toss fries in a bowl with some Kosher salt and empty bowl onto a plate.
8. Top fries with the caramelized onions and the fresh green onion.
9. Serve with the horseradish aioli on the side.