Sometimes even the best cookbooks say things that make the home cook laugh out loud. And while we really like this recipe and the cookbook it came from, this recipe has an instruction that’s one of the silliest we have ever seen, “be sure to choose yams of even thickness from end to end”. (Oh, and please go find Bigfoot while you’re at it.) We have yet to find an evenly shaped yam, and don’t expect to any time soon, neither should you. But happily, this is a delicious recipe and is pretty good for you, too. So even if you can’t find a perfectly shaped yam, this recipe is worth making.
And by “yam” we really mean the orange, soft sweet potatoes of the United States. The true yam is an African crop, usually with lighter colored flesh (here is a good link to explain the differences and terminology). But for whatever reason, we call some sweet potatoes “yams” and so does this recipe. Go figure (or don’t, this stuff can make your head hurt). But meanwhile, look for large, orange-fleshed yams / sweet potatoes at your grocery store or farmer’s market. Yams are cheap, nutritious and versatile. And their sweet flavor is a good way to sneak some extra veggies into your kids.
This recipe is adapted from “Ripe, A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables” from Cheryl Sternman Rule. And the recipe is a real winner, and quite easy to make. You simply peel and slice the yams, make a paste of salt, pepper, brown sugar, chili powder and oil, coat the yam slices and bake in the oven for an hour, flipping them over halfway. But the recipe does have one more (albeit smaller) laugher, when it says, “cook all the yams for an hour, don’t pull them out earlier”. And we guess if we had “even-thickness” yams, that advice might work. But we don’t, so the smaller pieces need to come out of the oven a bit early, and not burn.
But this slight bit of extra effort is worth it. The sweetness of the caramelized yams goes very well with the salt and chili powder (a pinch of Cayenne also works, if you like some heat), and the texture is crunchy / chewy on the outside but soft and creamy on the inside. And if you add a touch of butter, it certainly wouldn’t hurt. These yams are a tasty snack on their own, or a very good side with chicken or pork. If you don’t like yams from all those yam / marshmallow dishes at Thanksgiving, give this recipe a try, it may change your mind. Just don’t spend too much time looking for those “evenly shaped” yams…
Spicy Caramelized Yam Wedges:
(Adapted from Cheryl Sternman Rule)
What You Get: A easy, tasty yam dish with extra flavor and texture.
What You Need: A few baking sheets, no other special equipment required.
How Long? About and hour and fifteen minutes, with about ten minutes of active time. With a little planning, an “anytime” dish.
- 4 large yams, about 3 -4 pounds total, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch thick half-circles
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Sweet butter
- Parsley, for garnish (optional)
- Place rack(s) in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and slice the yams into 1/2 inch thick half-circles (keep the smaller pieces in circles).
- Combine the salt, sugar, pepper, chili powder, cayenne (if using) and oil in a bowl. Stir until combined.
- Place the yams and spice mixture in a large bowl and toss until all the yam slices are evenly coated. Arrange the yam slices on a baking sheet and place in the oven.
- After 30 minutes, remove the baking sheet from the oven and flip-over each yam piece. Return to the oven and cook for another 30 minutes. (Remove smaller yam pieces after 20 minutes or when they brown and start to shrink slightly). Remove the baking sheets from the oven. Serve the yams while hot, add butter, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a few sprigs or parsley, if you like.
- Experimenting in the kitchen: What’s in season now and how to use it (thegreatexperimenters.com)
- Yam or Sweet Potato Chips (thepaupersfeast.wordpress.com)
- Is That a “Yam” or a “Sweet Potato?” (usingtherightwords.wordpress.com)
- Ribs, Wings and Yams (cookinginsens.wordpress.com)
- Potatoes a la Boulangere: The Best Potatoes You Will (Almost) Never Eat (putneyfarm.com)