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~ Everybody in the Skillet: Perfect Sweet Potato Fries ~

IMG_8001Sweet potatoes -- of the kind that don't come out of a can and end up with marshmallows on top. I've had a love affair with this root vegetable since my first trist with a sweet potato that didn't come out of a can and have marshmallows on top.  While I have a high-enough I.Q. to discern why once-upon-a-time in-the-history-of-canned-vegetetables, cooked sweet potatoes were put in those cans, in my lifetime, I will never be smart enough to figure out why those marshmallows got purposefully or experimentally plopped on top.  Some answers are best left to the imagination.

A sweet potato is not a yam & vice versa.

A bit about sweet potatoes:  Sweet potatoes were introduced to North America by Christopher Columbus, who brought them from the island of St. Thomas, where this large, edible root (which belongs to the morning glory family) is native to the tropical regions of the Americas.  There are many varieties of sweet potato, but the two most commercially grown are:  a pale-skinned sweet potato and a dark-skinned variety (that many Americans erroneously call "yam" -- the true yam is not even related to the sweet potato).  The pale sweet potato has a thin, light-yellow skin and pale yellow flesh.  Its flavor is not sweet, and after cooking, it's dry and crumbly, similar to that of a Russet potato.  The darker variety has a thicker, dark orange skin and vivid orange, sweet flesh. When cooked, it has a very sweet flavor and almost creamy texture and it's the only kind I use.

IMG_8026Sweet potatoes can be cooked via all the same methods all-purpose spuds can.  Baked, boiled, deep-fried, grilled, oven-roasted, microwaved, and, last but not least, pan-fried.  When it comes to sweet potatoes, I am a bone fide lover of this healthy super-food, and, when it comes to cooking and eating them, I love them in any form, any time of year.  I am an equal-opportunity sweet potato eater.  Pan-fried sweet potato fries, which pair great with so many things (especially poultry and pork) are relatively quick easy to make, but I'm not going to lie, if it's a big family you need to feed and need more than four side-servings, oven-roasting will get you the bigger batch.

One 1-1 1/4 pound sweet potato = 12-14-ounces fries.

IMG_7938 IMG_7938 IMG_7938 IMG_7938 IMG_7938~Step 1.  When making fries, for the least amount of waste, choose large potatoes with a long, plump, oval-ish shape -- the one in this photo weighs 1 pound, 2 ounces..  The sweet potato is a hard, meaning solid, vegetable to slice.  To shape the fries, using a large chef's knife, start by trimming the ends of the potato, to make a stable base at either end.  Once that's done, stand the potato up on the stable base and use the knife to work around the exterior, shaving the tough exterior skin from the orange flesh.  After that, with the potato still standing upright, slice the potato, lengthwise, down through the center, to split the potato into two halves. Slice each half, lengthwise into 1/4"-thick planks.  Slice the planks into 1/4" thick strips (fries).

IMG_7953 IMG_7953 IMG_7953 IMG_7953 IMG_7968 IMG_7968 IMG_7968 IMG_7968~Step 2.  In a 12" nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons, corn, peanut or vegetable oil over medium-high heat.  Add the cut fries.  After about two minutes, when they begin to sizzle, use a spatula to carefully turn them, to coat them in the oil -- at this point the potatoes will be softening. Continue to sauté the sweet potatoes, gently turning them every 45-60 seconds, until starting to brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes.  Allow the process to continue, another 4-7 minutes (for a total cooking time of 12-15 minutes), turning the fries frequently, until they turn a deeper shade of brown, transferring them, a few at a time to a paper-towel-lined plate, on an as-needed basis -- this process will go quickly.  When all fries are on the plate, sprinkle generously with sea salt.

Is there a perfect condiment for the perfect sweet potato fry?

IMG_8018No and yes.  Like the classic French fry, the perfectly-cooked sweet potato fry, with its crispy exterior and creamy interior, in an oddly chameleon-esque fashion, pairs well with almost anything that qualifies as a condiment-like dip or a vinegary sauce.  In my food world, sweet potato fries are also the ultimate side-dish to pork chops, ribs, and pulled-pork sandwiches.  Also, the flavorful sweet potato more-than-holds-its-own against any of the bold barbecue sauces used to complement porcine.  All that said, when I get a hankering to eat a small batch of sweet potato fries, all by themselves, just for their flavor and texture, I've got a go-to, mild and creamy, tangy and sort-of-sweet dip that turns a small basket of fries from a satellite side-dish into a meal. 

Save the honey for mustard.  Mix maple syrup into the ketchup.

IMG_7935Just like honey and mustard go hand-in-hand, so goes maple syrup and ketchup.  Stir a bit of mayo into either:  it's a sweet-and-savory, lip smacking honey-mustard- or maple-ketchup- condiment or salad dressing you've got, and, it can be mixed-up in literal seconds.

6  tablespoons ketchup

3  tablespoons mayonnaise

1-2  tablespoons maple syrup

IMG_7921 IMG_7921~ Step 1.  This should be self-explanatory, but, I'll document the instructions anyway.  Measure and place all ingredients, as listed, in a small bowl. Give it a stir and use immediately or store in the refrigerator indefinitely.  Yield:  about 3/4 cup.

Try a basket of sweet potato fries for lunch:

IMG_8010Or some sweet-potato fries as a side to that pork steak:

IMG_7718Everybody in the Skillet:  Perfect Sweet Potato Fries:  Recipe yields instructions to make 1-2 large servings fries or 3-4 small side-servings, and, 3/4 cup maple-ketchup mayo.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 12" nonstick skillet; spatula; paper towels

6a0120a8551282970b01bb099f5ac0970d-800wiCook's Note:  When you need more sweet potato fries than one large skillet can hold, sweet potato fries can be successfully oven fried. Tossed in oil, they cook, all at once, in a single layer on a sheet pan. There's more.  Because oven-roasting is a dry-heat method, they can be seasoned with any spice blend to complement any meal.  To learn how I do it, read my post ~ Oven-Roasted Caribbean-Spiced Sweet Potato Fries ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)


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