Last night, instead of mixing up the dry ingredients for my scones before I went to bed (as I frequently do—it saves quite a bit of time in the morning), I should have probably just gone on to bed. I was exhausted. Like most chefs, I am almost always tired from Thanksgiving through New Years. But in addition to the normal work-related fatigue, I was tired because I had been up for several hours the previous night worrying about my cat.
Born feral, his independent habits have caused me many sleepless nights. But recently his desire to be out gallivanting while the temperature is below freezing has diminished. Maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise to me that he would suddenly feel the need to spend the night out after several days in, but it was. I went to bed late, slept fitfully and woke up at hourly intervals to check to see if he had turned up. He finally did. He came inside a bit hesitantly and then woke me up an hour and a half later to be let back out.... His sleep the next day was deep. Unfortunately, my schedule wouldn't allow me to share in the luxury of taking an all day nap.
Since everyone is tired and rushed this time of year, I thought I would use this space today to share a simple roasted sweet potato side dish that can be incorporated easily into a busy schedule. It is tasty, nutritious, and so easy that it doesn't require a recipe (or a lengthy blog post). The reason it is worth writing about at all is that sweet potatoes can be a bit tricky to roast because of their high sugar and moisture content.
In the past, I have roasted sweet potatoes at relatively high temperatures (425° or so) in an effort to make them crisp. It never seemed to work very well. When roasted at the higher temperatures appropriate for roasting most root vegetables, sweet potatoes tend to darken quickly and the exterior tends to get tough rather than crispy. It is only recently that I have discovered that they truly roast best around 375° (or even 350°). At lower temperatures, they will take longer (45 minutes to an hour), but when they are cooked through, the exterior will be a light golden brown. They may or may not be crispy, but either way their interior will be soft and sweet.
Olive oil, salt and pepper alone would be sufficient seasoning, but I think the sweet potatoes are especially good with the addition of some spices. My favorite combination is paprika and cumin. Sweet potatoes are also good with ground dried chili, fennel and coriander. It isn't even necessary to measure the spices—when you toss them with the olive oil and salt & pepper, simply add spices of your choice in combinations and quantities that suit your whim.
|Ingredients and baking dish ready to go|
|Seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika & cumin|
|Spread in a snug single layer in a baking dish|
|The finished product--tender, golden & sweet|