Friday, September 30, 2011

An Impromptu Meal for Early Fall—Sweet Potato Pancakes served with a Medley of Corn, Sweet Potatoes & Black Beans

For the past couple of weeks I have been testing recipes for "savory sweet potato cakes".  When I promised to make some for an upcoming job, I didn't have a specific type of cake in mind.  Consequently, my days have been interspersed with the making and tasting of a variety of versions of sweet potato latkes, sweet potato pancakes and sweet potato fritters/croquettes. You would think I would be tired of sweet potatoes, but I'm not. I love sweet potatoes. The "savory sweet potato cakes" that I will be serving for my event will be a fritter/croquette-type of cake, but I was so pleased with the sweet potato pancakes that I came up with while working on this job that I thought I would share the recipe here.

We had them for dinner this evening topped with a quick sauté of corn and sweet potatoes. My sauté was inspired by a salad I noticed a couple of weeks ago in the deli case at The Community Mercantile in Lawrence. The salad, which also included black beans, appealed to me because of the pairing of corn and sweet potatoes. I think these two vegetables are fantastic together. (Last year I posted a version of Corn Chowder that includes some sweet potatoes in addition to white potatoes.) 

Unfortunately the window during which you can enjoy this combination made with sweet corn that has been freshly cut from the cob is narrow....and it is now. Sweet potatoes have just begun to make their way to the market and the farmers that I buy my corn from told me that last Saturday was their final visit for the year. We have been savoring these final ears all week...and tonight there were only two left. I know I will be able to make this dish in the coming months with frozen corn, but it won't be quite the same.

I don't have a detailed recipe for my corn and sweet potato medley...just a general method—which is really all you need for a dish like this. To begin, cut a medium sized sweet potato into a 1/3-inch dice—you should have about 2 cups of diced sweet potatoes. Sauté the sweet potatoes in some olive oil over moderately high heat until golden and beginning to soften. (Choose a sauté pan that is large enough to hold the sweet potatoes in a snug single layer.) Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper.

Return the pan to the heat and add some more oil. Add a medium red onion that has been thinly sliced to the pan and cook over moderate heat until tender and lightly caramelized. When the onion is tender, add a teaspoon or so of cumin and a quarter teaspoon of chipotle chili powder (more or less to taste) along with a pinch of salt. Cook briefly until fragrant. If the pan seems dry, add a bit more oil. Add a couple of cups of sweet corn (if using fresh, add the "scrapings" of the cob as well). Season with salt and continue to cook until the corn begins to sizzle—a minute or two. Add a splash of water and scrape up any brown, caramelized bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. Return the sweet potatoes to the pan along with a can of drained and rinsed black beans. Season with salt, cover and cook over low heat until the corn and sweet potatoes are just tender. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.

At this point you may add a variety of different things to the pan to "finish" the dish. I added a scant tablespoon of sherry vinegar and about as much maple syrup. A squeeze of lime juice would have been nice in addition to, or in place of, the sherry vinegar. A finely minced canned chipotle in adobo would be an excellent addition. too.

Set the finished sauté to the side and keep warm while you prepare the pancakes.  Just before serving, add some coarslely chopped flat leaf parsley or cilantro to the vegetables.  I used parsley...which was good...but if I had had any cilantro on hand, that would have been a better choice.

To serve, place three pancakes on each plate and mound some of the corn-sweet potato medley in the center. Finish the plate with a thin drizzle of maple syrup (not too much!--this is a savory dish) and a dollop of crème fraiche. Sour cream would be a perfectly fine substitute for the crème fraiche.

The pancake recipe makes enough for four servings of three cakes each.  The quantities of vegetables that I have given for the corn and sweet potato sauté will make enough to serve four generously with some left over.  Just enough, as it happens, to serve with a cheese quesadilla for a nice weekend lunch....  

Savory Sweet Potato-Cornmeal Pancakes

3/4 c. all-purpose flour (85 grams)
1/2 c. stone ground cornmeal (65 grams)
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. kosher salt
1 t. sugar
6 T. mashed roasted sweet potatoes (100 grams)
1 egg, beaten
2 T. melted unsalted butter
1 to 1 1/4 c. buttermilk
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix together. In another bowl, whisk together the sweet potatoes, egg and melted butter. Add 1 cup of the buttermilk and whisk until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and add the green onions. Fold together. The batter will be thick enough to scoop with an ice cream scoop, but if it is too thick, add more of the buttermilk.

Melt some butter in a nonstick or cast iron pan over medium heat. Scoop in the batter, spreading slightly to form 3 inch cakes. Cook until golden (about 2 1/2 minutes on each side). Keep the pancakes warm in a low oven until all of the cakes have been cooked. Makes about 12 pancakes.

(Adapted from Mark Miller's Corn Cakes from the Coyote Café Cookbook)

1 comment:

Katrina said...

I agree with Chris!