Sweet potatoes vs. yams: the great debate. We call them sweet potato fries, and candied sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving. But when we walk into a grocery store, we see that our familiar sweet potatoes are labeled yams. What's the deal? The purple-skinned, orange-fleshed "yam" and the golden-skinned, pale-fleshed "sweet potato" are actually both sweet potatoes. The pale variety is a "firm" sweet potato, and the orange variety is a "soft" sweet potato. As the firm variety was produced in the United States before the soft one, it became known simply as the sweet potato. So when the soft variety was introduced, the USDA decided to call it a "yam" to distinguish between the two. Our "yams" somewhat resemble true yams from Africa and Asia, hence the moniker.
So continue calling them sweet potato fries, and do the same with your candied sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. You've got it right. Don't let the grocery store fool you. And if you're ever abroad and come across the true yam, give me a call and let me know how it tastes. In the meantime, let's talk sweet potatoes because that's what we've got in good ol' America.
I'm rather fond of sweet potato fries. Apple's Bar & Grill at the base of Bald Mountain out Warm Springs serves the best ones in Ketchum, and Mountainside Café in Falls Village, Connecticut serves the best ones back east. Theirs are both true to their name and are actually fried, but honestly sweet potatoes taste just as delicious when baked at home. And good thing because I am notorious for overestimating the amount of sweet potatoes I need for a recipe, and always have a bunch of extras floating around after a round of test kitchen. Luckily they don't spoil easily when kept on the counter, and I can have sweet potato fries in a jiff for days.
I like to balance the sweet potatoes with a little extra kick of spices, but feel free to limit your recipe to salt and pepper if you'd like to stay on the traditional side of things. Also, I leave the skin on because it's a pain to peel off and doesn't get in anyone's way. Plus the skins are full of fiber and nutrients.
SWEET POTATO FRIES
- 2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1/3-1/2" wide sticks (of varying lengths)
- extra virgin olive oil
- chili powder
- garlic granules
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss your sweet potatoes with a splash of olive oil on a baking sheet before spreading in a single layer. Lightly dust the potatoes with paprika, chili powder, and garlic granules. Toss to coat, and spread into a single layer again. Sprinkle with salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
Place your sheet pan in the top third of the oven and cook for 10-20 minutes, tossing part way through, until beginning to crisp. Remove the pan from the oven and let sit for a minute or two. Serve and enjoy!
Serves a few