First things first: Not much beats a good sweet potato fry. They are not only exceptionally tasty, but also require little effort to prepare. In this variation, I add balsamic in the last five minutes to give the fries some tang and depth of flavor, but by no means do sweet potato fries need anything, except for perhaps a little salt, to be delicious straight out of the oven. The final broiling stage gives the fries an extra crispy skin. Be sure to watch them carefully as they broil; it’s a thin line between a perfectly crisped skin and a burnt root.
Sweet Potato Fries
- One large sweet potato
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Cut sweet potato into 3 to 4-inch strips. Toss in oil and place on large baking sheet. Place in oven for 25 minutes. Take sweet potatoes out of the oven, add balsamic vinegar and salt, and stir. Turn oven to broil, and broil for 5 minutes.
Sweet Potato Red Chile Sauce
Don’t let the long list of ingredients fool you. This thick, mole-type chile sauce is an easy and delicious way to spice up many dishes. I love it with roasted chicken, or simply on top of a bed of rice and black beans. The sweet potato serves to both thicken and sweeten the sauce, creating a heartier chile than the more traditional red chile sauces often found in New Mexico. Top with feta or cotija cheese.
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 1/2 cups bone broth or vegetable broth
- 6 ancho chiles
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 2 cloves
- 1 inch of a cinnamon stick, loosely broken by hand
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon turmeric, fresh and diced; or 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon oregano (fresh)
- 1 tablespoon thyme (fresh)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon anise
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup feta or cotija cheese
Cut the sweet potato into 2-inch chunks and place in a pot with onions and bone broth. Place on high heat. Once it boils, simmer for 45 minutes.
As the sweet potatoes and broth cook, remove stems and seeds from chile pods. Soak chiles in warm water. Set aside.
Place a non-oiled, cast-iron skillet over high heat. Turn on stove vent. Toast pecans in the skillet, turning periodically, until they start to blacken, about 2 minutes. Add cloves, cinnamon, pumpkin seeds, and fresh turmeric (wait, if using dried turmeric) and continue toasting until pumpkin seeds begin to darken, about 30 seconds. Add the fresh thyme, oregano, and dried turmeric, and continue toasting for about 15 seconds. Remove from heat. Place toasted ingredients in a food processor.
Return skillet to high heat. Toss in soaked chiles, toasting each side for about 30 seconds. Add the chiles, along with garlic, to the food processor. Chop all remaining spices in the food processor until they form a paste. Add sweet potato and onion mixture to the paste in the food processor when sweet potatoes are soft to the touch of a fork and blend. Salt and pepper to taste.
Willy Carleton is a co-editor of edible New Mexico and The Bite. He is the author of Fruit, Fiber, and Fire: A History of Modern Agriculture in New Mexico, which explores the cultural and environmental history of apples, cotton, and chiles in our region.