Some thoughts on baked sweet potato fries
Sweet potato fries is a food trend I am wholeheartedly happy about (unlike some other trends…cupcakes and cake pops, I’m looking at you). Because as much as I love regular french fries, I’ll take any excuse to trade them in for anything that has a higher sugar content. If their rising popularity then means that I can make this sugar-addict substitution at almost every restaurant/bar/diner that I go to, well, then all the better.
This trend has circulated through the internet, in the most common form of baked sweet potato fries. Although they never, ever compare to their deep-fried counterparts that I so greedily order every time I see them on a menu, I make them. A lot. In these many trials of baking batches of sweet potato fries, I’ve learned certain ways that I like them, and certain ways that I don’t. This recent post by My New Roots made me reconsider how I made them even more, and has sent me on a renewed frenzy of at-home efforts of baked sweet potato fries. At the end of all this, I figured why not share my newly gained and (obviously) valuable wisdom with you all? So, I present to you, in order of importance:
My Thoughts on Making the Most Ideal Sweet Potato Fries Possible (considering their unfortunate position of not being deep-fried)
1. Space. You can’t just dump a pile of cut sweet potato fries onto a baking sheet and expect them to develop into anything other than soft, steamed piles of mush (this is a situation where I actually do not want mushy vegetables, surprising as that may be). I know it seems like a pain to individually place them onto a baking sheet, and perhaps even having to use two baking sheets in order to leave enough space between each fry, but trust me! It’s worth it, always worth it.
2. Size. This is an obvious one, but the fries should be cut into as close a size as possible. It’s not so much how big or small the fries are, but how big or small they are in relation to one another. Otherwise you’ll end up with pure-crisped-black carbon sticks alongside fat and still raw hunks of sweet potato. This can sometimes be tricky, I mean have you seen sweet potatoes? They are a big misshapen bunch. You just do the best you can, that’s all you can ever do.
3. Soak (& Dry). I got this one from My New Roots’ post, and I think it’s awesome. She recommends that you swish the cut, raw fries in a bowl of water to release some of their starches. This allows them to crisp up better. However, in doing this, it is of the utmost importance that you thoroughly dry the fries, and preferably let them air-dry for at least a good 10 or 15 minutes or so while the oven is heating up. While this is happening, I rinse and dry out the bowl (thoroughly), and use this bowl to swirl the dried fries with the olive oil, salt, and either cornmeal or cornstarch. It makes for a nice little system.
4. Cornmeal or Cornstarch. Ah, the coating. Frankly, it doesn’t really matter what you try to coat the fries with, because they’re never going to taste deep-fried and they’ll never have that crispy-crunchy-bite like they do when deep-fried. This is a sad fact of life, but if you can’t get over it I don’t know why you’re stooping to the level of baking your sweet potato fries in the first place. Anyway, the cornmeal idea came from My New Roots, and it does indeed lend the fries to have a certain crunch to them. I think I prefer the cornstarch though, as it kind of makes the surfaces of the fries puff up and get a little airy. Once again, these coatings only go so far, but they add a certain nice edge that regular, non-coated fries don’t have.
5. Good Dipping Sauce. Sauce makes everything better (especially sub-par things like baked versions of fried things). I’ve been pairing my sweet potato fries with a thick tahini-honey sauce for awhile now, and the combination is seriously awesome. Really, if you haven’t tried dipping your sweet potato fries in tahini, you’re missing out. (If you need convincing of this flavor combination, I’ve got the legitimacy of Ottolenghi on my side.) I’ve posted a really sloppy recipe that I made up below, but it’s the type of thing I go by taste with.
So, that’s about it. I think these little tips actually make for some pretty good baked sweet potato fries, so much so that every time I make them I consume a whole baked sweet potato for myself along with the entire small batch of tahini-honey dipping sauce. Then again, I always eat the entire baked sweet potato whether or not it was done well or not, so perhaps this is saying more about me and my eating habits than it is about the qualities of these fries. But you get it! These taste good.
(Oh, photos! What strange lighting you have! Sigh.)
Some more thoughts on … San Francisco & Santa Barbara: So in approximately 18 hours, more or less, I will be in a car with two of my closest friends headed for that great yet confusing state of California. It’s my last spring break of college, and my friends and I decided that this time would be best spent in the pursuit of a little sunshine and good food. We’ll be in San Francisco for 4 days or so, then down in Santa Barbara (a place you may remember that I go to every so often). I know San Francisco is a food mecca, and I’ve gotten the chance to go to some great places in a brief trip there last summer. But you all (Linda! Em! Etc!) know of probably a lot of great food bites. I’ve got Little Star and Zachary’s Pizza written down. Anything else you want to throw my way? Hopefully I’ll make a little post over next week, but if not, see you in a little bit. x
One Year Ago: Crustless Kale and Quinoa Quiche
Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Adapted & Inspired from My New Roots
1 medium-sized sweet potato, scrubbed, sliced into equally sized 1/4- to 1/2-inch sticks (no need to peel)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons cornmeal or cornflour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Fill a medium-sized bowl with water. Add the uncooked sweet potato sticks, swish them around for about a minute or so, then remove and thoroughly dry. Allow to air dry for at least 15 minutes or so (while the oven heats up or while you throw together the dipping sauce).
Rinse out and thoroughly dry the same medium-sized bowl you rinsed the sweet potato sticks in. Add the air-dried cut potatoes and the olive oil, and swish them around together with your hand to coat evenly. Add in the cormeal (or cornstrach) and salt, and continue to mix so the potatoes get coated evenly. Place the sticks on a greased or lined baking sheet, spaced evenly apart so they’re not overlapping. If you run out of space, use two baking sheets.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, until they are golden brown, puffed, and crisp looking. I honestly don’t think it makes too big of a difference to flip them halfway through (especially considering the extra work it requires), but if you’d like, towards the end you can shake the pan gently so that some get turned over. Enjoy while hot!
Tahini-Honey Dipping Sauce
As I said before, these are really rough estimates. I usually just mix together a couple fairly big spoonfuls of tahini, a little spoonful of honey, a good squeeze of lemon, and enough water to get the right consistency. Obviously I can’t just say that though, hence why you see a little recipe below. But adjust to taste.
3 tablespoons tahini paste
1-2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Combine the tahini, 1 tablespoon water, honey, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth, streaming in a little more water as necessary until you have a thick consistency. Adjust for taste and thickness.