Growing up, not a holiday dinner or church potluck supper was complete without a casserole dish filled with baked sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows. If you’ve never seen this dish, let me tell you—it looks disgusting. Perhaps it’s because I don’t like marshmallows (I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. To wit: when we’d go to Luby’s, while my family dug into slices of chess pie for dessert, I’d be eating jalapeno cornbread) and seeing this large baking dish filled with a brown and orange oozing substance covered with white dots just never seemed appealing. It looked like really bad 1970’s interior design. It wasn’t dessert, either–it was considered a savory side. So I grew up thinking that sweet potatoes had to be served with marshmallows, and I never tried them.
But now that I’ve acquired a more adventurous palate, I’ve learned that sans marshmallows, sweet potatoes are actually quite versatile and delicious, not to mention extremely healthy: they are packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, iron and calcium. A lot of places market them as yams, but the two are not the same. While sweet potatoes are a native American vegetable, yams hail from Africa and Asia. Even more interesting is that while the sweet potato is a distant relative of regular potatoes, its relation to yams is even more removed. So why do people confuse the two? I reckon because they’re both orange on the inside.
I saw a ton of sweet potatoes at the market today, and I was thrilled to see some of the varieties on hand—there was one bigger than my head! And there are so many ways you can cook them: you can fry them like French fries, you can bake them in a pie, you can make soup, you can stuff them in dumplings or pasta, you can make sweet potato hash,you can bake bread—basically, anything you can do with a potato you can do with a sweet potato. One of my favorite things to do with them is make a sweet-potato mash flavored with chipotle peppers. It’s been a holiday hit with my family for years, so much, in fact, they stopped making the horrible sweet potatoes with marshmallows. Now that’s progress! But even better is how healthy this dish is: because sweet potatoes are so naturally moist, you don’t need to add any dairy to make the dish creamy—it’s just the sweet potatoes and the peppers. Here’s the recipe:
4 to 6 sweet potatoes
2 to 4 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (this if the number of chile peppers NOT the number of cans!)
Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with foil.
Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork, place on the sheet and bake for 1 and a half hours. Remove from the oven and let them cook for 15 minutes.
Once sweet potatoes have cooled, slice in half, and scoop out orange flesh into a bowl. Mash with a potato masher or a fork.
Finely chop the chipotle chiles, and stir into the mashed sweet potatoes along with some of the adobo sauce from the can. When well combined, add salt to taste.
6 to 8 servings