Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spicy, Sweet & Smoky Yams

         My blog has been up and running for ONE month! I didn’t realize how fun and addicting it is to write a food blog! I am so grateful for each person reading this and hope you have all found something to further your cooking creativity and enjoyment! I have appreciated the patience of all my friends who have been wanting to have a cook book and while that idea is still alive, I hope this blog is giving you some fun new recipes to try! I am very pleased to have “met” so many new friends, from all over, who come here to see what's for dinner :-)
      Today, my post is another simple side dish. I suppose I should have something spectacular to share but while this dish is simple it is delicious.
      I had the delightful opportunity to have a young family join us for dinner last weekend. We decided on a menu of something down home and kid friendly and since spring was in the air, I cooked burgers outside on the grill. A nice accompaniment to grilled meats is roasted sweet potatoes. 

     Last year, I wanted to try something different for our roasted sweet potatoes. I asked my family what they would like, spicy, sweet or smoky -one said spicy and another said sweet. I wanted smoky. So, I started looking around for a way to combine these flavors. Although it was not all I was looking for in my quest for spicy, sweet and smoky, I really liked the recipe for spicy sweet potato wedges on adapted from Gourmet, January 2002
    That one gave me some inspiration for a different combo of spicy flavors including fennel seed. For sweet, I added some brown sugar and I have tried it with extra bit of maple syrup or molasses- both have worked well. The smoky tones came from a favorite spice combo- smoky paprika and chipotle.

        Now I realize all these flavors can be complex and might not be what everyone is looking for so do adapt it. If you don’t want too much spicy heat, skip red pepper and chipotle. You could skip the brown sugar and maple, but realize they add a lot of caramelization and give this dish its crispy, chewy texture so you will lose that along with the sweetness. If you are not a fan of smoky, use regular paprika and ground red chili.If you like smoky but can’t find smoked paprika, see if you can find a smoked salt or a hickory spice mix to add in ( but use less, maybe 1 tsp)
 Make this your own, but this combo of flavors is a nice surprise when people are expecting something like thanksgiving yams J
A hint on ground coriander: These are the seeds of the cilantro plant. If you happen to grow cilantro in the summer, let some of it go to seed towards the end and you can get some coriander seeds to use in many recipes. By the way, coriander and cilantro do not taste anything like each other. Coriander is a nice addition to this but if you don’t have any on your spice shelf…well, you should get some, but if you don’t just skip it.
I probably don’t need to tell you but sweet potatoes have excellent nutritional value. One gives one fourth of daily fiber. It is a good source of Vitamin B6 and Potassium, a great  source of Vitamin C and Manganese and a ridiculously great source of vitamin A at 796% RDA!
You can use any fresh sweet potato, which are also called yams in the USA. I like the Beauregard yams but use what you find. They should not be too stringy or fibrous. You could also try this with butternut squash.
Enough already- here is my recipe for Spicy, Sweet and Smoky Yams

Spicy, Sweet & Smoky Yams

1 tsp fennel seeds, whole
¾ teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano, leaf not powder
¼ teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes, more or less to taste
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoon smoked paprika, or more
1 teaspoon onion powder
½- ¾ teaspoon chipotle chili powder, or more
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar, or more
1 ½ tablespoon real maple syrup (or more brown sugar with maybe a bit of molasses )
1 ½ teaspoon kosher  or smoked salt and a few grinds of black pepper
2 ½-3 pounds medium sweet potatoes (about 5-6 Beauregard yams)
3-4  tablespoons light olive oil or canola oil

Preheat oven to 425. 
You could grind spices with a mortar and pestle or  grinder or use my method : I simple place fennel seeds, marjoram, red pepper on a dry cutting board before cutting up the sweet potatoes. Use a big knife to chop them up. The fennel will jump around so use a big board. Place chopped spice with other spices, sugar, dry seasoning in bowl.
Peel and chop sweet potato into large 1-  1 ½ ” chunks and toss them with the spice mixture.  I like to do this an hour or two before cooking so that I can let it set for an hour or more in a zip-lock bag or bowl.
Add syrup, 3 TBSP olive oil to yams and mix thoroughly. (Zip-lock bag is great for this). Brush a little oil on heavy cooking sheet or roasting pan. It is best to use a heavy pan for this. You could line it with heavy foil if desired to make clean up easier. Lay out yams in single layer.
Pop it into the oven for 15-20 minutes, uncovered, then take it out and flip them all over with a wide spatula. Bake in the oven for 10-15 more minutes. Remove from oven. If not serving immediately you can leave on the counter for a little bit then put back in hot oven for a few minutes just before serving but do not cover them tightly at any time or you will lose the nice crunchy texture.
Makes 7 – 10 servings.


  1. Hmm! This is easy and looks like a nice side dish. I always make the same potato dish so I appreciate this new yum recipe! I will probably cut down on spicy level for my kids. And thanks for the nutrition info. I only knew about fibers. =P

    Nami @ Just One

  2. So glad you like it. I hope it will be a good dish for your kids. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  3. Its a triple wammy of awesome. Love it. Consider this bookmarked :)

  4. Thank you Parsley Sage :-) I am not surprised that you are with me on liking to have it all. You seem to be someone who gets the most out of life. Why settle for bland when you can have a blast of flavor, right? Glad you like the dish.

  5. ...can't wait to hear your zipline story :)

  6. I have sweet potatoes just waiting for me in the kitchen! I may have to cancel my other cooking plans and just make this dish!

  7. :-) Zip line has not happened yet, got a few weeks. I just committed myself to doing it on my next vacation. I was all for it till I met a guy who worked rescuing people and dealing with repairs and issues...yeah, freaked me out a little. But I said I am going so I will...they will all hold me to it 0_0

    Thanks Jeff, so glad you like the recipe. Let me know how it turns out.

  8. Congrats on your blogiversary! This sounds wonderful and a great way to make sweet potatoes (which I love) during the summer months! What a great side dish! I must try this!!