I have a new favorite show! It’s called A Chef’s Life and stars Vivian Howard, a chef who returns to her roots in the south after working in some of the best restaurants in NYC, to open a farm to table restaurant.
Every episode revolves around her visiting a local farm and then incorporating their ingredients into her menu. From peanuts to rice to sweet potatoes, I’m learning a lot about Southern cooking, a cuisine I know little to nothing about.
I found out all yams are really sweet potatoes in disguise because we don’t get “real” yams here. Then I watched as she made candied yams sweet potatoes with bacon and pecans in a sticky sorghum syrup and I knew at once I had to recreate it.
And by the way, making glazed sweet potatoes look good for picture taking is almost impossible. You know, all that shininess. It’s hard to mute.
Anywho. . .
While cubed sweet potatoes get busy roasting with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, you can get busy working on the sauce. Diced bacon is cooked until crispy then chopped pecans and red onion are added to get all toasty in the flavorful bacon grease.
The rest of the ingredients are added – maple syrup, a touch of molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne and a little lemon juice – to simmer away and reduce until a thick, sticky syrup forms. The sweet potatoes get dumped right in and mixed gently until the sappy sauce is clinging to them for dear life.
It might be is one of the best things on Earth. Super sweet with hints of the salty bacon shining through and the subtle crunch of the pecans wrapped around soft sweet potatoes. All at once they’re savory, smoky, crunchy, salty and sweet, very sweet, in a totally good way.
They beat those marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes everyone seems to love by a landslide. There I said it. I never liked those.
If you want to make these for the upcoming holidays you can make them ahead of time. Roast the potatoes and make the sauce but don’t combine them. Refrigerate them separately and when you’re ready to serve bring the sauce up to a good simmer, add the potatoes and heat through.
- 6 - 7 medium-ish sweet potatoes (about 12 cups cubed)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the pans
- salt and pepper
- ½ pound bacon, diced
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- ⅓ cup minced red onion
- 1 + ½ cups maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- a pinch or two of cayenne or red pepper flakes
- a couple pinches/grates of nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 snipped green onions, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into cubes, about 1-inch in size.
- Grease 2 medium non-stick baking sheets with olive oil. Divide the sweet potatoes among them and drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over each. Toss or use your hands to coat the cubes with the oil. Spread them out in one layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Bake until tender 25 - 30 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat a 10-inch frying pan over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until crispy, stirring often. Add the pecans and onions. Cook 2 - 3 minutes, stirring often.
- Add the remaining sauce ingredients except the butter and green onions. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 - 15 minutes, stirring often, until it thickens and reduces down some. Cool a spoon full off and taste. Season with more salt, if needed.
- Whisk in the butter. Turn the heat off.
- Add the cooked sweet potatoes and gently toss with a wooden spoon until they are well coated. Garnish with chopped green onion to serve.
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