Monday, July 11, 2011

On Sweet Potatoes (For Genny)

I have SO many other "important" photos to upload and "interesting" things to blog about. But today, something went down on the old Book of Face.

I announced that I was making sweet potato tater tots.

I did this to make all my friends and followers jealous. As they should be. Sweet potatoes are the BEST potato, in my opinion. Simply because they are so versatile in the sweet AND the savory. It's almost magical.

Regular potatoes just don't have this magic, or "mojo" as I am now going to call it.

I admit that for many years I, like so many others, was not sold on the whole "sweet" potato thing. Potatoes were supposed to be mashed and creamy, or baked and served wit butter, sour cream, and BACON (I LOVE BACON!!!). Nowhere in the WORLD were potatoes supposed to be sweet.

In Jr, High I even tried to venture into the sweet potato world. For an ethnic cooking portion of "Independent Living" I made Kumara Soup. This is a recipe native to New Zealand. The Lord of the Rings had just come out and I was OBSESSED with New Zealand. Can you blame me? I STILL want to live there. They are one of the only countries where Colony Collapse Disorder hasn't had an effect on bee populations. They have the PUREST honey in the world. And don't even get me started on the endless rugged landscape and wonderful indigenous people.

Sorry, I digress. Where was I? Ah! Kumara soup.

Kumara is just what the Maori call Sweet Potatoes. And it was the easiest and least expensive recipe I could find from New Zealand. So I went with it-sweet potatoes aside. Let me remind you all that in Jr. High I was NOT the cooking master I am now (riiiiight). I knew little to nothing. So I shredded the sweet potato, like they asked. But SOMEHOW I missed the puree part. I added all the OTHER ingredients. Onion, garlic (it probably wasn't fresh, being the novice I was), curry powder *shudder*, etc. And guess what I got? Shredded sweet potato curry with the very SLIGHTEST consistency of "soup". I was disappointed. Even IF the stuff had been like soup it STILL would have tasted bad to me. I mean, the potatoes were SWEET! And, little did I know at the time, curry powder *shudder* makes the BEST of recipes inedible. Even then I had no idea how much I really disliked that mix of herbs and spices.

So I TRIED. But even then, I was convinced that Sweet Potatoes were only something that southern people loved and THAT was because heat, humidity, hurricanes and hoodoo made them like crazy things.

It didn't help that Mom and Dad really never made sweet potatoes for us at Thanksgiving. Maybe that's because none of us kids would TOUCH the impostor "potatoes".

It wasn't until the year 2008 that I saw the light. That summer, I traveled to Rhode Island. What a wonderful place. I insist that you go there and fall in love. I was at Mew's Tavern for happy hour. All us interns went every Wednesday for free pizza (and everyone but me for 1/2 off the "amazing" beer). I had managed to keep my unreasonable prejudice against sweet potatoes a secret until this point. But somehow, that night it became common knowledge that Sarah Lambson HATED sweet potatoes. More specifically sweet potato fries. Everyone INSISTED that I get an order THAT INSTANT. They also insisted that I would love them. I refused. They weren't going to convince ME to spend money on sweet potatoes. Even if they WERE disguising themselves as fries. So one of my friends ordered some instead and they then insisted that I just TRY one. I'm not one who usually gives in to peer pressure (There WAS that one time with the meatball sub) but I made an exception this time. They were so SURE of themselves and so far none of them had lead me wrong.

I still remember that first bite. Just a plain, simple sweet potato fry. Crispy and unassuming. Nothing on it to taint it's sweet and wonderful flavor. My tongue rejoiced! I had never tasted such a thing before! How had I not KNOWN?? I took another. And another! Everyone was nodding their heads with "I told you so" looks on their faces. They had me try it with sour cream. EVEN BETTER. The sweet and crispy was offset perfectly by the smooth and sour. It was THE best food discovery I made in Rhode Island (besides New England pizza and Brickley's Ice Cream).

From that point on, I was converted. I had consumed the sweet potato mojo and it had changed me. There was no turning back. Once I got back home to Missouri, I kept an eye out for places that had sweet potato fries on the menu. They were few and far FIRST. Now I feel like it's almost a given at restaurants. And then I branched off. Sweet potato CHIPS? Yes, please. Sweet potato breakfast potatoes? GIMME! And then it became "lets add sweet potato to this, it will make it SOOO good!"

Like sweet potato burritos, sweet potato potato salad, sweet potato mashed potatoes, SWEET POTATO CHEESECAKE! There's NOTHING that sweet potatoes can't do. I promise you. I realize now that they aren't impostors. They aren't trying to be something their not. They AREN'T the hipsters of the potato world-being sweet because being savory is SO cliche. They are the JEDI of potatoes.


And so, tonight, I continued on my quest to make new and wonderful things out of sweet potatoes. On Pinterest Emily pinned a photo of sweet potato tater tots.

WHAT?!?! I mean, tater tots are already hot and crispy little bundles of JOY dipped in ketchup. I thought they could do no wrong and that there was nothing to top them in the world of tots. Boy was I wrong. The site that talked about them didn't have a recipe. So I looked one up. And decided that TONIGHT I was going to make them.

So I did.

*Angels singing praises in the background*

Yes, they ARE as good as they look. Better in fact. Here is the recipe (I got it from this site)

3 cups of shredded sweet potato (about 3-4 medium sized sweet potatoes)
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. Parmesan Cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Enough oil to fry in

Boil Sweet potatoes in a large pot for about 20 minutes then transfer them out of the water and let them cool. Peel potatoes (or not, I don't think it matters. I DIDN'T peel them but the peels didn't go through the grater anyway) and shred using a grater. Fold the shreds in between paper towels and push down to squeeze out excess moisture. Combine shreds with flour, cheese, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Using a tablespoon, portion out the mixture and mold it into tots. Fry in hot oil until brown and crispy and DELICIOUS!

With mine, I used inexact measurements. I only had 2/3's of a sweet potato to use. So I think I added too much cheese. "IMPOSSIBLE!" you say. Sadly, it's not impossible in this case. The tots would stick to the bottom of the pan because of the cheese and so would often fall apart as I tried to scrape them off.

Despite that one small hiccup-these little nuggets of cheesy sweet potato goodness took Kathy and I by STORM! She couldn't stop raving about them. MY mouth is watering just thinking about them. My only regret? That I didn't have 100 sweet potatoes to make TONS of them.

And so, my friends, thank you for taking this journey with me down memory lane. I look back on those dark years of sweet potato prejudice and weep for my taste buds. As I weep for all of you who STILL refuse to let sweet potatoes touch you the way they have touched me. OPEN YOUR HEARTS. Come to the light. You will never want to go back.

Next on the sweet potato menu: Sweet potato and black bean enchiladas!


Erin said...

I love you. And I definitely want some sweet potato tots now!

genevieve said...

You are AWESOME!

Okay, so....I admit. I hate sweet potatoes. Haaaaaaaate. Tried them so many times. In fries, Au Gratined, with loads of sugar/mallows on top, etc...I just don't like sweet cooked things. I know, weird, right? I love spinach, but make a spinach salad with that disgusting sweet dressing and I am OUT. I love baby carrots raw, but cook them with a roast and serve them all mushy and suddenly sweet-tasting, and I want to vomit. I hate how potato salad gets ruined when people put sweet relish in it. JUST ADD A REGULAR PICKLE, PEOPLE!

BUT. My family digs those sweet potatoes heartily. And I *want* to dig them. I will continue to try them every once in awhile, just to make sure my taste hasn't changed. until then, I'll make them for my loved ones, and smile as they enjoy. :)

Thanks again!!

Sarah Lambson said...


Genny-I feel that way about two things lately. Cilantro and curry powder. I SO VERY MUCH want to love cilantro and curry as much as the rest of the world. My taste buds just aren't there. So I can't REALLY judges sweet potato haters. Someday that may LOVE sweet potatoes just like someday I may love cilantro and curry powder.

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