Melted sweet potatoes

I just read that North Carolina, where I now live, is the largest sweet potato producer in the country, eclipsing even California and Mississippi. There’s a reason it’s our state vegetable (did you know that all states have an official vegetable?). 

When you go to the farmers’ market or grocery store here, you will usually find three or four different varieties, unlike other states where you just find the traditional orange sweet potato. We have the orange globe-shaped ones, but also have red, purple and white, in all shapes from round to oblong to long and skinny.

Red-skinned sweet potato

Why always candy-sweet?

I grew up with the traditional “candied yams” prepared for the holidays and frankly, didn’t much care for them. Whose idea was it anyway to put marshmallows on top? As I matured, I did grow to love baked sweet potatoes with butter and salt. I realized that I just didn’t like them candy- sweet since they have enough sweetness on their own. 

My family is not particularly enamored of this healthy, delicious vegetable so if I buy them and they tend to be forgotten and languish in the pantry until they become shrunken and disgusting. But they are so good for us that I really want to add them to our diets. They are superstars for Vitamins A and C, not to mention fiber and a host of other nutrients.  

Red-skinned sweet potatoes have white flesh

Found: the perfect recipe

So, in my spare time now, I’ve been investigating ways to prepare them in different ways, to get my family to eat them. I’ve found the perfect way, one my family is raving about: melted sweet potatoes. 

It’s quite simple actually. You simply slice and toss with seasonings of choice and melted butter. Olive oil will work, but the best flavor comes with a splurge of butter or ghee. Then you bake at a high temperature, turning once, and then finish with a splash of broth. The outsides are crispy-delicious and the insides are meltingly creamy. Voila! And if you really like the sweet aspect, you can drizzle them with maple syrup when they come out of the oven. 

Ready for the oven

Melting Sweet Potatoes

(also works well with white potatoes)

  • 1 sweet potato, scrubbed but not peeled, sliced ½ inch thick
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • ½ c. broth (vegetable or chicken)
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 t. chopped fresh herbs (can be omitted, my favorite combination is sage and thyme)
  • Salt and pepper 

Preheat the oven to 475. Melt the butter in the microwave with the herbs if using. Toss the sweet potato slices well and put them in a single layer in a cast iron or metal roasting pan (don’t use glass). 

Roast 15 minutes until the bottoms are crispy and caramelized. Flip and roast 15 minutes more. Then add broth and roast another 15 minutes. 

Serve hot, drizzled with maple syrup, or sprinkled with crumbled feta or goat cheese.

Root Vegetable Medley

Root hash with a fried egg and sriracha sauce

I had a wonderful dish in a local restaurant shortly after I moved to Asheville. I subsequently found out that root hash is served in many restaurants here, with breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Fresh parsnips

It was meltingly delicious, heartbreakingly full of umami, so I decided to duplicate it. This time of year root crops are plentiful and delicious – parsnips, carrots, beets, turnips and even radishes. All of these combine beautifully, and when roasted, they take on a subtle smokiness that softens their pungency. 

Carrots, parsnips, beets and garlic ready to chop

Use any combination of roots

You can use any combination of root vegetables, including potatoes and sweet potatoes. Apples give it a kiss of sweetness; onions give it a savory bite. And if you want to really go wild, add celeriac or parsley root. I have to say, the word hash conjures up a gloppy mess, a muddle or mess. Let’s call it a melange, medley, alliage, amalgam or even simply a blend. 

Prep work is key

The key to a good hash is to cut the pieces all the same size and shapes so they will cook evenly. And the smaller the better. It may seem like a lot of work to cut everything into ½” squares, but you’ll be happy you did when they come out of the oven perfectly roasted. 

Chopped roots ready to roast

Roast away!

Once your pieces are pared, you simply need to toss the vegetables with olive oil and minced garlic if you like. There’s no need to salt until they come out of the oven. Roast at 375. Stir them up and turn over a bit after 15 minutes and continue to roast for another 15 minutes, until they are tender when pierced with a fork.

Root hash roasting

Root hash (medley) makes a delicious side dish in itself, or a main dish when sprinkled with feta cheese, toasted nuts and scallions. Pair it with a salad with a pungent vinaigrette dressing and a slab of sourdough bread. I love it topped with a fried egg. 

Roasted Root Vegetable Medley

2-3 cups cubed (½” cubes) parsnips, carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, onions, celeriac, parsley root. Just about any combination is delicious. If using large beets, throw them into the microwave for a few minutes to soften them since they are denser than the other vegetables. Red beets will stain the hash, so golden or Chioggia beets will make a more attractive dish. 

2 T. good quality olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

Preheat the oven to 375. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and garlic. Spread in a single layer on a roasting pan or cookie sheet with sides. Or use a cast iron pan as long as you can make only one layer. Roast about 15 minutes and then stir. Roast another 15-20 minutes until vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and salt and pepper liberally.