You know those conversations you have with friends where you discuss, in all seriousness, that if you were animals which one you would be? Well, my buddies and I do this, but with vegetables.
“You are so totally an artichoke!”
“No, she’s a cucumber.”
“Guys, I’m dating a turnip.” etc, etc.
Well, it has been widely agreed upon that I am a sweet potato. This pleases me a great deal.
I could easily write an entire blog just about sweet potatoes. I am in fact so obsessed with them, that I find myself holding back from posting yet another sweet potato recipe for fear of boring you all to tears. But today I can’t help it.
For anyone who is as wild about this tuber as I am, you’ve undoubtedly tried making sweet potato fries. Have the results disappointed you? Yea, I think most people are pretty bummed that unless a deep fryer is involved, sweet potato fries simply don’t get as crispy as regular potato fries. This is just the way it is. But! I’ve come up with a way of getting them about as close to crispy as one ever could and I am wildly excited to share the recipe with you.
The secret to this recipe is not just about the ingredients, but the process. You can imagine I’ve tried just about everything to achieve the perfect baked fry so hear me out on the following steps.
One, size matters. By this I mean that the fries need to be the same thickness otherwise they will cook at different rates, and that they should be sliced somewhere in the 1cm (¼ – ½ inch) ballpark range.
Two, rinse well. Although some recipes claim that soaking the fries for up to 8 hours has a profoundly positive effect on crispness, mine have always been worse after soaking. I do agree however, that rinsing the fries just after they’ve been cut does help. This step removes some of the starch from the vegetable and helps improve crispness while baking. It is also important after this step to dry the fries well. The more water you can remove from their exterior, the better.
Three, these fries need their space. Much like mushrooms, if the sweet potatoes are too close together on the baking tray, they will steam each other. Steam equals soggy. No thanks.
The last little element that really makes these fries special, is of course cornmeal. The idea came to me recently after trying polenta fries and making the connection between the delightfully crisp texture around the edges, and the cornmeal from which they were made. I realized that by coating veggies in cornmeal before baking them may deliver the same effect. Ta-da! I was right.
I did go the arrowroot road (or as some of you may have tried, the cornstarch coating) but I think it’s better when you are deep-frying case, not baking. Plus, the lovely thing about the cornmeal, is that is simulates that blistered, fried-textured exterior without the hazards of eating oxidized fats. Yay! And it adds a lot of crispness that you couldn’t get from the sweet potato fry on its own.
Passing on the Healing Vibes
I recently found out something really cool about sweet potatoes, and that is the amazing properties of their “storage proteins”. Storage proteins are unique nitrogen sources that exist in most dry beans and tubers, generated mainly during seed production. Soybeans have glycinins, potatoes have patatins, yams have dioscorins, and corn has zeins.
Sweet potatoes contain storage proteins called sporamins, and recent studies have shown their important healing benefits. It turns out that when a sweet potato plant is subjected to physical damage, sporamins are produced to help the plant heal! Their ability to do this is significantly related to their role as antioxidants, which help prevent oxidative damage to our body’s cells. When sweet potato is being digested inside our gastrointestinal tract, we may get some of their antioxidant benefits.  This means that the healing properties sweet potato plants exhibit on their own cells is passed on to us when we munch them. Talk about a good sharer.
I paired the sweet potato fries with a tangy chermoula and yogurt dip. Chermoula is a marinade frequently used in Moroccan, Tunisian, and Algerian cooking. Typically, it is used to flavour fish, but I am all about it with vegetables.
Like many herb and spice blends from around the world there are a number of variations, but the base is traditionally made of parsley, cilantro, pickled lemon, garlic, cumin, olive oil, and salt. Obviously, this already floats my boat. Some versions, including mine, take it to the next level with saffron, ginger, and smoked paprika. I didn’t have any preserved lemon, so I used the zest and juice of a lemon instead. When all was said and done, this blend was ridiculously delicious and I have been slathering it on anything (bread, for instance).
I mixed the chermoula green goodness with goat yogurt for this recipe. I felt that the tang offset the sweetness of the fries in a really addictive way, plus it was easier for the chermoula to “stick” to the fries with the yogurt addition. If you are not into yogurt, try blending up the chermoula with a ripe avocado, or soaked cashews. In either of these instances, use a little more lemon to simulate the yogurt-y tang. You can also leave the chermoula as is.
Crispy Cornmeal Sweet Potato Fries with Chermoula Yogurt
2 – 3 large sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp. melted coconut oil or ghee
4 Tbsp. cornmeal / polenta
1 tsp. sea salt (more to taste, if desired)
extra flavour options:
1. Scrub the sweet potatoes well under running water. Slice them into long sticks 1cm thick (between ¼” and ½”). Place them in a bowl of water, swish around a few times, then drain (this step helps remove some of the starch from the potato). Place potatoes on a clean tea towel and dry thoroughly. Let them air dry while you prepare everything else.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. On low heat, melt coconut oil or ghee in a small saucepan. Place cut potatoes in a plastic bag, seal and shake bag vigorously to coat (this process can also be done on a cookie sheet, drizzle the oil over and toss very well to coat). Add cornmeal and salt to the bag and toss well to coat.
3. Place fries on a lined baking sheet, making sure that they are not overlapping. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and crisp (in my experience, there was no need to flip them halfway through cooking).
Chermoula Yogurt Dip
1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves and tender stems only
1 large bunch cilantro/coriander, leaves and tender stems only
3 cloves garlic
1 large hunk of ginger
1 tsp. hot smoked paprika
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
½ Tbsp. crushed coriander seeds
zest and juice of 1 lemon
pinch saffron threads
Up to 1 cup goat yogurt for blending (or yogurt of your choice, ripe avocado, soaked cashews)
1. Blend all of the above ingredients to your desired consistency. Store in the fridge for 4-5 days.
2. Mix equal parts yogurt with the finished chermoula (e.g. ¼ cup yogurt + ¼ cup chermoula). I like to mix the chermoula with yogurt right before serving. The chermoula will last longer if kept separate from the yogurt.
I’d be nuts to end this post without reacting to the insane explosion-of-awesome from the last My New Roots recipe. I could seriously not believe the response that the Life-Changing Loaf of Bread got, so thank you for all of your enthusiasm, kind comments, tips and tricks! I also loved hearing how many of you actually made it and let me know how successful it was for you! That kind of feedback means the world to me, really. I hope you will all give this tasty recipe a go too. Crispy sweet potato fries; life-changing? How about life-improving? Whatever vegetable you are, just enjoy.
your Sweet Potato Sarah B.
Source:  whfoods.com