At what point does the humble, wholesome, pleasant-tasting sweet potato reveal its inner potahto, from root vegetable to guilty pleasure?
The obvious and correct answer is: when fried into chips. The word “fry” or “chips” may sound unhealthy, but so are desk jobs, cell phones, and breathing in certain cities, so I think we can fry up some sweet potatoes in vegetable oil, lightly salt them, and look the other way. As I enjoy the veggies of my labor, I’ll bask in food writer Michael Pollan’s assertion that homemade chips are inevitably better for you than the store bought variety.
Sweet Potato Chips
Adapted from the potato chips recipe, Barefoot in Paris
You need a heavy bottomed pot, paper towels, a big plate, a slotted spoon (or better yet, one of those wire “spiders”), either a mandolin or sharp chef’s knife + excellent knife skills, a vegetable peeler, about 3 medium sweet potatoes, your choice of oil, sea salt or kosher salt, & any herbs you want to add.
Prep the potatoes. Set the mandolin on the thinnest blade (1/16”) and slice. Soak the slices in ice water for a few minutes. Drain the water, refill with new ice water, pat the slices dry, and soak the slices in ice water a second time. (This removes the starch, getting them nice and crispy.)
Fill the pot with 2-3 inches of oil. Heat on medium high heat. I used vegetable oil as opposed to peanut or canola oil and it worked fine. You can tell when the oil is hot enough if the oil sizzles when you drop a potato slice in. Reduce the heat to medium, drop a batch of slices in, and then bring the heat back up to medium high. I set the timer for 3 minute increments but it took over 5 minutes per batch. Just keep your eye on it and don’t drift too far from the stove. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt and any desired herbs. (Would be great dipped in guacamole or tsaziki.)
Bread vs Brioche?
‘Tis a slippery slope, an existential dilemma, one that Marie Antoinette reportedly provoked when she said “qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” which actually means, “let them eat bread that is characterized by inordinate quantities of butter, honey, and eggs.” Bread? Cake? Eh. You say potato, I say potAHto.
Isn’t “quick bread” a coy term for cake, just as brioche is dessert in a loaf pan? I recently had a craving for banana bread, only to stumble across a doppelganger recipe in the form of “Banana Caramel Cake” from The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. Ah, hah! I am onto these silly semantics — bread, cake, same dif.
Semantics aside, I savor the idea that turning bread into cake is the difference between a few more eggs and some extra butter + sugar. There’s a reason to celebrate.
Banana Bread? Cake?
Adapted from Banana Caramel Cake, The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook
12 T. unsalted butter, room temp, plus more for pan
1 2/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 very ripe bananas, mashed
3 T. sour cream or creme fraiche
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. + 1/3 c. sugar
2 eggs, room temp
1 c. chocolate chips (optional)
Set Up: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper. Alternatively, divide batter into loaf pans.
Dry Ingredients + Bananas: Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, mash the bananas and stir in sour cream + vanilla.
Mix Together: Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer, several minutes, until light and fluffy. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add 2 eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add flour mixture in parts, with mixer on low speed, beating until just combined after each addition. Fold in the banana mixture using a spatula. Fold in chocolate chips, if using.
Pour the batter evenly into the pan, bake about 30-35 minutes until golden brown and cake tester/toothpick/fork comes out clean. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Flip over on wire rack and peel off parchment paper. Re-invert and let cool completely.
[Photos: IITA’s Image Library Phostream, prep photo from Marie the Bee’s photostream, Katy Stoddard’s photostream, Steven Depolo’s photostream]