Crispy Sweet Potato Fries
Who doesn’t love crispy French fries fresh from the deep fat fryer, loaded with salt, and served in a paper cone! As we all know, such fries should be consumed in moderation. Don’t despair. You may “fry” your favorite carbs in the oven and enjoy them with minimal guilt.
Sweet potatoes have reigned as superfoods in recent years, replacing the white potatoes on many a health-conscious plate. Are sweet potatoes really more nutritious for us than other potatoes? In researching the health benefits of sweet potatoes vs. the standard Idaho Russet potato of my youth, an article in The Huffington Post by John Berardi, founder of Precision Nutrition, convinced me that both have a place in any healthy diet. Berardi says that the way we eat potatoes is more important than the type of potato itself; in other words, stay away from processed chips and tater tots and stop slathering on the ketchup, mayo, and sour cream. A comprehensive comparison of the two by Precision Nutrition describes starches and sugars, fats and proteins, glycemic index and carbohydrate types, discusses “high carb” myths and realities, and shows why potatoes in general “stick to your ribs” and provide a satisfying, full feeling.
Botanically, most potato varieties belong to the same family (Solanaceae) as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. But not sweet potatoes; they share their family tree (Convolvulaceae) with morning glories! Russets, reds, and Yukon golds sit side-by-side with countless varieties of sweet potatoes on produce aisles every fall. Plentiful in October, they all make wonderfully nutritious additions to fall and winter stews. And, they are delicious roasted in the oven all by themselves! Two types of sweet potatoes are pictured above, one a drier white variety and the other, the more common orange variety. (Did you know there are about 5,000 sweet potato varieties?!)
For years, I have cut sweet potatoes into sticks to mimic French fries, tossed them with a little olive oil and salt and popped them into the oven to bake just before dinner. Easy and yummy. But, not always terribly crispy. This year I turned to my computer for answers to making a crispy fry without a deep fryer. Some sources contend that baking the potatoes on parchment paper makes the difference. According to the Kitchn website, the key to crispy oven fries is the addition of starch–plain cornstarch, potato starch, rice, tapioca–whatever you have on hand. And so, I chopped potato medallions, dusted them with a few tablespoons of cornstarch, added salt and oil, spread them on parchment paper, and waited for the results. The best yet!
There is no recipe to follow this month. Experiment to discover your own perfect fries. Slice varietal potatoes into sticks or discs. Dust the potatoes with 2-3 Tablespoons of starch, toss them with a little olive oil, add salt, and perhaps an additional spice or two. Allspice, cinnamon, and ginger pair nicely with sweet potatoes, as do Middle Eastern spices like cumin and coriander. Mark Bittman of NYTCooking combines salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and paprika to create a delightful spice mix. Bake/roast the potatoes in a preheated hot oven (at least 400 degrees for crispness) for 20-30 minutes. Delicious.