Roasting sweet potatoes and shallots with rosemary, garlic and cayenne pepper creates a naturally sweet/savory side dish that packs a satisfying kick. Recipe below, along with a link to a sweet potato recipe contest.
Sweet potatoes deserve better. As a kid, I thought sweet potato casserole was a waste of perfectly good miniature marshmallows. Now I think that saddling sweet potatoes with pie ingredients—brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg—and calling them a side dish masks their delicious natural sweetness. Again, a waste.
And sweet potatoes have far too much to offer to relegate them to a cloying, gooey annual tradition. The Center for Science in the Public Interest puts them at the top of their Best 10 Foods list, calling sweet potatoes a “nutritional All-Star—one of the best vegetables you can eat. They’re loaded with carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.” Sweet potatoes may help fight cancer and heart disease as well as diseases related to inflammation, such as asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. And although they’re called sweet, they’re actually very low in sugar and in fact have been proven to help regulate blood sugar level in diabetics.
With all this going for them, is it any wonder the state that produces the most sweet potatoes in the nation wants to promote them? To get home cooks cooking and experimenting with them, the North Carolina SweetPotato Commission is sponsoring its second annual Sassy Sweets Bloggers Recipe Challenge. Now through March 29, bloggers are invited to submit original recipes for the chance to win up to $2,000 in cash. You’ll find complete details at the link above.
We’re big fans of sweet potatoes done right, so when I first heard about this year’s contest, I immediately started thinking of things to do with this healthy, delicious root vegetable. I wanted something that would take advantage of its natural sweetness, but still have an overall savory quality. Roasted shallots add a nice bite while delivering a little sweetness of their own. Garlic and rosemary further temper the sweetness of the dish. And cayenne pepper gives it dimension with a nice spicy finish.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Shallots
Serves 3 to 4
1 to 1-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes [1 large or 2 medium]
3 to 4 shallots, peeled, ends trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary [see Kitchen Notes]
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper [see Kitchen Notes]
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into bite-sized chunks. Place in a 9×13-inch glass baking dish. Add shallots and garlic to baking dish and drizzle with 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss gently with a wooden spoon to avoid breaking up shallots. Season generously with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Toss gently again to spread seasonings more or less evenly.
Place baking dish on middle rack in oven and roast 40 to 55 minutes, stirring gently a couple of times during the roasting, until sweet potatoes are tender and slightly browned. The sweet potatoes may absorb a bit of the olive oil and appear to be drying out—just drizzle with some more oil before tossing them. The shallots may brown even more than the sweet potatoes, and the chopped garlic will almost certainly blacken. That’s okay—all will be delicious. If your sweet potatoes were refrigerated before roasting, as mine were, you will probably need the full 55 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.
Rosemary—keep it fresh. I’m a frequent user of dried herbs, especially in winter. But this dish demands fresh rosemary. Even though the needles dry during roasting, they’re not as stiff and tough as dried rosemary. And while I often chop fresh rosemary when I cook with it, I left them whole here. Paired with the chunks of sweet potatoes and halved shallots, they work better visually that way, I think. The act of plucking them from the sprigs sufficiently bruises them to better impart their flavor.
Cayenne pepper—how spicy do you like it? We don’t go crazy with spicy foods, but we like them to have a little kick. I used 1/2 teaspoon when I made this dish, which gave it some authority, as I like to say. Depending on your own tolerance levels for heat, use less or more. But unless you’re totally heat averse, don’t skip the cayenne pepper. It adds another dimension to an already interesting dish.
And finally, a note about recipe contests. Many cooking contests, including this one, grant ownership of submitted recipes to the sponsor. The language in the Terms and Conditions of the Sassy Sweets contest is pretty typical: “All entrants acknowledge and agree that recipes become the property of the NC SweetPotato Commission, which reserves the right to edit, modify, copyright and publish them for advertising, public relations and promotional purposes in any media without compensation.” A spokesperson for this contest assured me that bloggers may still use their own content however they wish. “We will never use the recipe as our own—it will always be credited to the appropriate person so it would still be yours,” she said. In fact, “With last year’s winners we contacted their local papers in hopes of getting each winner a little local press. Since then, we’ve used one of the recipes in a distribution to newspapers and credited the winner by including their name and blog name.”