One of my favorite discoveries since becoming an E.A.T. South CSA member has been learning that I do like sweet potatoes. Until recently, I’ve avoided this root veggie at all costs. I did not like them fried, baked, on a plane, on a train, prepared in any way, anywhere. The most vile use of sweet potatoes was the casserole, the one made by great aunts around the holidays, packed with pecans and brown sugar and then crowned with gooey marshmallows.
As a kid, it sounded great. A vegetable that looked like dessert, had dessert ingredients and was still approved by mom to have at dinner? Score! Until I tasted it. The sweet potatoes were thick and pasty, and their natural, subtle sweetness was completely overwhelmed by all the added sugar. One bite, and my mind was made up. “No thanks. I don’t eat sweet potatoes,” was my ready response any time I was offered them in any form.
Then, a few years ago, as part of my CSA stash, I got pound after pound of them. Big, small, long, bumpy. I put them in a wooden bowl on my counter and waited for them to rot, planning to employ that as my excuse to not use them. But sweet potatoes are hardy; they don't go bad very quickly. Soon, I had too many piled up in that bowl to ignore. And so I turned to the internet and did a recipe search. I instantly scrolled past any that had the word casserole in the title and happened upon something that looked promising: a sweet potato hash.
Today, it’s one of my favorite things to eat. I changed up the recipe some but still have to give credit to Sunny Anderson of the Food Network for giving me a great framework. The key was finding ways to complement and balance, not amplify, sweet potatoes' sweetness. Hence the cumin, hot peppers and the salty goodness of pork fat. I added a few regular potatoes too to give it a little variety. I’ll probably never like sweet potato casserole, but I can’t get enough of this stuff. Try it on any sweet-potato hater in your household, and I’ll bet you gain a convert.
Not Too Sweet Potato Hash
- 3 strips bacon, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- About a pound of sweet potatoes, peeled and 1/4-inch diced plus 1/2 pound regular potatoes, diced to the same size.
- 1/3 cup chopped red onion
- 1 tablespoon hot pepper (any kind), chopped fine
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
First: Cook the chopped regular potatoes in salted, boiling water for three minutes and then drain on paper towels to dry.
In a 13-inch saute pan over medium-high heat, add the bacon and olive oil. When the oil heats and the bacon begin to brown, add the sweet potatoes and par-boiled regular potatoes and spread out as much as possible to allow the potatoes to rest in the pan in 1 layer.
Leave the potatoes to cook until a quick toss reveals browning on the side in contact with the pan, about 5 minutes. Continue to toss and let stand until most sides of the potatoes are golden and the bacon bits are crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes longer. Then add the onions, peppers, cumin and season with a nice pinch of salt and a grind or two of pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes longer, until the onions are softened.
Oh, and here are a few notable nutrition facts: Sweet potatoes are good sources of fiber and excellent sources of vitamin A. One serving provides over 400 percent of the recommended daily value. Pretty sweet.