Since I moved to the south from Chicago 15 years ago, I’ve discovered many new and amazing foods. There are some that I would have never guessed I’d enjoy (collard greens) and some that I don’t think I’ll ever learn to embrace (chicken livers and gizzards).
There are a couple that continue to be fence-sitters. Grits is one of those. I don’t enjoy them, but I do intend to keep trying. Another is sweet potatoes. I know, I know. At Thanksgiving they’re as American as apple pie.
You have to understand, I was raised in a very European family. We didn’t eat sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving. In fact, our dinner wasn’t starch-heavy as seems to be the trend here. Yes, we had stuffing; rice stuffing. Yes, we had mashed potatoes. But, we also had vegetables and salad. No sweet potatoes smothered in marshmallows.
In fact, after my brother got married, my mom did make an attempt at sweet potatoes for the sake of her new daughter-in-law. They spent the meal stuck in the microwave where she had been reheating them a tad. She totally forgot that she should have been on the table and we never knew the difference.
Down here, however, they’re a staple ingredient for many dishes, even pie, so I keep thinking I need to give them another try. Like in French fries, as the case may be.
The first part of the prep for this is easy. Wash and cut some sweet potatoes into wedges. The second part is simple but takes a bit of elbow grease. Put coriander seeds, fennel seeds, dried oregano and crushed red pepper flakes in a mortar and grind them into powder. Yes, you can use a spice mill, but what fun is that? A mortar and pestle feels so…..alchemistic.
When that’s done, put the potato wedges, spice powder and some oil in a big bowl and toss it all around until the potatoes are well coated. Lay them on a baking sheet and bake in a hot oven for about 30 minutes (or less).
While the fries are cooking, work on the mayonnaise. That’s just a matter of the mayo, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, ground mustard, cayenne mustard and salt. My suggestion is that you make a half batch. One and a quarter cups of mayo, even spicy dip version, is a lot of mayo for this amount of fries. Half works just fine.
When the fries are done, simply serve them alongside the chilled dip.
Surprisingly, all three of us liked these fries a lot. Dudette couldn’t handle the heat and only ate one, but she said if it hadn’t been spicy she’d have had more. That’s a good thing to note for kids who are needing an after school snack. This would be perfect. Hubby and I really enjoyed them as well. I found the flavors in the ground spices worked very well with the sweetness of the potato.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
I’d definitely only make a half batch of the spicy dip. I can use the mayo for other things, but I just don’t like all the little bowls floating around in the refrigerator. They inevitably end up shoved way in the back where they sit until they’re able to walk out on their own. I also would keep track of the cooking time. Mine could have come out at about 25 minutes; easily.
Spicy Sweet Potato Fries - print this recipe
from Taste of Home Magazine Southwest Cooking, September 2011
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 medium), peeled and cut into wedges
2 tablespoons canola oil
Spicy Mayonnaise Dip
1-1/4 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
In a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle, combine the coriander, fennel, oregano and pepper flakes; grind until mixture becomes a fine powder. Stir in salt.
In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, oil and ground spices; toss to coat. Transfer to a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan.
Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 30-35 minutes or until crisp and golden brown, turning occasionally. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the dip ingredients; chill until serving. Serve with fries.